I remember a few years ago, having lunch with a colleague of my husband’s work, who sporadically travelled to Africa to hunt lions. In light of my expression of condemnation, she explained to me, based on scientific articles she had consulted, why she did it: 1) the economic impact on the African communities that receive them and, by dedicating themselves to the promotion of this type of tourism , thus ensuring their livelihoods, while at the same time moving away from other activities which they consider to be most harmful; 2) the environmental benefits of hunting an already old lion, giving a boost to the succession of a younger, more dominant male, just as the hyenas helped Scar to get rid of the Mufasa.

I do not see much interest in pointing the finger at the lack of evolution of those who are sharing a meal with me, and it seems even worse to me that today we have lost the ability to dialogue with those who do not have the same opinion as us. And by this I do not mean to approve. Only, that being I not perfect, I don’t feel capable of judging anyone (except, reasonably, those who wears sandals with white socks – these people deserve hell). I prefer to leave the premise of the lack of evolution open, to discuss the colonialist view of those who still believe that their “elite sports” can save African communities and question the extent to which a tourist is part of the wild ecosystem.

In the search for an honest ethical posture, I returned to an introspective questioning: hunting or eating animals, what is the difference? Three years ago, I stopped eating meat, keeping fish (which, technically, is also meat), cheese, eggs, seafood and snails in the summer in my meals. I did it for ethical reasons and I maintained my decision by reducing animal products the maximum I could for a simple matter: I feel better, body and mind. But can we even equate a lion’s hunt with my grilled sea bass lunch?

In 2004 David Foster Wallace devoted his article “Consider the lobster” to discuss the implications of eating lobster by dissecting and detailing the whole process of catching and preparing them. Unlike most of the food we prepare, which is already delivered in our hands ready to be cooked – that is, dead – the lobsters are cooked alive, and even the supposed 45 seconds that linger to die are capable of causing agony in both animals as to the chefs who are preparing it.

Michael Pollan asks the question in other words: the evolutionary step in the human species was increased with the beginning of food confection. We now have more space in the skull and are more released from the function of chewing roots for hours to remove the nutrients. Brain capacity has improved and we have gained time and energy to explore other activities. The fire allowed us this, being in the opinion of the author important for humans to make the peace with the idea that what they eat is fruit of the action of killing. The gastronomy has differentiated us from the rest of the animals and brought with it the duty of respect for those we sacrifice in order to eat. He added, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.

Seconded by other authors, such as Mark Bittman who found in the Vegan Before Six formula the answer to the problem of over-consumption of animal protein, Pollan positions himself against the modern food industry. In an open letter to the then-President-elect Barack Obama, he argues that this industry harms the health of populations, destroys the environment, and puts the economy in the grip of fossil fuels. These exhortations, like others, have led to the commitment of the former American President and First Lady to a healthy diet, something that today would be difficult to achieve since the current President seems to be struggling with literacy problems and would hardly come to the end of this open letter. He would probably grow bored and end up in Africa with my friend. And I almost bet he would wear white socks.

So, what’s the solution? More nihilism? Do nothing if we can’t change the world until next weekend? No, small changes and aptitude to dialogue. I made mine and I still do more. And if I can help someone to stop and think twice before making any decisions about their next meal, I’ll do it with pleasure and a good deal of information.

(Sort of) Carbonara Vegan

Ingredients:

  • Bacon tempeh
  • 1 pack of 170g of smoked tempeh
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of water

Note: adapted recipe from The Basics of Vegan Cooking by Maria de Oliveira Dias, p. 80.

In a bowl mix the seasonings. Cut the tempeh into thin slices and wrap it in the sauce and marinate. On a grill with olive oil put the slices of tempeh, turning them to fry on both sides.

Carbonara sauce

Ingredients:

  • Integral spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons of flour maizena
  • 2 cups of almond milk + 2 cups almond milk
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup of vegan parmesan (enough to powder)
  • Oregano

Note: adapted recipe of Minimalist Baker.

Bake the spaghetti with a pinch of salt. Drain and set aside. In another pan sauté the cloves of garlic in the olive oil. Add the yeast, wrap and add 2 cups of almond milk gradually. Cook for 5mn and turn off the heat. Put it in a processor the saucing with seasonings and liquify it. Return it to the stove at low heat and add the remaining milk until it thickened. Wrap the spaghetti in the carbonara, add the bacon and powder it with a bit of vegan parmesan and oregano.

 

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