Land of milk, cheese, cajeta, and honey
I'm going to file this statement under "death wish fulfillment":
If you begin in a clear state with no symptoms and a clear mind, the ingestion of even one cup of coffee will often produce a marked and undesirable effect. The sustained ingestion of even small amounts of coffee seems to produce a subtle psychopathology. The chronic coffee user risks a variety of physical and mental disabilities, especially coffee-user-fog. If your Cuffer spouse, employer, employee, or best friend seems irritable, obtuse, unduly nasty, or depressed, nurse them through the three-day-withdrawal headache and serve nice cups of hot water instead. [see quote in context]
(Mmmmmmm, vegans. Gotta love 'em.)
Anyone with my sensitivity to caffeine would be idiotic not to acknowledge its potency, but the last time I checked, sensitivity does not equal insanity. I am not crazy enough to walk up to a coffee-deprived Heather and say, "Here, have a nice steaming cup of hot water!" Chalk it up to personal preference, but I don't find the idea of having my neck gnawed in two to be particularly appealing.
When I came home from Atlanta recently, I was loaded up with all kinds of Brand Richardson goodies - yogurt, cheese, eggs - from their farm. Storms made the driving slow, and I found myself thinking about the various vegetarians and vegans that I shared dorm space with in college.
During my last two years of college, I was essentially vegetarian, not out of choice but of fear of the truly disgusting meat-based monstrosities available in my collegiate cafeteria. I didn't mind the lack of meat, and with concerted effort I managed to stay relatively healthy, but I remember watching the local subset of vegans eat and honestly feeling sorry for them when I saw the list of things they couldn't eat. Cheese. Milk. Honey. Eggs. Things I couldn't imagine not eating.
In comparison to their New Age, cruelty-free lifestyle, I felt twinges of guilt. I knew full well that the meat I ate came from animals that had to be killed, and I found myself wondering if the dietary benefit to me was worth the occasional vegan whispers that I was a horrible, animal-murdering sack of humanity. Those kind of thoughts are difficult to stop, once they've started, so I posed myself the question that every ethical vegetarian or vegan asks him/herself at one point in life: "Why should others die so that I can live?"
At that point I realized I'd never make a true vegetarian or vegan, because my answer was: "Because no matter how much guilt I might have about it, my species sits at the top of the food chain, and life just sucks like that sometimes."
I admit that I'm not vegetarian. Saying that I make a conscious and determined effort to use the meat of an animal with respect when I cook with meat does nothing to impress an ethical vegetarian, despite the fact that the statement does have meaning. They will simply point out that my well-intentioned thoughts or kind feelings do nothing toward restoring life to the dead.
But then I was driving back from Atlanta with a wagonload of goat products, and I started thinking about vegans again. Before I'd left, I'd been in the middle of reading one of Julie Sahni's lovely books on Indian cooking. I'd noted her comment about certain ethical vegetarians who were willing to use products like milk, cheese, and honey, because they were 'gifts of the animal' that were freely given without cost of life.
Then I thought about Suzan's goats again, and remembered walking down toward the barn with Suzan, my feet squishing wetly in sodden earth, laughing at Aria's antics as she waddled ahead of us, making it clear to Suzan without words that she wanted to be fed and milked, and now.
Where was the animal suffering in this act? I looked, but I certainly didn't see any. I realize that Suzan's small herd of dairy goats have lives that are undoubtedly quite different from their overtly-commercial counterparts. I also realize that animals eaten for their meat must first be killed, and that unlike the cow in Douglas Adams' book, they do not offer themselves willingly.
I'm not insensitive to their suffering to animals, but I stood next to the milking pen with my foot braced on the gate, watching and asking questions, and if there was any suffering to be spotted in that half-mile radius, I didn't find it. Post-milking, Aria certainly bounded off the milking platform with a distinct lack of appearance of cruelty or abuse, and you know what?
Goat cheese is damn tasty.
Sure, in the minds of some, it's an animal product and therefore Evil And Should Not Be Eaten. I've claimed to be many things in my life, but I've never claimed to subscribe to any kind of edible fanaticism. Besides, giving up milk means giving up cajeta, and that's all kinds of not happening anytime soon, especially since I'm making a batch this afternoon.
Ah, well, here's to the unenviable moral position of sitting on top of the food chain with a bowl of vanilla ice cream.