Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deprivation Vs. Abundance: Learning through Food

Broc Ollie by Boopsie Daisy

A few weeks back I saw The Veganist on Oprah and felt quite nauseated by her whole approach. The instant TV solution hung thick over the whole episode. You can STILL eat EVERYTHING you usually do, just switch to soy cheese and tofu sausage! In just one trip to the grocery store, you'll have changed the world! And added ten years to your life!

My problem with this approach is that by substituting something for animal products, you are actually focusing your attention on what you are not getting. Because soy cheese will NEVER taste as good as real cheese. But it will remind you of all the real cheese you are not eating and add to that feeling of deprivation. Furthermore, in many cases, you are simply exchanging one processed food for another. This won't effect real change in the farming system, and it won't taste good or nourish you the way food can and should.

I prefer Deborah Madison's approach to vegetarian (and vegan!) cooking. Instead of trying to turn a soybean into a chicken, she focuses on the amazing, dizzying variety of foods that she can work with. From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone:

"In the kitchen, raw materials have always been my inspiration. Plant life is visual, tactile, aromatic, fetching and mysterious-beans that look like jewels; subtle grains, the strange beauty of seaweeds; the ingenuity of man-made foods like coils of pasta, myriad cheeses, and the different hues and fragrances of oils...Nothing is more important than starting with ingredients that are of the best quality, for our final results will never be better than what we start with. A hidden advantage of using good ingredients is that they allow us to cook simply and eat well."

As with so many lessons, this one goes far beyond the kitchen. I think that when we focus on abundance instead of deprivation, we transform our whole lives.

I have been considering just this idea with my life in Hawaii. I have often found myself finding fault with this beautiful place because of things I "can't" have here. This is a rural place, cut off from the rest of the world in many ways. There aren't great little boutiques, giant museums, vast libraries, hip bars, indie movie theaters and fancy restaurants like there were in Chicago.

But as I began to examine that idea, I found that it was a mental construct in many ways. If I focus instead on what is available, I couldn't possibly be disappointed.

There are small local places for art and culture that are nurtured not by deep pockets, but by the care and devotion of a few passionate people. There is an interest in preserving a culture that is unique to this one spot on the face of the earth. People are connected to the subtleties of the seasons and earth in ways city folk never could be. Apples may not be cheap, but friends bring over oranges and avocados by the bagfull. If I can embrace what is around me right now, I won't have a moment to waste on wistfullness.

I visited the farmer's market this morning and filled my bag with a few pounds of tiny local sweet potatoes with gorgeous purple flesh, several taught zuccinis, a fluffy bunch of basil, gently ruffled mint and cilantro, and the vendor pressed several bunches of slightly bruised apple bananas on me free of charge. My whole bill was eight dollars. Then I remembered that it is March and my friends back in the Midwest are contending with six feet of snow. Just try to feel deprivation then!

What wonderful things do you have in your life? How does focusing on those change your perspective?

P.S) Bet you didn't even notice that all of these meals were Vegetarian, did you?


YeeHaw Industries said...

Such smart sentiments! Thanks for featuring YeeHaw's cards in your awesome blog!

Jessica said...

This is lovely.

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