A Dinner Plate of Contrasts

Nourish-Bowl-003I will start by admitting I love those articles that chronicle a ‘Day On The Plate’ of health bloggers or wellness gurus. It seems to be a new craze on social media- what does the food dairy of Lorna Jane look like or what does Lola Berry eat for dinner. Instagram seems to have made this even more accessible and apparent as we stylistically design our meals, not bothering if the photography session takes longer than the meal itself takes to eat.

I am not in the clear here by any means- my instagram feed is proportionally littered with foodie snaps- my iphone now as common in my kitchen as my wooden chopping board.

This isn’t actually a backlash against social media- I am not going to rip down my facebook account after publishing this article and state that the world is indeed going insane and I refuse to be a part of it.

But sometimes, I do wonder…

This past week I have been watching a fascinating series called Human Planet. It has documented six vastly difference landscapes around the globe where remote communities live, untouched by the rest of mankind. These communities rely only upon themselves for survival- the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the dwellings they live within- everything is caught by hand or made by hand.

What bothered me about these images was the frequent pain I feel towards anything associated with animal cruelty. The sight of innocent animals being slaughtered immediately stirs anger, pain and frustration within me. I was ready to turn off the series and walk away disgusted, when my loving partner, also vegan, said to me, ‘I really don’t have an issue with what they are doing.’

His simple words, spoken with care and gentleness stopped me in my tracks.

‘But. What. How. The. No. Hmmm?’ Was the entourage of words that escaped my lips. I thought about what he was suggesting and I realized that he was right.

allen2These communities relied upon nature to live. Their relationship was a beautiful dance of give and take. There was no possession, no hierarchy and no abuse. There was no mass slaughter, no factory farming and no prolonged suffering. The animals that were killed were killed for the survival of these people- one whale would feed an entire village through the winter. Every single part of the animal was used- from its meat to its skin to its blubber. Three bats that were killed offered enough protein for a family of 12 for 2 weeks. One long-limbed monkey fed another family in depths of the jungle for days.

Furthermore, the people living in these vast regions were part of the eco system; their life and death was intrinsically entwined in the cycle of life. Their own bodies were given back to the earth and the animals. A confronting yet beautiful sky burial was filmed- a highly respected Buddhist tradition that severs the dead human body into small pieces for the awaiting vultures to feed upon, completing their karma for this life, ready for the next.

In the end, I found the series confronting not because I could not handle the slaughter of the animals. I found it confronting because by the end of watching it, I accepted the actions with a level of respect and understanding. While the death of any innocent animal pains me, the issue with meat consumption in the western world is the mass consumption- the complete and utter abuse by man of what he can do and take and sustain with no respect to the living, breathing victims of his torture and suffering.

Human beings do not need to eat meat three meals a day. We do not need to drink the milk of other species. We do not need to hunt down and maim every living creature to sustain our livelihood. We have gone too far. We moved away from actions that were once natural and sustainable to our great ancestors as our need to rule and to dominate snatched away logic and common-sense.

superfoods2I also started to question my own diet. After watching these people survive only on what was within a certain radius to them, I wondered- how ethical and sustainable is my quinoa from Bolivia, my maca from Peru, my cacao from Mexico, my walnuts from California, my coconut from the Philippians, my cashews from Vietnam…the list went on and on.

Returning to my original observations- the ‘day on the plate’ that I have come to voyeur over with intrigue, I saw one article today that took this vast contrast of two different worlds to a new level in my eyes.

“At 8am, I had a warm, morning chi drink on my way to the school drop off, drunk in the car! It contains more than 25 grams of plant protein, thanks to vanilla mushroom protein and stone ground almond butter, and also has the super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy.”

What.

On.

Earth.

Sorry, but really? I thought I was quite bad when it came to superfoods and outlandish vegan cuisine, but this was next level and this was only the beginning. It went on and on until 11pm, multiple screens of dishes and cocktails that were as far removed from food as I could imagine. This woman was the owner of a renowned juice bar in Hollywood, her diet was being labeled as one to admire and adhere towards.

I thought of the little giggling children eating the tarantulas, the families pulling apart the sinewy wings of the bat with a smile, the village cutting up and sharing the meat off the whale equally and with respect and deep gratitude.

I feel as though I am moving away ever so slightly from preaching veganism and instead, moving towards asking people to examine their food choices. How can we eat in a way that is truly sustainable and fair on a global level? How can we live in a way that is gentle, peaceful, compassionate, respectful, educated and conscious. That sounds as though each meal is becoming a rather difficult mathematical equation- but maybe it is?

The series above all made me ask- what do we really need? How can we get back to basics? How can eating return to the simple idea of nourishing our bodies? The movements towards eating local and choosing fair-trade are becoming more mainstream. There are always contradictions when it comes to what we eat; we wander about in shades of grey doing the best we can because nothing seems to be black and white.

In the end, I think what I was reminded of was Michael Pollan’s familiar one liner-

‘Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much.’

Let’s start from there and see if we can move forwards by taking a few steps back.

eat-mostly-plants-960x640