by Reilly Cox
By the great peculiarity that is existence, life endures in numerous and varied ways, and the distinction between a mountain and a mountain goat is but a superficial one. For as stated in Atomic Theory, what makes a field mouse so, too, makes a titanosaur, and thus by the same and interchangeable particles, one multifactorial manifestation of life may consume another multifactorial manifestation of life, the particles of one becoming the particles of another and, in that way, live, and, in that way, die.
That is to say, eat a cheeseburger and you get to go about your day.
On Being Fuzzy with Bacteria
Midnight hunger is a troubling thing for me. It’s not so much that the hunger is troubling but rather that I feel like a force of destruction and doom as I hunch over my freeze-dried miso soup. I choose the freeze-dried miso soup because the package assures me it is a “vegan soyfood” and, as a vegetarian, this seems an acceptable choice for me. Still, I hunch over this package and read:
Like yogurt, miso is considered to be a living food. That is why Edward & Sons takes extra care to use costly freeze-drying methods that retain, as much as possible, the naturally occurring living cultures for which fresh miso is prized.
So, as I pour my bowl of boiling water, I prepare a rather cruel bath to both wake up these sleeping creatures and immediately kill them.
Instead of the miso, I might grab some of that aforementioned yogurt. And in grabbing the yogurt, I’d remember that yogurt is made through the bacterial fermentation of milk. And I might remember that that bacteria continues to thrive in the yogurt, waiting patiently to enter your system through the consumption of yogurt, where it will live, grow, and aid you.
After all this thinking, I might want nothing more than some bread and beer. The funny thing, though, is that both of these come from yeast, a living organism. The yeast stays alive so that bread still teems with life. To drink a beer is to drink in a universe.
So to reassure myself after this contemplation, to remind myself that it is okay, I tell myself what we all tell ourselves. “There, there, these creatures are minutia. Dismiss them.”
On Dirty Hippies and Deer Stew
I recognize the absurdity of consuming one form of life while sparing another. I speak for the trees, and they have pointed out to me the irony of the vegetarian tree hugger. Cut into a tree and you will find no heart, no lungs, no brain. But it lives just as we live and, just as successfully, it dies.
As simplistic as it may seem, I choose to not eat animals of the earth because they scream a whole lot more when they are about to die. I once hit a deer and, well, the experience didn’t sit well with me. Some people are vegetarians because they disapprove of slaughterhouses or pescatarians because fish don’t purr. For me, it was that deer. Spend three hours trying to kill something, to put it out of its misery, and you can’t help but feel a connection to it. Call it love, call it murder, call it one and the same. How can I say that one thing deserves destruction more than another? In the grand scheme of things, we are all dying specks on a dying rock. But here, we make distinctions.
On the Eating of a Childhood Friend
I have a friend who lived on a small farm and kept cows. From this friendship came my obsession with good, whole milk (and rants concerning all other “lesser” forms of milk) and also a love of cows. One cow was named Bumper. As a child, my friend loved Bumper and, for the sake of story, Bumper loved him. One day, Bumper, having lived a good, long life, got struck by lightning. Bumper died.
For this, my friend wept. It was an understandable reaction, finding something so loved so very round and dead. What strikes me most in this story was the process that suddenly and silently followed. The body was taken, carried by the pallbearers of father and sons, and prepared. The meat was cleaned and dressed. Some hours after the tragedy, the family bowed their heads and said a word of prayer. Dust-to-dust, they remembered Bumper.
And life went on. My friend chased dogs and threw scraps to cats and loved the birds and grew in his way. Gradually, these other furry friends passed away, but, oddly enough, he never ate a dog.
On Eating with Aunt Sue
I must confess that I am a truly terrible vegetarian. I am weak, unwilling to burden my family and friends for the sake of my moral convictions. For their love, I compromise my commitment—though I know this is foolish, that I would have it regardless of what I do or do not eat.
Family, in truth, is a harder force to deny than conscience. I have “broken” my vegetarianism to eat a steak with my father, thinking of all the years I have missed truly being close to him. I have broken my vegetarianism to eat hotdogs with my grandfather, much for the same reason. I have broken to eat oysters with friends because somehow celebration requires a shared meal.
And through this sharing, we experience much of our culture. Society is dependent on ritual and tradition. Why do we eat turkey at Thanksgiving but for tradition? Why do we eat meals together but for the sake of unity? We follow our traditions and conform to our communities, and, for those who break from the norm, thy fate is ostracism.
I have eaten many of the animals in the animal kingdom. And I think about it. I think about it every moment at the dinner table, as every plate is passed and as I chew each mouthful. In the same breath with which I compliment my aunt for a tasty meal, I want to scream.
And So, a Story, As If We Were Oysters
My motherfather left hisher mark on the shells of herhis fathermother just like the motherfatherfathermothers before herhim, and she spat me out to leave my mark on the shell as well, and he spat me out to leave my mark on the shell as well. And I grew grew up and made made me and became became a shell of a shell with the mass of me to be. I ate good life and spat clean water and one day spat my own sonsdaughters to find their own shells to make their own just like their motherfather. I made my mark on the shells that had made their mark on the shells before, and one day the ground shook and I closed my I opened my I cried my noteyes and my shells and the shells and our shells went dry and loud clanking loud snapping loud lemons making it all wrong and I made my mark on the shells that made their marks on the shells before and now I’m open now I’m open now I’m drowning now I’m lost in the void of a void and I’m gone.