I rarely find myself—with the exception of watching Fox News, or reading something in the “we’re dudes who think sexism is daring and funny” genre—filled with blinding, searing hatred towards everyone involved when I engage with some media product. I’m just a cheery person that way. But I made an exception when reading this article in the NY Times about the battle over vegetarian or even vegan weddings. I blame Jill for exposing me to this. I found myself in a boil over the vegans who, in a bout of sanctimonious idiocy, refuse to eat honey.* I loathed the writer for assuming that wedding planning is strictly the bride’s business. I hated the rigid people who think someone else’s dietary choices are somehow a great offense to them. The only person spared the wrath of me was Fernanda Capobianco, who sensibly and generously served meat at her wedding, even though she’s a vegan pastry chef. Though, I’m sure her husband is also a great guy.
And a special shout-out to the idea of having felt flowers instead of real, environment-destroying ones at your wedding. Too bad it was the “we’re too good for fucking honey” people who had that idea.
Not that I think that vegetarians or vegans are obliged to serve meat at their weddings. Far from it! I just think that the spirit of flexibility and generosity is the smart one to have in any circumstance, but especially around diet, and so if you feel that’s best met by serving meat, go for it. But vegetarian food is also diverse and delicious, so there’s no reason not to go vegetarian at your wedding, unless you simply cannot resist making a sanctimonious fuss over it. I’ve been a vegetarian/occasional pescatarian for so long that I honestly forget that most meals eaten involve meat on some level. I tend to reflexively serve only vegetarian food when I’m hosting something, not because I’m making a point, but because meat isn’t really in my vocabulary of cooking and serving. With a few notable exceptions (Anthony Bourdain is coming to your wedding, you’re working a Texas BBQ theme), there’s no real reason that anyone should even notice that you’re not serving meat if you serve tasty vegetarian food.
Unless, of course, they are one of those sanctimonious meat eaters who has to make a big fuss about it. And while there’s an obsession with sanctimonious vegetarians out there, I have to say that sanctimonious anti-vegetarians seem to be as common, if not more common, and they can be real assholes. Such as the one featured in this article:
When Patrick Moore, a salesman from Attleboro, Mass., arrived at an old friend’s wedding in 1999 to discover nothing but vegetarian options, he made an excuse about leaving the gift in his car so he could visit a sandwich shop across the street.
“I remember coming back carrying the bag of half-scarfed chicken Parmesan, only to be caught red-handed by the groom,” Mr. Moore said.
Give me a break. I haven’t eaten a piece of chicken in years, and I’m not starving. You can’t tell me that this dude couldn’t get through a few fucking hours of his life without partaking of animal flesh. There are things around the chicken in the sandwich—bread, tomato sauce, cheese—so we know for fact that he can manage to choke down food that isn’t a dead animal. I’ll bet most of the non-chicken items in that sandwich were available at the wedding. Vegetarians totally eat bread and tomato sauce, and hell, cheese is the reason many of us don’t go vegan. (That and our animosity to the anti-honey motherfuckers.) I’ll bet there were acres of cheese at the buffet. This whole sandwich routine was about being a sanctimonious ass, throwing a childish temper tantrum of disapproval of the host’s choices. And in case that wasn’t clear, Patrick Moore makes it clear:
“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you,” he said. “Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that? Just print a bumper sticker.”
As a vegetarian who doesn’t push my choices on other people, I find this asinine and offensive. Not eating meat isn’t about you. Not every meal is some guilt trip on people who don’t eat meat. Serving vegetarian food to guests is just a matter of course, not an attempt to recruit. I’ve seen plenty of vegetarians entertain non-vegetarians—I’ve done so myself—and no one even noticed that the food was vegetarian. Hell, a lot of the time you have no idea if you’re eating vegetarian food because the host is vegetarian or because the host is just playing it safe or gasp! if the host simply didn’t cook with meat that time, because she had a hankering for something else.
Now, more than ever, do I think we need a lot more people going on a vegatarian-some-of-the-time diet. We need to quit seeing the meat-free plate as some kind of Grand Self-Righteous Grand-Standing, and more as just a way of eating that’s perfectly normal. The meat-at-every-meal mentality makes this really hard to do, and the fact that exceptions are assumed to be strict vegetarians makes this harder. There are options! You could be a weekday vegetarian. You could be a meat-only-when-eating-out kind of person, or the converse, you could only eat meat at home. (This is an option I’ve seen a lot with people committed to only buying organic meat.) You could, gasp, simply favor eating vegetarian dishes most of the time, and only making exceptions when you feel like it. But seriously, people need to get over the notion that simply not eating meat, especially at a single meal, is a matter of grave importance that should be cause for discussion and possibly acts of angry rudeness.
*Seriously, you’re an asshole if you don’t eat honey for “moral” reasons. Not only are bees not hurt by honey production, but bees are hurt when humans don’t produce enough honey. If you’re remotely interested in sustainability, you should support instead of reject the work of beekeepers. Bees are a critical part of agriculture, especially organic farming and even and especially backyard gardens. Without bees, you don’t get as much fruit from plants as you should, since bees are basically the conduit for plant sex. But bee populations are in a severe decline. Our only real hope right now is more bee keepers! If you want to live on a plant-heavy diet, good god, you should want to support bee keepers. They’re what stands between us and a produce-free desolate existence.
Thus, I would argue that if you want to be a vegetarian and especially a vegan, you owe it to yourself and certainly to the rest of us to learn the basics of how food grows. You don’t have to garden—though that helps—but subscribe to Organic Gardening, at least. It’s like food porn, except you’ll learn something.