Dogmatic Foodies

24 Mar

roundtableHere at Pagan Activist, we cover the issue of food frequently. That’s because 100% of Pagan Activist authors eat food.

Author’s here have a variety of diets. I eat paleo. Jason eats vegan. Soli eats traditional. Debra avoids GMOs thus avoiding processed. Our commonality? We all want to eat as healthy as we can.

Whose health are we talking about when we use the loaded word “healthy”? If the discussion is about Earth’s health, some argue eating meat isn’t healthy for Mother Earth. Some argue eating grains is the real detriment. Still others lament at the high carbon footprints of trekking vegetables from below the equator to above it to feed the wealthy north is the real culprit.

But, if by “healthy” we really mean “morality” then whose morality is the highest?

Last year I wrote about how my diet was not accommodated when I signed up for a multiday walk. When I tried to discuss my diet needs with the organizers I was told “we got your diet restrictions but meat was never going to be provided.” The organizers imposed their dogma feeling they were were morally justified in doing so. Despite the tenor of the post in which I called for putting differences aside a commenter sided with the walk organizers. Rachel Melcher, the author of the comment, said:

While I can appreciate someone feeling left out or excluded by not being able to eat animal products at my home, I feel that I have the right to uphold the rules of my home within my home.

I do not ban from my home foods I am morally opposed to. On the contrary, I respect the financial constraints many of my friends have. I know they eat what they can afford and if that’s GMOed, heavily processed food, I open my door. Do I eat it? No. But I would never say “you can’t come over if you bring prepackaged vegetarian food.” Others in my life just don’t care about where their food comes, how it’s grown, transported, and sold. All they care about is going to the grocery store and getting what they want. Money isn’t the issue for them, convenience is. Again, though, I would never tell them “you can come over just leave the pre-made potato salad at the supermarket.”

When it comes to me going somewhere else where food will be provided, I have a number of different ways of coping. If it’s a family function or a Sabbat I eat before the event so I’m not tempted by the food provided (which doesn’t always work). When it comes to sociopolitical events there’s much more thought that goes into whether I will attend. Case in point: A local nonprofit is leading a series of classes. In an effort to draw as many as possible, the organization has promised “DINNER WILL BE PROVIDED”. I sent an email to the organizer, a woman I know, and asked “what’s for dinner”. She responded “a big salad and pizza.” I cringed. I do not consider a big salad and pizza to be dinner. Rather, I consider that to be a toxic snack. When I told her I would bring my own food the organizer asked me what my suggestion to serve 30 women dinner for under $50. Since I am not interested in planning the meal for the group*, I reiterated with “I’ll bring my own meal.” I went back and forth about canceling my attendance but decided against doing so as the information being taught is important to me. Also, I don’t want to fall into the trap of self-isolation or ostracizing others because my food morality isn’t the same as the organizer. She values non-nutritious, highly processed, cheap food. I value nutrient dense, clean, worth-the-extra-expense food.

A few weeks ago I went to an event in which attendees were instructed to bring a vegetarian dish to share. I made a vegan curry. When it was time to eat, I went down the table and found there were only three things I could eat: the curry I brought, some roasted vegetables, and a salad which I had to pick off the croutons. Every other dish contained grains, legumes, or dairy none of which I eat. I felt no compunction about adding the sausage I brought with me to my meal. Had I been at Rachel’s house, she would’ve kicked me out of her home. Had I been at the march, I would’ve gone hungry. If I was at the class I’m planning to attend, I’d be faced with pizza. So I find myself bringing my own food more frequently. Sure, bringing my own meal makes me feel left out but I would rather feel that way than hungry.

The morality of the post (which I’m imposing on you dear reader) is this: If we keep fighting amongst ourselves we’ll never attain the equality we deeply desire. If we cannot unite we will always be marginalized and disenfranchised, never gaining full citizenship in whatever country we live in. Breaking bread (gluten free, nut free, paleo, traditional sourdough) has been the way humans have come together for millennia. It is the way forward. To exclude is to stagnate, or worse, go backward. Certainly it is guaranteeing failure before we’ve begun.

[Author's note: this post is not meant to shame anyone but merely to point out how we create and fall into self made traps.]

*Unless the nonprofit is to pay me for my planning, I’m not doing a lot of hardwork for free.

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3 Responses to “Dogmatic Foodies”

  1. Aine March 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    If Hannibal Lecter can make someone a vegetarian meal in his own house without sneaking any people-meat in there, I think we can all ‘bend our rules’ a bit :P

    In more seriousness, though…I think we all have a right to be fed and actually enjoy what we eat. I know that when all I can eat somewhere is a salad? I get kinda grumpy. I want to have food that I actually enjoy, and if that means bringing my own, I’m okay with that! But if I’m told I can’t eat according to my diet because someone else doesn’t like it? I probably wouldn’t do much of anything with that person. It lets me know that if we’re out and about, they’ll be judging me (or might even lecture me!) because I’m not eating to their morals, and that is never fun.

  2. RevKess March 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    I can see where you are coming from, and could with your post last year. I grew up vegetarian. We weren’t strict, we followed the recommended diet of both the Seventh-day Adventist Church and my Dad’s cardiologist. We would eat meat when visiting family or on certain occasions. When we moved to a different state and Dad passed, we stopped that mostly vegetarian diet. I saw my weight yo-yo, mostly up. My health turned in a direction that we wrote off to puberty and depression. I’ve learned since then that my body is not happy with a primarily meat based diet. I enjoy meat, my body needs it sometimes. But I can go days without it. the one meat I cannot eat is fresh pork and ham. My body rejects it. I can eat highly processed pork products like sausages and bacon, but the fresh will make me sick.

    My friends and my family know this. If they invite me to dinner they either don’t make the meats I cannot eat or they have an alternative for me. Some of them have even introduced me to dishes that I thought I couldn’t eat (I am not a fan of sea foods and most fish makes feel odd in the stomach). I cannot, though, expect that organizers of a festival, class, workshop or some other event will accommodate my food preferences. At least not something as minor as a no fresh pork restriction. If I’m going to a non-Pagan event it is easier for them to understand. I can simply say that I prefer to eat kosher.

    For some reason, though, Pagans seem to have trouble grasping that concept. I have attended festivals where the meal plan options accommodate most common dietary preferences or even restrictions, but not everyone is going to be included in those considerations. It is a fact of life, I suppose. Something we just have to deal with.

  3. Soli April 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

    I suspect these kind of food selections are going to disappear soon, between diversified diets and the increase of food allergies and intolerances. Or at least I hope so, because if people can’t eat at a function they are not going to come.

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