Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I failed at veganism

As I mentioned previously, I've been quite taken up with the book Gastronaut by Stefan Gates. There is a description in this book of ortolans. Ortolans are songbirds that are kept in the dark, which causes them to overeat. When they are ready for consumption, they are drowned in brandy. The are, apparently, illegal in France. If you have not already done so, you can read about them on Wikipedia.

Now, here is the thing: when I hear about any food that I am not allowed to have because of some goddamn government regulation (even if it's not my own government doing the regulating), I get worked up. I once got so worked up at my job about unpasteurized cider that my coworkers started to back away slowly. So I'm already suckered in on this one. Add to that the fact that this is a food that is outlandish, fanciful, evocative, and suggests not only a foreign place but time as well, and, well, I have to admit that I got a little pang inside of me. I have this weird competitive, show-offisish nature when it comes to food. I know in my little heart that someday I'm going to enter a cooking contest with a cockentrice -- "Oh, this?" I'll say, "Just a little something I whipped up!" Even though I'm scared of scary foods, I want to eat them.

I started to wonder: could I buy those on the internet? I... I'm almost afraid to look. I suspect anyway that the answer is "no" and "they wouldn't taste that good, fool". So then I started to wonder, is there some kind of similar songbird species that lives here that I could do the same thing with in the convenience of my own apartment?

At that point I realized that there's something deeply wrong with me. Not only is the idea of eating a bird whole pretty goddamn gross (although I suspect I know at least one person who as attempted it, but I cannot confirm this and so I won't elaborate), but, as I'm sure anyone with any kind of sentimentality at all has already noted, that's a pretty creepy thing to do to an animal.

I will never attempt those medieval recipes that call for roasting a goose alive. They make me cry to think about them. However, I don't have the same reaction to force-feeding. I had veal the other day, and it was great. I've never had foie gras (I'm kind of opposed to liver just biologically), but I don't find myself getting all worked up over it. I've eaten face bacon (MMMMMMM FACE BACON).

I was a vegan for like 9 months once. I totally failed at it. Not only because I thought about cheese every. single. day. but also because I never had that sharp, visceral reaction that some people have about animal cruelty. I don't like factory farming, and I try (but usually fail) to buy the most non-offensive animal products that I can. But the thing is, at the end of the day, I've never reacted to it the same way other people have. There are some animals that I won't eat (cephalopods because they are magnificent, rabbit because of a childhood incident, duck because I had pet duck, etc.) so I understand that sentimental/emotional reaction, I just don't have it in the way that I feel like I'm "supposed" to.

So... who wants to come over to my place for some force-fed starlings? Eh? Eh? (God, that would be disgusting.)

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