Monday, 3 January 2011

Toodles, Two Thousand and Ten

Happy new year, commarades. It took the onset of a whole nother decade to remind me that I have a blog, and then it took tonight's spanakopita de resistance to fill me with typistly zeal - but! - here I am, having thrown my own personal gauntlet at my own personal self, having brushed the withered internetian laurels (such as they were) from my posterior, and declaring before you all (Mum), that 2011 will be a year of less infrequent blogging, more frequent eating of spanakopita, and of adherence to a swag of lesser resolutions (i.e., write doggammed book,* grow feijoa hedge out front of new house,** buy no clothes all year, except possibly brassiere,*** and so forth).

January, meanwhile, is the month of being vegan, which brings me to the rather tasty subject of tonight's spanakopita. Or the less tasty subject of why January is the month of being vegan. This business with the dairy industry, the one where the calves get shunted off prematurely away from their mothers, the little bulls turned into mince meat, the cows kept in a state of prolonged aching lactation: it's not good, is it? And neither is the fate of your typical chook. I've been thinking these thoughts for almost two decades now, and making sporadic, invariably unsuccessful runs at not eating eggs and milk. Unsuccessful, sporadic, I suppose, because I don't figure my personal abstinence constitutes much of a chip off the great groaning megalith that is our day-to-day exploitation of animals. And because I don't feel as implicated in that exploitation when I'm eating the biscuit that's made from the butter that comes from the cow whose male calf was killed, as I do when my teeth tear at the calf himself. And because I know that even if I stop eating butter-eggs-dollops-of-marscapone myself, I'm still of the exploiter class. I pour the catfood (that euphemism) into the two white bowls. I take it for granted that any medicine, shampoo, dishwashing liquid I might use will be safe for me to use, or unsafe in known ways, because thoroughly tested - on whom, I prefer not to think. I read a poem that was first written down with a feather plucked from the rump of a live goose. I look at a photograph first printed with egg white. On my wall is a painting of a chemist's laboratory, painted with - a brush - made of? I admire human ingenuity without thinking too hard about humanity's ingenuity for cruelty.

January is the month of being vegan, not for the sake of the captive farm animal - because if it was for her sake, I'd do something bigger, something real, something that would really help her, like going to the butchers' shops tonight, right now, and plastering her picture on their windows. It's in hope of some kind of absolution, even as I know that I can't be absolved, because my not eating cheese doesn't change the fact that I'm of the master species, a thriving beneficiary of this culture built out of fine bone china and calfskin and catgut. But, but, but: it seems right, to try at least, to take that tiny chip from the monolith, or more right than not doing so. (You will see my ethical bankruptcy - or confusion, anyway - when you hear that at 11.50pm on New Year's Eve, I guzzled as much of the Christmas Lindt as I could, in anticipation of January, the month of being vegan. Or when you note that I am speaking of a month, rather than a lifetime - though that, I should say, is in the spirit of beginning with measurable distances, and to defuse the anxieties of a beloved who knows no higher compliment than "buttery", and cannot think of a mushroom without sauteing it in something from a cow's teat.)

So, to the far pleasanter matter of vegan spanakopita, brought to you by the eternal excellence of filo pastry, by the enormous bunch of silverbeet procured for $1 at the local vegetablarium, and by a viable substitute for ricotta (stay with me here) made out of mashed tofu, pepper, lemon juice, basil and nutmeg. Chuck ye this into yon oven, with liberal sloshes of olive oil, and serve with a brown lentil, thyme, tomato, basil, green bean, rocket, balsamissimo salad, and Bob thine uncle shall be. See how I deprive myself?

* subject of another post
** subject of another other post
*** subject of another other other post


Kate said...

I like your plan -- good luck with the vegan month! That spanakopita sounds great and (I know you already know) there are a million similar ways to not feel deprived without the dairy. If you have it where you live, Earth Balance "buttery spread" may help appease the butter lover, too. It's pretty great stuff. Nice to see you on the internet again, too.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Thanks, Kate! I've never seen Earth Balance, but we have a vegan marg called Nuttelex which is my preferred baking fat. The butter lover is seldom fooled, though. The biggest impediment for me in this vegan business is when I'm away from home. I found myself in a cafe yesterday, and my lunch options consisted of potato chips and a banana soy smoothie. Hope your gnu year is full of good things.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

p.s. forgot to credit the crucial role of brown onions and parsley in the inaugural spanking-peter of 2011.

