About a Vegetarian and Vegan Book Signing in a Butcher Shop.

 

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My friend, Joseph Shuldiner, who wrote a beautiful sexy book called “Pure Vegan” and I decided to a joint book signing for our books (“The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” for me) in the Real Butcher Shop, a new store in Santa Fe brought into being by Tom Delehanty. Tom has been a chicken farmer in New Mexico for the past 20 or so years. The meat he sources for his shop is all from the West, grass fed, raised with care, and definitely not from CAFOs. He also sells the offal, and he also makes vegan/vegetarian stocks, gives space to a baker who is making breads from ancient grains, and he has a few excellent raw milk cheeses and other raw dairy. He plans to feature vegetables as the season progresses (and a farmer was present that day) and the store finds its stride. In short, he’s mixing things up while offering wholesome, nourishing food that’s traceable and has integrity. And since Joseph and I feel that we try to do the same in our work, only without the animals, we thought, why not join forces with Tom? I posted about the event on Facebook and those who were offended were free to let me know. And I do understand.

But I believe in the open table, a place where people can come to eat regardless of preferences, labels, and such, where vegan, vegetarian and omnivore can sit down together and break bread together. Exploring inclusiveness has always been the intention behind my work, and while I thoroughly enjoy the meatless meals I cook, I don’t like a label that pushes others away so I’ve never really felt comfortable with the word “vegetarian.” I don’t use it to describe an exclusive lifestyle, but more as an option. (That’s why it’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.”) We can all enjoy plant foods and have meals that are without meat whether we do so everyday, only on Monday’s, or on more or less frequent occasions.

Today, more than any other time, plant based way of eating is respected and even seen as valuable to one’s health and well-being. A meatless meal is now a viable option to the usual menu offerings of lamb, salmon, chicken and beef, regardless of who is eating. When recently interviewed by a graduate student who was doing a project on plant-based diets I was taken aback when he said, by way of introducing a question, “Nutritionists today say that with a plant based or vegetarian diet you’ll get all the nutrition you need.” I had to ask him if I had heard him correctly, because that’s a huge change. The questions used to be, “Do you get enough protein?” And the assumption was you weren’t. (Another reason for saying I wasn’t a vegetarian – I didn’t want to answer that question all my life.) Nutritionists, dieticians, and doctors were very concerned about all the lacking elements in a meatless diet. No more, apparently, and that’s terrific. Now it’s a plus not to eat meat.

In the 30 plus years I’ve been involved with cooking dishes based on plants rather than meat, vegetarians have gone from being weirdos who had to defend their diets to something entirely more mainstream. Now it’s not a big deal if you say you’re a vegetarian or a vegan. And one might be a hardcore or simply experimenting. I have a niece who says she’s a vegan because she doesn’t trust or like the animal foods that are offered as part of the meal plan in college. She grew up on a farm and has parents who discern the differences between industrial food and well-raised food. Does that mean she’s really a vegan? For the moment, it’s a strategy. It might stick or not. I’ve taught more than one vegetarian cooking classes in which someone confesses that although they’ve been a strict vegetarian for twenty years they now dream of eating turkey. It’s possible that we change. I also know a 3rd generation Australian vegetarian (unlikely, when you think about it) who doesn’t even know the taste of meat and isn’t curious about it nor does he think of its absence as a lack. Others might be happy little vegetarians until they smell that roast pork shoulder studded with garlic and laced with rosemary or that roast chicken being pulled from the oven, then they succumb to something larger and possibly more fundamental than their ideals.

It’s also quite possible that one can be truly offended by the smell of meat. And the thought of animals being killed. After all, none go willingly to slaughter. I think about this a lot. Such people shouldn’t come to a butcher shop for a vegetarian book signing, but others might come and also take advantage of those vegan stocks, those nutty-chewy breads, that raw milk and amazing raw milk cheeses—even if they don’t eat meat. Hopefully there is room for all kinds in this world. In fact, the event was included a great big happy mix of people. Some ignored the meat. Others ignored me and Joseph. But it all felt good. Kind of like family.

9 comments to About a Vegetarian and Vegan Book Signing in a Butcher Shop.

  • A brilliant, lovely, topical piece—and so important. Thank you, as always, for writing.

  • I’m writing an article on a chef here in Portland, Ben Meyer, who was a committed vegan for 10 years, having grown up in the Midwest surrounded by industrial agriculture. He had an epiphany after moving onto an organic farm that raised animals as part of a rotational system, and became an advocate for sustainably raised meat. He currently has two restaurants and practices whole animal, nose-to-tail utilization of sustainably raised (preferably pasture-raised) meat. He and his team make everything in-house, the menu is built around what comes in from the farmers and ranchers that day, and his mission is to celebrate the diversity of the community that surrounds him and give them an accessible place to eat and shop.

    Thanks for this post, and keep up the good work!

  • Kahsia Hartwell

    Very well said. There are many paths to the mountain top.

  • Thank you for so eloquently putting my feelings into words. When are you coming back to Austin?

  • Thank you all for your comments. And Vicki? Austin? No dates, but a trip is overdue!

  • In my work with kids, I often run headlong into the concept of labeling. Labeling foods. Labeling categories. Labeling ourselves.

    Since I am a zebra, kids seem to understand that I don’t eat meat. However, a lot of those same kids are 4-H members who raise animals (sometimes naming them, sometimes not), love them and eventually, eat them.

    And they ask me: does that bother you?

    Basically, I tell them that everything in this world comes down to love and respect: to having an open heart, an open mind, an open kitchen. We’re all here to savor this life as best we know how.

    A Native American buddy told me that when he eats meat, he thanks the animal for nourishing him. He thanks it for all the seasons of sun and wind and rain and adventure. And, by eating that meat, those things become part of him.

    So whatever you eat, treat your food with respect and prepare it with love. Let it nourish you, become part of you, give you strength — and pass it on to the world.

    • Here here ZeBot Zebra! There are so many ways. I like what your Native American friend said. If only the animals most eat did have seasons of sun and wind and rain and adventure. I’m afraid so few do although I think Tom’s shop comes closer than the supermarket by far. Thank you for your comment.

      • I know that, ideally, all food should be raised/grown and prepared with love and respect.

        But when I work with kids whose parents can barely pay the rent (and those who are homeless), often the best thing I tell them is, even if you’re eating at McDonald’s, please be aware of and grateful for your food. Understand that it is becoming part of you — and use that energy for good things.

        And, of course: learn to cook!

        If you have any other ideas for ways I can help the world’s not-so-affluent kids discover the joys of healthy, socially responsible eating (which, of course, includes being vegetable literate and loving it), I’d love to hear them.

        Your books inspire me every day, Deborah — thanks so much!

  • Again, I applaud your thinking – and working with kids who are not-so-affulent. That is so, so important. Thank you for doing that – and for your kind words.

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