Yesterday I got some fresh eggs from my new egg connection! When I arrived at her place I saw probably the happiest bunch of chickens in the world. Instead of being trapped in filthy, dark stacks of stifling, tiny cages with only wires to stand on, with icky byproducts of other industrially-raised animals to eat, these chickens were wandering around free, pecking at whatever looked tasty on the ground. This is one food decision I am comfortable with. Oh, yeah, and I got some fresh asparagus from her while I was at it, so I believe a nice frittata is in my future.
Too bad it’s not all that easy. I just read a couple of articles today. One was questioning claims that mad cow disease (CJD) can’t be transmitted through milk. The other described all the ways our food industry has completely fucked up any benefits of soy and included a long, complicated list of rules for when and when not to consume soy products. So I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I have a lot of reasons for trying to revamp my dietary choices, and it seems like one of my reasons for making a certain decision always seems to contradict one of my other reasons. It makes me want to say to hell with it sometimes and head uptown for a Whopper Jr. w/Cheese Meal, just like the old days. (Or a boatload of sushi, like last weekend in Reno, but I was drunk.)
I know it’s impossible to be perfect, but in this world, where we just go to the store and get stuff that, to our minds, has just magically appeared on the shelves for us, it’s starting to seem damn near impossible to have much control over the food we eat and the products we use. Even so-called healthy foods are manipulated in ways we never hear about, but who has time to do hours of research on everything we buy at the supermarket? And while I do have some hunters and fishermen in my family who occasionally toss some non-industrially-produced fish or meat my way, you are certainly not going to find me out there doin’ the killin’ unless there’s some kind of apocalyptic event or I’m selected for the next Hunger Games and I have no choice.
And then there’s the shoe dilemma I’ve mentioned before. DAMN I love a nice pair of leather sandals, but I’m pretty sure industrial leather is gotten in sinister ways just as industrial meat is, and if I don’t want to support sneaky, inhumane, polluting industries, then leather is just one more thing I guess I should be trying to avoid, right? One plus there is that most fake leather shoes and purses are cheap compared to the real thing, but where does that take you? You got it: third-world sweatshops filled with 10-year-old semi-slaves making cheap, polluting stuff so you can look cute and avoid hurting a cow. Which takes you straight down Futility Street to Crazyville.
I don’t talk about this stuff in public (or even in private) unless asked, because for some reason it is of paramount importance not to offend people who just want to put their favorite Coach bags down and eat their store-bought cow or pig in peace. (Strangely, however, it is completely acceptable to start publicly mocking anyone you see eating a vegetarian meal in peace.) But the fact is I question constantly whether it’s really worth the effort of trying to be a conscientious consumer at all. It’s frustrating to be one of only about 4 or 5 people I know who even give a flying rat’s ass about any of this stuff in the first place, and that fact–along with all the contradictory articles and damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t choices to be made–makes me start to think it would be much easier not to worry about it and just do whatever the hell I want, because everybody else is.
One more thing, though. In the introduction to the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer (read it!), the author’s grandmother describes to her flabbergasted family how she wouldn’t eat a piece of pork offered to her when she was starving, in hiding in Europe during World War II, even to save her life, because it wasn’t kosher. “If nothing matters, then there’s nothing to save,” she told them matter-of-factly. That’s something I try to remember when, like today, I think of chucking all my newfound principles and putting the blinders back on.