Thursday, 7 February 2008

vulcan ears, human rant, and the cross-species problem of time.

Don't worry, these are vegan. No actual vulcans were de-eared in the making of this dinner. It's just that while I was making the pasta shapes, they kept on coming out pointy and making me think of Spock. Chocolate orichietti (leftover pasta dough from the ravioli in an earlier post) on simmered, multicoloured yumminess (parsnip, onion, garlic, basil, marmite, splash of white wine, kidney beans, spinach). Simmer the veg in very little liquid on low-ish heat. This makes the parsnip all sweet and intense. The whole mess is sprinkled lovingly with pumpkin seeds and sea salt.

Now for the rant: no time.

A lame-ass justification that I often hear from omnivores as they scarf their lunches is that being vegan would take too much time. I feel compelled to rant about this. As a matter of courtesy, the rant will be followed with actual things that I do to make time to be vegan, because I don't actually spend all my time cooking and eating. I have a job, I have hobbies, and friends even. And no personal cook or anything! Shocking! All that and vegan too!

First off, let's just think about the following statement: I do not have time to live ethically. Because that's what "I don't have time to be vegan" is saying. So, I'm only going to say this once: IF SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT, YOU DAMN WELL MAKE TIME. Yes, I just shouted that, because it's so important that it warrants shouting. I think living as ethically as possible is important. It takes time. Finding that time takes a certain amount of organization and planning, but failing to find that time is simply not an option, because acting unethically is, well, unethical.

Here's an analogous situation. Imagine, for a moment that you are a man. And heterosexual. And have a girlfriend/wife. Now, you (and probably she) also have a job, hobbies and friends. This means that you don't really have time to do the housework or cook or do groceries. In that case, are you justified in saying "She should do it all for me. It's sad, really, that I have to exploit women in order to have enough time to go about my incredibly important life, but since my own personal life is soooooo much more important than hers, she'll just have to suck it up. Oh well. Too bad. She'll just have to give up her hobbies, job, or friends." ? I think we can all agree that the answer here is that you find time to split the work, even if it means that it cuts into your hobbies a wee little bit, or means you have to rearrange your schedule a bit, or that you have to learn to plan better. The life of a man isn't worth more than the life of a woman (well, in theory... the practice of this is a whole other rant). While this may be painfully obvious to many of us, the idea that we have the right to exploit others because we are too important to make time to wipe our own asses is a fairly prevalent one. Fear not, gentle reader: it is possible (indeed, easy) to find real time to wipe our own metaphorical asses!

Ahem. With veganism, I think it's much the same. My disorganization, or my desire to chill out/read a novel/work more etc. does not justify me killing (or outsourcing the killing of) someone else, even if that someone else is a cow. My scheduling conflicts and desire to write a novel while running a lab while maintaining a relationship are not the cow's problems, and certainly not her fault. So why should she be punished for it? In much the same way that I don't think that I would be justified in kidnapping a child and making it into my indentured servant so that I can have more time to do... whatever, I don't think that I would be justified in using animals for my own convenience (or taste). My convenience and taste are not more important than anothers right to exist. Or, as a high school history teacher was fond of saying: your rights end where somebody else's begin. Just because I have the physical or legal power to control or kill someone (like with a child, or a cow), it doesn't make controlling or killing them right.

So, what do I do about it? Well, first off, I admit that cooking food takes time. I make sure that if I'm going to have a busy week that I get lots of stuff pre-cooked on the weekend. I make big batches of lentils or beans. For lunch, I eat a lot of humongous salads (with beans) and bread or baked potato. This takes about 10 minutes to make in the morning, and I can nuke a spud while I eat breakfast. It would honestly take me about the same amount of time to wait in line at the cafeteria at work. If I'm traveling or trying to get settled somewhere, I admit that I'm going to have to eat whatever I can find that's vegan and somewhat good for me, and make sure that I have the money to do that. See some helpful travel tips in Vegan Freak. Basically, I plan in advance. I use happy cow a lot.

To keep shopping time down, I get a vegetable box delivered every week, and make grocery lists of non veg box items as I run out of them, and if I find myself missing an ingredient, I usually just deal with that, rather than running out to the store. But to be honest, I love veg. shopping, and have been known to spend vast amounts of time chatting with the veg. store dude, or the owners of stalls at the farmer's market. But I only go to the supermarket two times a month or so. With a list.

Most cookbooks have time saving tips, and almost every vegan cookbook that I've recently laid hands on has an "easy" or "fast" section (check out pretty much anything by Sarah Kramer, or Dino Sarma's book). These cookbooks are full of great suggestions if you're a novice cook and don't have the foggiest idea of how to go about cooking dinner on weeknights.

Also, I see cooking as something that I do to unwind, to spend time by myself or with friends, to do something creative, and to have fun with my senses. In other words, cooking is only a waste of time if you decide that it is. Frankly, I don't see the point of living a life that I don't enjoy, and it seems to me that the obvious places to look for pleasure are in the things that I get to do every day, like eating quiet breakfasts, the bike ride to work, work itself, coffee with colleagues, running in city parks, chatting with the veg. shop owner, showering with nice soap, and cooking. All of these are things that I "have to" do, either for work, food, or excercise. They make up a lot of my life. Why the heck would I spend that much of my life wasting time?

Being vegan does take more planning than the alternative of exploiting animals and the environment. It also takes a little more time. But really, we're talking about a few hours a week when you're learning, and a few extra minutes a day once you get into the swing of things. I think that the marginal extra time and effort are a laughable "sacrifice" to make in order to avoid stealing lives and resources that don't belong to us in the first place.

1 comment:

Jake said...

What a strange excuse. Maybe it's because I became vegetarian before I learned to cook, and have therefore never known any other way, but it would never have occured to me that cooking for a "special" diet (be it vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten-intolerant, whatever) would take more time than cooking for an omnivorous diet. I mean, you have trips to the grocery store either way, you have to take time to cut things up, mix them together, make stuff hot, and so on either way. So what's the difference? I guess there's less prefab stuff if you're vegan but, let's be honest here. You wouldn't eat prefab stuff anyway, right?

Oh, and yes, I am just reading through your archives and commenting as I go. Hope you don't mind.