[Picture explanation: River Tam, from Firefly, holding up an ice planet – a scoop of battered ice cream hanging by a thread off a stick – and trying and failing to eat it!]
I like food. Some of the time, I like making it and most of the time, I like eating it. Like many other things I like, this means I talk about food a lot. And these conversations are rarely neutral. And the lack of neutrality is rarely of my making. I’m vegetarian. I was raised in a vegetarian household until the time my Father returned from Texas having lived on a diet of potatoes and fizzy drinks for three months and decided that we needed to be able to able to stomach meat should the need arise. So I have eaten meat for a couple of years and no longer feel queasy in its presence, which is nice. I am thoroughly comfortable with food and enjoy it. And I think over time I’ve even learned to talk about it without buying into the moralistic discourses that surround it. But my food continues to be problematic – for other people.
The most common response to me eating with someone is them starting a conversation about vegetarianism. Whether or not I have invited or expressed any willingness to be party to one. And it usually goes one of two ways: either the person decides to tell me what they think the problems with vegetarianism are and why they don’t think being vegetarian is a good idea, or they try to convince me that I’m just missing out on whichever meat it is that they’re most fond of. I’m not sure why people feel the need to either justify their eating habits or denigrate mine except that being moralistic about food seems to have seeped into most ways in which people engage with food. So that the mere existence of me sitting there eating triggers uncomfortable and/or defensive responses (according to disposition).
Food is incredibly politicised. Around animal rights, religious choice, health, disordered eating and control. I do have politics about food. And politics around talking about food. And my primary position is always going to be focused on doing the least harm. Which basically means that I will not criticise the food people eat. So I am more than happy to engage in conversations about the hows and whys at some point of our mutual choosing. Not when the sight of me and food overwhelms you so much that you blurt out everything you’ve ever thought about in connection to the food I’m eating. Even if you’re “just trying to understand, because people are vegetarian for different reasons”, I’d much rather just be able to eat my food thanks. Notice how I’m sitting here while you eat whatever it is you’re eating – not asking you what life experiences and politics lead to your decision to put that next forkful in your mouth? Yep, just do that. Just because you don’t understand and are trying to does not mean it is my place to explain it to you.
On an entirely separate note, thank you to all the folk who read, listened to and commented on the post last week. Being freshly pressed was a bit odd really, but a nice way to meet some lovely new blog acquaintances *waves*!