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The Sexual Politics of Meat Redux November 29, 2012

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in feminism, food justice, Vegetarianism/veganism.
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“Everything should taste like Bacon.” Really? Bacon lip balm, Baconnaise, Bacon Salt, Bacon MMMvelopes, and all of it Kosher-certified? I’m really confused. I heard this supposed-to-be cute story on NPR this morning about “Baconentrepreneurs”Justin and Dave and their line of Bacon-tasting products, the NPR story focussing specifically on Bacon Shaving Cream.

But I’m not confused on this: even without the shaving cream, it had to be a guy-gimic. And not girly guys, I mean manly men. I went to their website, to the “about” section and found, no surprise, that they characterize themselves as:

… just two regular guys who love grilling and football on Sunday afternoons, eating until we can’t get off the couch and of course, the taste of great bacon. And it’s our dream to make everything taste like bacon.

I know it’s not really bacon in their products and I know it’s supposed to be weird and satirical but I was bugged. Why encourage and try to gratify the bacon-craving? Why exploit the manly man trope? I won’t go on about these fellas.

What I really want to do is call attention to QueerVeganFood.com, a blog by Sarah E. Brown that promotes a vegan diet for the sake of improved personal and planetary health. Queer Vegan Food  is a plant-source only site, posting recipes that don’t include animal products of any kind. And it posts truly queer recipes –like chocolate-covered kelp noodles, for instance–in an effort to expand the vegan culinary world beyond vegan cuisine which imitates the non-vegan food world.

NPR should cover that!

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About a Poem: Jill S. Schneiderman on Donald Rothberg’s “Tomato” April 5, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in contemplative practice, environmental justice, environmentalism, food justice, mindfulness practice.
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From Shambhala Sun | May 2011
You’ll find this article on page 96 of the magazine.

TOMATO

Tomato in my salad bowl
Is all there is.
Big as a watermelon,
big as the earth,
big as my mind.
Glistening, shining, with
time’s still rush,
We’re locked together
for this part of eternity,
Tomato and me.

I feel taken into
the cherry tomato roundness,
orange redness,
its fact of existing.
I’ve never known
a tomato
quite like this.

This could go on a long time,
It’s so compelling.
I’m becoming tomato,
Tomato me.
Who’ll blink first, me or tomato?

It is said that
“Freedom is not needing to know what comes next.”

I eat it.

Then,
I notice a leaf of lettuce.

———————————————————-
Slowly consuming a raisin often serves as an introductory exercise in the practice of mindful eating. But for me, there’s nothing like paying attention to a homegrown tomato. So when tomato season came to a close and I resumed my teaching on environmentalism and social justice, I delighted in this poem by Donald Rothberg, a teacher of socially engaged Buddhism. I thought, “Tomato” could be an anthem for twenty-first-century environmentalists because, as my friend John Elder, a teacher of American nature writing, says, the Slow Food movement will be to twenty-first century environmentalism what wilderness preservation was to its twentieth-century precursor—the nexus of progressive action.

As the Western frontier of the United States disappeared in the late-nineteenth century, naturalists like John Muir worked to preserve areas they deemed “wilderness;” consequently, national parks exist today. But elitism tainted that movement, and women and people of color avoided it. Later, in the twentieth century, a new environmentalism prioritized concern for social justice. In the seventies, feminists revealed connections between the exploitation of nature and the oppression of women and other groups who were considered secondary in society. Building on those ideas, contemporary environmental justice activists have exposed how communities of color and low-income urban dwellers are the primary bearers of environmental ills. Unnatural disasters following Hurricane Katrina and the Port-au-Prince earthquake, for example, have highlighted this.

Today the Slow Food movement excites populations of racially and economically diverse young people largely unencumbered by traditional gender roles. Heightening awareness of the connection between food and environment, the movement has the potential to galvanize others because it unites pleasure with responsibility. “Kill me along with this tree I occupy” or “Taste this tomato!” Which rallying cry do you think will encourage others to embrace environmental awareness? My students are choosing the latter.

