Saturday, August 14, 2004

Clear Your Plate

As if we needed further proof that David Foster Wallace is the contemporary writer most adept at mixing high moral seriousness and curiosity with pure reading pleasure, he's gone and written a hilariously format-inappropriate article for Gourmet magazine. Assigned by the editors to cover the annual Maine Lobster Festival--they were no doubt hoping for a colorful, roving-eye piece in the tradition of "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again"--DFW instead opted to produce a lengthy examination of the ethics of boiling animals alive.

A failed vegetarian myself, nothing tempts me back to swearing off animal-eating more than the intellectually lazy, logic-defying, and/or nonexistent arguments in favor of a carnivorous diet. It starts when we're kids, and we've either just seen Bambi or Babe or some other anthropomorphic masterpiece, or we've just returned from a trip to a petting zoo or a farm, and we're look down at the pork or chicken or beef on our plate, and we begin to wonder: why is this ok? I just petted a pig, and now I'm eating one? We find it very confusing, and we want guidance and instruction from our parents, our teachers, or even television, to account for this apparent moral paradox. And, unless our parents are hippies, we are forcefed a bunch of counter-intuitive, irrational bullshit, not in the interest of enlightening us but simply to get us to shut up. "It's different, because these pigs were bred to be food." "It's ok, because they don't have any feelings." "Oh honey, the lobster likes the hot water."

The fact is that the practice of eating meat, at least in the case of a wealthy, industrialized nation like America, is pretty much morally indefensible. That is, there is no 100% coherent moral argument to be made in its favor. And yet this ethical deficit, instead of being confronted and addressed, is simply papered over and cutesied up with magical thinking and euphimistic, dishonest language--as DFW points out, why "pork" instead of just "pig", why "beef" instead of "cow"?--by our parents, by the media, by ourselves, and by 99.9% of the foodies who typically contribute to magazines like Gourmet. What are we, children?

In related news, I recently discovered lobster rolls--lobster meat mixed with mayonnaise in a warm bun of fresh bread. In a word, delicious.


Blogger Hurricane James said...

mmm...veggie loaf...

August 15, 2004 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you remember when McDonald's had lobster rolls? I think they lasted all of a month, because who would be brave enough to buy lobster from McDonald's? The answer: ME, and it was darn good. -F

August 16, 2004 at 5:14 PM  

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