Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where's the Beef?

Yesterday I went to a bbq at a friend's house. She is living with a family near the hills of Santa Barbara; the property is insanely beautiful. We, well other people, I sat and watched, grilled burgers and slathered them with avocado and grilled onions and watched the sun burn down the mountain. It was gorgeous and I felt for brief moments the power that comes with youth and possibility.

But poetics aside, there was a younger young man I shall call Ryan who came to the feast a little later. A small group was sitting around the sienna tiled kitchen island, indulging in a round of tequila shots. Nothing bonds a group of people who don't know one another like tequila. We had just slammed down out glasses when Ryan makes his way to the island, all smiles, floppy hair and gaged ears. Everybody makes quick introductions and small talk is pushed aside for more interesting conversation (thanks again, tequila). Somehow it was brought to attention that Ryan was a vegetarian. He explained his devotion to all things leafy over the mound of charred burgers by denouncing beef's nutritional value and revealing its truly foul nature as nothing but pounds of masticated, rotting flesh.

The debate then swiveled to gesticulating on the birth of vegetarianism, and its contradiction to homo sapien's hunter-gatherer beginnings. It was argued, by the carnivores, that man first survived by bringing down a beast to nourish himself. To reject that would be a break with the tradition that allowed our species initial survival. Ryan countered with the notion that today's meat consumption is far more wasteful, "Back then it was different they used everything, they sucked the bone marrow and shit."

Then everybody took a shot. As we went to cheers, somebody volunteered a toast. "To Beef." A slight current of dissension shimmered in the air.

When you talk about dietary lifestyles, it always seems to hit a little too close to home. What begins as a difference of opinion ends up as an epic battle between good and evil. Statistics and scientific facts begin to get muddled and exaggerated to prove points, and suddenly what we put in our mouths decides if we're going to heaven or hell.

We are all not immune! I took a class on Literature and the Environment last year and was bombarded with a few texts talking about things like the meat and dairy industry, how CAFO's are big death factories and purchasing these types of products is obscenely bad for earth. Then, considering myself all learned, I stupidly brought this up at a dinner party, began questioning milk (we're the only species that drinks it) and got an interesting response.


It is said that a way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but to me it seems more like the way to severely piss a group of people off is through their stomachs.

Perhaps literature and food should stay away from one another. Oh, and Ryan? He ended up getting arrested later that night. Maybe he tried to convert the police to soy based products.

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