What we eat and how we come by it matters to every living being and therefore constitutes a unifying theme for a lasting and socially just environmentalism. With its emphasis on stillness and sufficiency, Buddhism has much to offer this new environmentalism. Slow Food is about paying attention to what we eat and how we produce it—in other words, being mindful about consumption. In my opinion, whether we’re consuming raisins or tomatoes, socially engaged Buddhists can share with others the powerful practice of mindful eating.

Jill Schneiderman is professor of earth science at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and editor of The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet.


As seen in the May 2011 issue of the Shambhala Sun. Click here to browse the entire issue online.


Food for Thought: Exercising the compassion muscle January 17, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in book review, food justice, Jonathan Safran Foer, Vegetarianism/veganism.
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This piece is cross-posted at Shambhala SunSpace.

Last week, amidst the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake and the senseless killings in Arizona, just prior to the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., I finished reading Eating Animals, the most recent book by the gifted writer Jonathan Safran Foer—who up until this point was well known for his acclaimed novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (both of which I relished). In Eating Animals, Foer highlights the cruel abominations associated with factory farming of cows, turkeys, chickens, pigs and fish and the suffering these cause. Part investigative report and part memoir, a personal question motivates Foer’s exploration: How will he explain to his son why we eat some animals and not others? His search for answers reveals a path that will interest Buddhist readers.

I can relate to Foer’s conundrum; I discuss food production and consumption regularly with my children. When we lived on a tiny island in the Atlantic last year, I ate fish caught by folks down the road from my house who used a hand-thrown seine net or single fishing line. In Foer’s schema, while living on the island I was a “selective omnivore.” But my children found my behavior unacceptable. My 13-year old—a self-declared vegetarian, and sometimes vegan, since the age of seven—and my 10-year old, who asserted the same identity when still in the single digits after a visit to a NY farm animal sanctuary—both deem it hypocritical to kill some animals for food but to exempt others. That’s Jonthan Safran Foer’s conclusion as well.

Foer finds fault with Michael Pollan’s critique of vegetarianism in The Omnivore’s Dilemma—one in which Pollan states that he pities vegetarians. I side with Foer and I think that his intelligently passionate investigation provides at least food for thought for Buddhist practitioners. In reading Eating Animals, one can tell how much Foer enjoys sumptuous food; like others he admits being tempted by comestibles like sushi and steak. But he reminds us that “virtually all of the time one’s choice is between cruelty and ecological destruction, and ceasing to eat animals.”

As a scientist who thinks about interconnections of the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere and biosphere, I know the truth of Foer’s assertion that the decision to avoid factory-farmed products will reduce global warming, limit deforestation and consequent soil erosion, prevent air and water pollution, and eliminate systematic abuses of human and animal rights. But as a Buddhist practitioner, I’m captivated by his question, “What kind of world would we create if three times a day we activated our compassion and reason as we sat down to eat, if we had the moral imagination and the pragmatic will to change our most fundamental act of consumption?” Buddhist practitioners know the truth of Foer’s statement: “compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use” and I think most would agree with his coda “the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us.”

Foer quotes Martin Luther  King Jr. from his speech “A Proper Sense of Priorities”(February 6, 1968): “And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Foer aptly points out that King was referring to the suffering of humans not animals but adds that it’s worth noting that Coretta Scott King was a vegan, as is her son Dexter.

I will celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr by reminding myself that with our practice, we help to heal the Earth and the beings who live here. How about you?

Jill S. Schneiderman is Professor of Earth Science at Vassar College and the editor of and contributor to For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design (University of California Press, 2009) and The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet (Westview Press, 2003).

For more “Earth Dharma” from Jill S. Schneiderman, click here.

See also our Shambhala Sun Spotlight on Buddhism and Green Living.