Considering that a gentleman writing to this paper recently accused my environmentalist ilk of desiring the collapse of human civilization, I could only be pleased, by comparison, that the Maroon’s culinary critic considers vegetarianism to be a viable diet. That said, his review portrayed vegetarianism rather whimsically, and I do not feel it succeeded in advocating a meatless diet any more than that obnoxious Katy Perry song advocated a more progressive outlook on lesbians’ civil rights.
“How is vegetarianism really any different than regional cuisine?” Well, a cuisine is a style of cooking, and there is not, in any meaningful sense, a vegetarian style of cooking. Does removing one trifling subset of the vast diversity of edible things on this planet really justify declaring the body of remaining foods to be a specialty? If one feels that meat is “naturally” vital to human nutrition, her bias must originate from force of habit, for there’s nothing we get exclusively from animals except cholesterol and tapeworms (don’t get me started on The Protein Question). And if what’s “natural” is foremost among one’s concerns, one would do well to abandon dairy, which no other mammal consumes after weaning, much less from another species, much less from petroleum-based jugs. That’s not the reason I don’t eat dairy, though—the point is, appealing to nature in the first place is untenable.
Secondly, while regional cuisines are a reflection of what’s available, people converge upon vegetarianism from all different angles and eras. Some, myself included, became aware of the heavily-disproportionate amount of resources involved in the production of meat compared to plant foods, and found it unconscionable. I didn’t consider the “ethical underpinnings,” but now that I know that the suffering of creatures on factory farms is effectively impossible to exaggerate, I believe that they also would have been sufficient motivation.
For different reasons, we still see vegetarianism historically prevalent among Buddhists and South Asians, and among people who think only of the benefit to their own health, or even the price of their groceries. Vegetarianism, then, is patently not on a par with Vietnamese/Bulgarian/what-have-you food, and it’s not a personality accessory. Above all else, it’s just a damn good idea. Hopefully Mr Gutin’s open-mindedness is more widespread than his erstwhile convictions on the indispensability of veal, and hopefully, any committed omnivore reading this has something besides “because it tastes good” among her rebuttals.
Class of 2013