Food is supposed to unify and yet, like everything else, we have found a way to create pointless factions among ourselves. It’s become hip and trendy to talk trash about other people’s diets and this makes no sense to me. The biggest line in the sand seems to be between Vegans and, more or less, the rest of the world.
They say that meat is murder and they have a point but it’s also over simplified and meat eaters act like burgers give you the strength of a bull and that bacon gives you superpowers. Both sides annoy the fuck out of me.
“But you’re a meat eater, you can’t have an opinion,” some might be stupid enough to say. The truth is that I was Vegan for a little over a month while working as a Chef at a Yoga center in Hawaii. It was not an easy month but I did it to really give it a shot and I did see a lot of the benefits that people talk about. At the end of day I started eating meat again due to various reasons such as my body type and lifestyle. Think I’m skinny now? I was down to 130 at the end of that month and I’m 6’2. I felt great but made Iggy Pop look like a fat ass.
Plus, I wasn’t going to leave Hawaii without eating real Kalua Pork.
I’m a fan of balance. I don’t need to eat meat at every meal, but when I do eat meat I eat really good meat. Meat that was raised with respect and slaughtered with compassion. This is at least the goal. I still eat the random cheese burger, and I eat when I’m hungry and what I’m hungry for, but I listen to my body. I know when I’m not eating enough vegetables or too much fried food and start feeling sluggish.
I also like to think of myself as an at least slightly ethical person and acting as a Chef I control somewhere in the ballpark of a quarter to a half million dollars in inventory per year. My morals play a big part in how I spend that money since happy cows taste better. My customers want meat and so when I serve it, I source the best I can find. I support the guys who are raising animals the right way, just the same as I source my vegetables. Yeah, I might pay a bit more, but I know how to work the numbers, make a profit, and my customers can tell the difference. Think what you want but I spend more money in a week than you do in a year, and Chefs such as myself are the reason those guys can stay in business.
On that note, the latest science is starting to say that plants are in fact aware at some level and are also able to communicate via chemicals. This is still new but someday biology might be able to prove that vegetables do feel pain and “scream” and thus shut up the Holier than thou faction.
Face it, life feeds off life feeds off life. Everything you eat was living and should be respected as such, whether it’s an ear of corn or a pig’s ear.
While I’m not a fan of French Cuisine in and of itself, I do try to practice the ideal of nose to tail cooking by keeping my waste to a bare minimum. Scraps get turned into soup, bones get turned into stock. This isn’t feasible at a lot of places but the attitude and willingness to do what’s possible makes a big difference regardless of where or what you’re cooking.
I really enjoy eating meat and at the same time, my girlfriend is vegan and most of the time, she does the cooking at home since I work nights. She’s a damn good cook and I don’t bitch and moan that she uses brown rice pasta instead of wheat. If I really want meat with my meal, she doesn’t mind cooking it for me, in fact from time to time, we even share a steak.
Yes, she’s a vegan who from time to time eats meat and she has yet to be struck by lightning. She’s not vegan to be cool, she does it because it’s a diet and lifestyle that work for her, not because of a cult following. In a weird way I’m probably a vegan at least 15% of the time.
Food is delicious, and, frankly, both sides are missing out. Vegans somehow manage to live in a world without fried chicken, which sounds more like purgatory; the meat-heads miss out on a lot of flavors that are able to come out of food when they’re not overshadowed by animal protein.
Both sides need to get a grip and learn to enjoy food. Vegans, you’re not going to hell if you eat a rack of ribs and the guy behind the grill isn’t going to lose his man card for enjoying a quinoa salad. God forbid he eats something healthy.
We live in a world of choices and instead of embracing them, we use them to create division rather than unity. We can do better. Stop being so rigid, and from time to time, try something a bit outside of your comfort zone. Stop getting the same thing at the same restaurant every weekend because it’s safe. Don’t be afraid to get weird. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. If some people want to eat flowers, groovy. As long as they don’t try to stop me from cooking or eating what I want, I really don’t care what they want. In fact, I’m open to trying their food, just as I am open to sharing my way of cooking.
Story by Chef Seth MacKenzie of Culinary Anazrchy