Okay, I never thought I would be doing this again.
Changing my diet was not in the plan. It’s not about dieting, it’s about diet. It’s about how I choose to eat. About what I choose to eat when I am in charge of what I eat. Not about how I eat when I go to someone’s home and they prepare a meal with St Hidegard’s most important ingredient – Love – and serve it to me. Not necessarily how I eat when I go out to eat, which admittedly is not very often; but how I choose to nourish my body when in my kitchen and cooking for me. Not even what I might cook when I have friends over who do not eat as I eat – I would cook for them, to present food they would enjoy.
So, what is the big change. Well, it’s partly a revolution and partly advolution: A revolution (turning back) because I was once a vegetarian: and an advolution (turning toward), because it’s nearly vegan, which is a new thing. That I could not have dreamed of a month ago, actually not even the vegetarian part either.
The whole what to eat thing has been a real issue for many years, off and on, now and then, over and over. I have learned a lot in the past year reading various blogs and other sources of information about the state of the normative western diet, which is becoming more the global norm or aspiration: Lots of meat. Meat from beasts that are fed inappropriate feed, antibiotics and on land that was once rainforest or other sensitive land. I have thought about this state of affairs and think that it is not a sustainable way of being in the world. I have thought this. I have not been pressured to think about it, and in fact have resisted for a long time because it seems to be a badge of some sort indicating spiritual superiority by some pagans. It, like paganism, can be a way or rebelling against the mainstream, and it is likely that a few folk do this, even if they might not be aware of their core motivation.
I was a vegetarian for several years in San Diego. It’s sort of something one did out there. It was partly a revulsion at the meat packing industry and partly an act of rebellion. It was the most radical thing I did as a twenty-two year old, besides stopping going to church that I did for quite a bit longer. At that time there was not enough money to make it work, but I stuck to my guns until it became untenable.
This is different. It’s part of a more general awakening for me. It’s part of a newly heightened awareness. It’s part of a deeper sensing of the life and lives around me. It isn’t necessarily a practical decision. It’s not done to show I’m a better pagan than I was three weeks ago. It’s a decision, a path I have been led to and know it’s right to follow. As all this revealed itself, I did not think about whether I was going to be a long term vegetarian. Now I know.
And it’s not going to be straightforward, which is where the vegan aspect comes in. I have turned up in the past nine months as being dairy challenged – it gives me a stomach ache when I use it, in tea sometimes it does and sometimes not, but it is not a comfortable feeling. At the local coffee morning they are now used to me asking for hot water. At friends’ I have lemon and ginger tea, which one uses and another has on hand for both of us now. At home I mostly drink hot water now, sometimes lemon and ginger or mint tea once a day. I also don’t eat wheat, but do eat spelt, rye and barley. I’m not celiac, but I do have issues with wheat. Potatoes aren’t good for me or maize, so I wouldn’t use those substitutes at home, but will eat goodies made from them (main ingredients in gluten free flour) by gluten challenged friends. Eggs are also off the menu at home.
Now the way so many animals are handled in the food chain isn’t healthy for them or us. Large operations. Much indoor living. Automated milking. How and over what distances they are transported to slaughter. As an aside it’s interesting that slaughterhouse isn’t used but abattoir, which sounds vaguely exotic for English speakers but means the same thing, though not so in your face. It has made these creatures into a commodity and I find that unacceptable. I don’t see the point of feeding cattle people food, maize to fatten them and a grain based diet, any more than making fuel out of people food. It makes no sense to me.
Do I think what I’ve chosen to do will change the world? Certainly not.
Do I want to go on campaign to make all my friends vegetarians? Of course not.
Will it change my relationship and responses to my environment and those with whom I share it? Most assuredly.
I do this because it feels right for me. And I know how right when I came home with two vegan cookery books yesterday to figure out how to get around not using eggs and dairy, and went through all the recipes I’d been saving, and never used, throwing out all the newly inappropriate ones. I still have cookery books though, which are easier to use and maybe in time I can learn to work around the new way I’ll be eating with them. They are ways to get ideas. When I might cook for non-vegetarian friends I will do so from my heart, though not necessarily a recipe.
It’s funny, odd that as I’ve been shifting to this diet over the past several weeks, using up food in my freezer, that when I cooked beef or chicken it had no taste for me. It was empty, null, void of flavour. It wasn’t really repulsive, but it was like eating nothing. I was still hungry after I ate it. With my renewed diet, I am full and satisfied. My tastes have shifted and that shifting was part of what marked the way for this change.
Preparing meals will require thought and forethought now. It will demand my attention more fully and that I take more time in planning meals and eating them. This is a good thing. It will mean learning how to make recipe for four to six servings work for only two, one for me immediately and one for the next day, if appropriate, or if not then just for one serving. It will involve maths – aaaagghhh! I’ve not had to cook with a calculator for a long time, nor with scales (except for baking).
It isn’t a path that is necessarily easier. For me though it will be better. Even if I had to rearrange my kitchen cupboards to accommodate the bags and tins that replace the food plonked in the freezer.
I consider this an adventure, a coming toward something, a way of being that feels right to and for me, not because I have felt marginalised because I was a meat eating pagan, not because it is a political statement. The something I am coming toward in the advolution, this turning toward and moving toward, is a more authentic expression of who I am in relation to the gods, the ancestors, and spirits of the land who uphold me.