Peace, Courtesy of Bourdain

Like most people, I have an inner battle with myself about how I can be a better person.  I mean, good people at least try not to cuss, right?  But it feels so good to really say what I feel.  And good people donate to charities instead of, like me, bashing that damn pink ribbon relentlessly.  I hate pink.  And what about colon cancer for Pete’s sake?

Overall I’m fairly comfortable with the person I am.  But there has been one thing (let’s just leave it at that for this post) that pops up every now and then, gnawing away at my sense of compassion.

Eating meat.

Being a vegetarian is something I’ve toyed with before, abstaining from consuming meat for almost a year at one point.  At that time I read quite a bit on the subject, really believing in all of the different reasons why I should stop eating cows, pigs, chicken, goats, fish, etc.  I quite literally drove a few people insane until I picked up that first juicy hamburger in what seemed like ages.  Mmm hmm, that was the first thing I ate.  With jalapenos.

Hell … meat just tastes so freakin’ good!  There is nothing in the world like a medium-rare steak, a simple piece of nigiri, a rack of smoky ribs or a slice of salty bacon.

So why not purchase meat from more ethical sources, right?  Because I don’t have the willpower, nor can I always afford, to do so.  It takes a little bit more work and while I realize that’s an excuse, it is what it is.  I fucking love meat and if it’s a convenient source I’m eating it.

I just finished reading Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” and found myself grinning from ear to ear near the end.  His producer’s thought it would be funny to send him – a beligerant, smoking, cursing, meat-lover – to a vegan potluck dinner in Berkeley.  They were right, it was funny.  But that wasn’t the only reason I was smiling.  You see, Bourdain gave me a little bit of peace.  This is what he said:

“It was difficult for me to be polite (though I was outnumbered).  I’d recently returned from Cambodia, where a chicken can be the difference between life and death.  These people in their comfortable suburban digs were carping about cruelty to animals but suggesting that everyone in the world, from suburban Yuppie to starving Cambodian cyclo driver, start buying organic vegetables and expensive soy substitutes.  To look down on entire cultures that’ve based everything on the gathering of fish and rice seemed arrogant to the extreme.  (I’ve heard of vegans feeding their dogs vegetarian meals.  Now that’s cruelty to animals.)  And the hypocrisy of it all pissed me off.  Just being able to talk about this issue in a reasonably grammatical language is a privilege, subsidized in a yin/yang sort of way, somewhere, by somebody taking it in the neck.  Being able to read these words, no matter how stupid, offensive, or wrongheaded, is a privilege, your reading skills the end product of a level of education most of the world will never enjoy.  Our whole lives – our homes, the shoes we wear, the cars we drive, the food we eat – all are built on a mountain of skulls.  Meat, say the PETA folks, is ‘murder’.  And yes, the wide world of meat can seem like a panorama of cruelty at times.  But is meat ‘murder’?  Fuck no.”

He goes on, and it’s just brilliant.  I don’t think an argument about why someone should or should not eat meat (or at least shut the fuck up and do what they want without pushing their opinions on everyone else) has ever resonated so perfectly with me.  Perhaps, just maybe, he has put an end to the angst I occasionally feel while dining on poor little Wilbur.


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