If there was a 12-step program for meat eaters, my life would be in and out of meetings. My first foray into a meatless diet was probably in my teens, but it didn't last too long, since meat was in every dinner my mother cooked. I tried again when I left the nest, but it only lasted a few years. I tried, I really tried. I had the Laurel's Kitchen and the Moosewood cookbooks, full of penciled notes. I had glass jars full of beans and grains on the cupboard shelves.
Once the babies arrived, I went down the meat road again, convinced that youngsters needed the protein that animals provided. There were various flirtations with vegetarian life over those years, even shared by the growing ones, but I always found it too hard to maintain the strict no-meat-what-so-ever plan.
There are lots of reasons to be a vegetarian. I can list them easily, but I always felt uncomfortable with the spiritual reasons. Logical, scientific reasons somehow make more sense and are easier to discuss. The environmental impact of eating so high on the food chain uses far too much water and arable land to sustain the earth. Check. Yep, I totally get that. Factory farming practices jeopardize our food supply by relying on antibiotics, growth hormones and recycling animal parts in animal feed. Understood completely.
Still, the idea of not eating animals for spiritual reasons didn't sit well with me. Aren't humans supposed to eat animals? We are omnivores, aren't we? We're designed to chow down on all those cows and chickens and pigs. That's why the smell of a grilled sausage starts up the salivary glands in overdrive.
Slowly, though, the spirit has started weighing in on the conversation.
Is it not a spiritual matter to revere the earth and thus want to conserve fresh water and cropland?
Is it not a spiritual matter to want nourish my body with healthy food?
Is it not a spiritual matter to allow animals to be able to eat their natural food, raise their young and live out their natural lives without being killed for food?
The 12-step programs know that logic and science are just talking points for the spiritual. It's always been the spiritual. I just had to get comfortable enough to admit it. Now, the decision not to eat meat feels right. It feels necessary. It feels natural.
Lately, I've been reading about the conditions under which eggs and milk are harvested in our industrialized farms and the spirit is starting to make some comments about becoming vegan.
Here's a recipe that I concocted the other day. The quantities are rough, because I don't measure when I cook, but it was delicious.
(feeds two hungry sailors)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch section of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 teaspoon of garam masala or equivalent mixture of black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin and cloves
2 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 large sweet potato, diced and boiled until soft (save 1/2 cup of the water to add)
a few big handfuls of spinach leaves
a handful of golden raisins
1/2 cup coconut milk
small handful of unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish
Heat oil in a deep pan and add aromatics and spices. When the onions have become translucent, add the tomato paste and water. Add the chickpeas, sweet potato, spinach and raisins. Sauté until the spinach wilts. Stir in the coconut milk. Decant into bowls and sprinkle on the coconut flakes.