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