Eating the Food that Your Food Eats

ron_swanson_seussLately I have been thinking a lot about food. 

I’m about halfway through Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, in which the author argues that “Nutritionism” has taught us to be rather reductionistic about how we think about the whole eating thing. We think too much about nutrients  like fats, carbs, and proteins, with actual food  being relegated to mere neutral and non-descript conduits by which those nutrients are delivered to our bodies. In addition to thinking about nutrients rather than foods, we think about foods to the exclusion of diets, and diets to the exclusion of an overall lifestyle. 

I’ve also recently watched the documentaries Forks Over Knives  and Vegucated, both of which are streamable on Netflix. 

All this to say, I’ve decided to dabble a bit in Veganism. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Veganism isn’t something you can ‘dabble’ in. It’s like becoming a Mormon: you either go all in or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.” I have given this objection (and the issue as a whole) some thought, and I’ve come to the following provisional conclusions:

1. Some people are vegan out of pure principle, as in, they consider it unconscionable to consume animal products of any kind, period. For that person, dabbling is not possible since eating butter actually wounds his conscience. I am not that person, but will be more of a vegan by accident (except when I’m not). In other words, it’s more a matter of wisdom for me than it is a matter of morality. If I eat 35 meals/snacks per week, and 30 of them happen to be vegan (as opposed to how it is now, with 30 of them being non-vegan), then I figure I’m winning.

2. According to the crap I have been watching and reading, there is no one secret diet that is superior to all the rest — studies of primitive peoples show that some eat high-protein diets, some almost all fish, others mostly plants, etc. But in each and every case it is the introduction of the Western diet that has uniformly brought massive spikes in diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and countless other problems. Pollan’s mantra is simple: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” It’s not a prescription for a specific diet as much as an algorithm for thinking about eating in general (read: not preachy or sanctimonious. I like that.).

3. I have always been a big fan of switching up my exercise and diet routines. Sometimes I eat high-protein and low-carb, sometimes I do high-intensity intervals, sometimes I just lift weights, twice I have completed a P90X routine, sometimes I count my calories, etc. Dabbling in the whole vegan thing may very well end up as just another in a series of switch-it-ups, or it may actually become something more permanent. Time will tell. Plus, I’m used to being a really bad version of really good things.

4. Another thing for me is the issue of complicity. In a word, I pretty much hate the whole system, the Matrix, the status quo, whatever you want to call it. I hate banks, I hate the military-industrial complex, I hate the insurance companies, I hate big agri-business, I hate big pharma, I hate big oil, and I experience no small amount of self-loathing when I find myself a complicit enabler of or participant in these things. If reducing my intake of animal products and processed foods can be my way of giving a big ol’ middle finger to some of these structures, all the better. Is it some decisive death-blow? Of course not. But like I say, little bursts of protest for sanity’s sake are good enough for me. Plus, experiments like these are healthy (ahem) for me, as they help prove, to myself at least, that I am still open-minded enough to be willing to consider a major change in lifestyle if I think the evidence and/or benefits warrant it. Who, me  intransigent?

Sooo… who’s with me? Anyone? Gimme a “V,” gimme an “E”! No? Nothing? Just chirping crickets? That’s cool. I’ll probably only last a week or two anyway. But at least for that period of time I’ll have another reason to look down my nose on all you pathetic losers. Seriously, just go slash-and-burn a rainforest, you soulless puppy-clubbers.

I’ll be over here, veganing. Like a boss.



  1. ChristianMarch 11, 2014

    I don’t understand what meat has to do with all those “big” things you hate. Buy your meat from PCC where it is free-range, grass fed with no anti-biotics and produced by local farmers. This is what we have been doing for years. Buy directly from a farm if that’s not good enough for you. I can give you a number. There are plenty of them up here. It’s like saying, “I’m not gonna listen to music anymore because I hate boy bands.”

  2. ChristianMarch 11, 2014

    I agree with you reducing your intake of processed foods. This is another thing we’ve been doing for years. However, I’m curious about which plants you are going to eat. I’ve actually never seen you eat a vegetable. I’ve seen you refuse every vegetable I’ve ever offered you. (Not including potatoes of course…or avocados in guacamole format.)

  3. JasonMarch 11, 2014

    From what I have read and seen, meat consumption is one of the most destructive practices for the environment there is because of the vast footprint the industry leaves and all that goes into it. Then there’s the issue of animal proteins which, I am told, greatly increase one’s chances of getting the diseases I list. But like I say in the post, I am not planning to abandon meat altogether. When I do eat it it will be of the variety you mention (as it often is already).

    True, I do not like vegetables at all. I guess I will have to do my best. Plus, “plants” include fruits, which I already eat a lot of.

  4. ChristianMarch 11, 2014
  5. JasonMarch 11, 2014

    Yes, I will read it.

    For the record, I did my best to write this piece in a voice that communicated how non-committal, non-judgmental, and skeptical I am about my own decision. An article with 22 reasons NOT to do something I admitted already I will probably not last in anyway? Sure, OK. If it’s that important I don’t act on the self-described “provisional” conclusions I have reached, yes, I will read this.

    But I’ll have to warn you up front: I still may decide to try something for a couple weeks that will have absolutely no effect on you whatsoever.

  6. ChristianMarch 11, 2014

    Ha. It’s not that. I just want to make sure you read both sides first. Like how when you watch documentaries on 9/11 and think it was all a hologram for a few weeks. 😉 It’s easy to get convinced of something when only reading/watching one side of it. You feel like you don’t have to read anything in defense of meat because you have always enjoyed meat, but now that you’re reading the other side, I’d just appreciate you having some perspective. That’s all.

    The article I’m asking you to read is from the Weston A. Price web site, which Michael Pollan quotes in his book (that you quoted on Facebook) and even uses Price to support his the conclusion he was making in that paragraph.

  7. ZrimMarch 11, 2014

    And deep thoughts from Jack Handy: “I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then after you camped at night, you could eat him. How about it, science?”

    Also, “I hope they never find out that lightning has a lot of vitamins in it, because do you hide from it or not?”

  8. Chris RehersMarch 11, 2014

    This article makes me miss that Irish Pub near your old place in Hungary that served a mean meat platter sampler. That thing was epic. But yeah “V” “E” etc

  9. Babylon's DreadMarch 12, 2014


    Stressing me out with all this introspection, hate, high brown self-congratulations and part-time veggie gorging.

    Loser Dread

  10. AndrewMarch 12, 2014

    And deep thoughts from Jack Handy

    Needed that, Zrim. Thx.

  11. XeniaMarch 24, 2014

    If you had converted to Eastern Orthodoxy instead of Roman Catholicism you could be trying out veganism for the 7 weeks of EO Lent!

  12. Johnny TMarch 27, 2014

    Wow, J, this is a big step for you, for as long as I have known you, you couldn’t fathom giving up your favorite foods. I too embrace the active rebellion inherent in eating wholesome foods, like you said: “If reducing my intake of animal products and processed foods can be my way of giving a big ol’ middle finger to some of these structures, all the better.”

    Also like you, I am not pure. The little meat I eat is when I’m with other people or if we buy ethical meat for the home. Other than that, we pretty much eat plants. My philosophy is the closer my food is to its living state, the better; fresh and raw plants are my mainstay. The key for me is rejecting purity; if I felt I had to be pure veggie or pure vegan, I think I wouldn’t do it.

  13. […] or should reflect a worldview that is internally consistent and all-encompassing. For example, I explained recently that I am trying to move my eating habits in a more whole-foods, vegan direction. Part of my […]

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