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.


amy i agree wholeheartedly about your quest for cheeseiness. goat cheese is a damn tasty treat. some chocolate syrup for that ice cream, madame?

I don't know if it's true for goats, but I know that cattle are much, much better off when milked than not. It's what Nature built them to do. I guess I understand the desire not to eat animal meat, but hey ... it's pretty clear that we were designed as omnivorous creatures. I have no remorse whatsoever when I slice into my steak. Geof (is, also, one of those evil nasty NRA people who actually hunts from time to time ... even if it has been half a decade)

I am morally opposed to eating any animal that isn't tasty and delicious when cooked in butter and covered in cheese. Admittedly, this list is pretty small.

Amy, you'll be surprised to note that I drink very little coffee now. I've gotten into a tea habit that rivals my mother's (the queen of tea). But don't fret, my nicely caffeinated darjeeling and irish breakfast teas are never far from me. I keep a tea stash in my car. A former coworker is a vegan, and she does a great job staying healthy. But it does take a significant amount of effort. Mom and I were vegetarian for a few years, but we got out of it when we moved back to Alabama. I recently thought about being vegetarian again, but I realized that I just couldn't give up sushi. I need those cool, flabby bits of raw fish in my life. And if I'm going to eat fish, I might as well eat the other stuff I like. Besides, determining a protein source for dinner is far easier when there's meat involved.

I'm a vegetarian, though not a full-blown vegan (i.e., I won't eat animals but I do eat dairy products), and that's only because the range of foods I like to eat is limited enough as it is - without dairy I'd have almost nothing left I can eat (well, happily eat, anyway). Anyhow, at least I have no meat cravings anymore - Morningstar Farms makes *excellent* veggie burgers, chicken patties, sausages and bacon (which I'm cooking for breakfast as I type this). I'd have had a much more miserable time the past few years trying to remain a vegetarian without them.

Heather - once you said it, I remembered Brian making some statement about the two of you talking about caffeine. heh. You're right about the caffeine in tea - for me it's as bad, if not sometimes worse. That's why I switched to drinking the herbal infusions - you probably remember all the rosehip and orange-flavored fruit infusions I keep around. It's not the same as tea, but it also won't muck with my sleep schedule. I'm with you on the sushi - not to mention the ease of dealing with finding protein sources. We have a couple of folks at 'con this year who would prefer to eat vegetarian, given the choice, but I honestly don't think I'll be able to manage that for them, given the lack of cooking facilities I'll have. Cajeta's almost done. Yum. Must remember to get ice cream when next I go shopping...

Aria and Lana would disagree with you on the lack of cruelty. They are firmly rooted in their stance that it is cruel that they not be allowed to gorge themselves on grain endlessly, cruel that I don't give them ALL the strawberries, cruel that water occasionally falls from the sky (goats HATE water) and of course, very cruel that I fence them in when the neighbor's vegetable garden offers such delicious treats. Goats are very much like cats when you think about it... My moral objections to "factory-style" farming are a big part of the reason I enjoy keeping goats and chickens. While I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, I will support and buy from free-range and organic suppliers when they are available.

I am a second-hand vegetarian. Animals eat veggies, I eat animals ... so I get the veggies through osmosis.

I love the Chef of Silicon. ;)

Anyone who embraces omnivorousness and has the sick sense of humor most of us on this site seem to share should take a look at Ted Nugent's cookbook. I think it's called "Kill It and Grill It." It is very entertaining!

"Nice" and "cup of hot water" do not belong in immediate proximity to each other.

i'm temporarily vegan - it's been three and a half days so far, but i found animal fat in my hair conditioner, so technically i goofed. i have a weird time rationalizing it. the idea of consuming mass-produced animal products makes me twitch, but i'd happily eat a chicken if i'd raised it myself. i own loads of leather, but it's all thrift-store stuff that had already been thrown out by previous owners. trashing it myself would be wasteful. i think it's the american livestock industry that scares me, and the way its by-products end up in so many foods and household items.