Mitzi G Burger said...

I don't whether to salivate first at the improvised non-animal-product derived Greek foodieness or the "another other other" posts that will drip from the 'quill' of our Lexicon.

Ann O'Dyne said...

we MUST chip away at the horror.
do not consume death.

I have been to the saleyards on hot days where the baby calves cannot reach the water bins, and all so that bogans can have a 'parma and a pot $12'.

brown rice and avocado serves me well thank you.

lucytartan said...

I agree. It's important to try. In the midst of my own eating-away-from-home problems, the only workable solution I've come up with is: don't, or at least, bring my own.

Ampersand Duck said...

Dreadful,* the way you're torturing yourself** and us*** with unspeakably delicious food.

*please do that post
** and that one
*** and also that

Hippy gnu yah

Ampersand Duck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ampersand Duck said...

Sorry, I was repeating myself. Like the dinner we had last night, which was a classic boyfest of cheesy creaminess. But at least I didn't have to cook :)

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Bless youse all, for your encouragement (on both the blogging and the caring fronts). The morning after I posted this, PETA dropped by my inbox with this:

Want to Save More Than 100 Animals This Year?

Did you know that being vegan saves more than 100 animals every single year? That's right—with tens of billions of animals being killed for food annually, it's a simple lesson in supply and demand: the fewer animals we eat, the fewer animals who will be raised for food in the first place.

Each time we sit down to eat, we have a choice. We can choose to support cruelty, or we can choose to take a stand against it. Won't you join me in taking a stand against horrific cruelty and abuse at each and every meal?

It's easy to take a stand and requires little to no extra effort on your part. Pledge to go vegan in 2011 and save the lives of animals now!

In addition to sparing the lives of more than 100 animals each year, you'll also greatly reduce your carbon footprint by lessening your impact on the environment and improve your health by reducing your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

There's a minor sleight of hand here, a slippage between "sparing the lives of more than 100 animals each year" and "the fewer animals we eat, the fewer animals who will be raised for food in the first place" (i.e., abstaining from eating animals bodies and milk and eggs is "sparing lives" in the sense that those lives will never happen). And there's a gap, isn't there, between when I withdraw my custom from the dairy industry and when Farmer X realises she should stop rearing as many cows, in which gap babies are born and come to be slaughtered, etc.

But maybe, eventually, someone who might have been caused to exist so that she could be confined and leeched and slaughtered won't come to exist - because I withdraw my money from the animal food industry - and that will be a very excellent thing.

Maybe more to the point for me, is your excellent comment, Ann O'Dyne: we MUST. Not eating animals/animals' secretions is (increasingly) a moral compulsion (for me), regardless of how effective it is.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

MGB, you're the best darn food-wrangler I know. I should import you to Lalor to give me lessons.

A O'D, that's really, really horrible, the calves being kept from water. One of my students told me about her year as an au-pair at a cattle farm, the day when the little bulls had their horns sliced off at the skull, unanaesthetised (illegally).

LucyT, ach, saves a lot of bother eating at home. I am quite an accomplished eater, though, and it pains me unduly to miss out on meals. I should just carry a box of vita-weats and a jar of hommos everywhere I go.

Duck, happy gnu year, you too! Hope the cheesefest was scrumpy at least. x

Marshall Stacks said...

O'Dyne forgot to mention that at the saleyards there are signs warning sellers:
'Do not bring stock to these pens which have eye cancers larger than a 10c piece'
. So the consumers are eating beasts with smaller cancers - nice!
My dear friend is a farmer and I can hardly believe this myself.
She says people wouldn't eat meat if they knew the volume of costly chemicals pumped into beef cattle.
She says she wouldnt send sheep to Saudi Arabia if Australian consumers would eat mutton. The Saudis pay twice the AUS value of a sheep.
Portland still ships stock and nothing has changed since the fuss of years back.
I feel physically ill near the meat section of supermarkets.
I am a regular blood donor and without meat in my diet my haemoglobin is 14.5 on a scale topped at 16.5. The blood bank doesn't take donors under 12 on this scale.
Farming meat is not ecological either. It all depresses me terribly.