eating meat: reflections on a plant-based lifestyle

IMG_6279.jpgFor 6.5 years of my life, since Februrary 2012, I have dedicated myself to a primarily plant-based lifestyle. My former partner was a student of Western medicene who swore by the full Hippocratic oath: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” while my best friend growing up was spiritually vegetarian in her household. I have never really eaten all that “normally.” At home, my mother loved to cook (and eat) and my father is West African. Growing up working class, my parents cooked more than we ate out, fast food included. For a few years now, I’ve been hanging out with the yogis and the “conscious” folks of the country, reading Chef Ahki, Terry Bryant and Solla Eiríksdóttir. I’ve made my way through Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life a couple times.

Now I am eating meat. It’s been a few months now. Walmart steaks and McDonald’s dollar cheeseburgers, buffalo chicken wings from my favorite sports bars, but most importantly, I am eating my father’s cooking: Beef stews over rice almost daily. I am eating love in food form and nothing is more delicious. And nothing is more spiritual. Since cooking with my former partner for hours, cutting up vegetables from our garden together, looking up infinite recipies on the internet, watching food documentaries over wine, and buying too many vegetarian cookbooks, I have exprienced how food is love. “Feeding another person is an act of love,” I once wrote to myself in a journal.

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

(Genesis 1:29 – NIV)

When I finally separated with my partner in Nashville, my brother moved out with me. He was still getting on his feet and so was I. We had very little to spend on the fancy ingedients that I loved and I attempted a very lame garden in my apartment. With none of the extra kitchen tools I liked to have, we made do. But community is so powerful. My Puerto Rican neighbors upstairs taught me to make some bomb beans and rice. Tortillas don’t cost much and they literally go with everything, incuding peanut butter and jelly. Soon my brother started prepping at one of the best barbecue joints in the city and free food was a perk. He would bring home brisket and sweet smoked wings that smelled so good. But, I was vegetarian.

But, I could see the pride he had in providing for our little house situation and I was running out of interesting ideas, so I starting eating the food he brought home. It was so good. And I was so proud of him with every bite. He was feeding me love. I learned that lesson just in time to move home. My father’s stands at the stove, watching the news on his little kitchen tv and cutting up onions, slicing fat off of chicken brests and sizzling oil in the pot with such joy. Any hour of the evening, he could be found doing this. It is a release for him after long days at work. It unique opportunity watch him cook away his stress. He cooks love right into his food. He cooks peace into it, and you can taste it. He cooks for 14 people, always. Even before I started staying here, my mtoher told me he would cook this way for just the two of them. When I ask him why he cooks so much, he tells me so that all of his children can come and eat dinner anytime. My sister, brothers and I are more than happy to oblige his request. It makes him happy to see us enjoying the meals he prepares. They are never vegetarian. But, that is okay. beef stew with love is much better for the soul and the environment than a politically bitter kale salad any day.

My dad told me that growing up in Dakar, his father would always invite anyone who was around in the neighborhood to come and eat. His father told him that this was a blessing for his children so that they would always have food whereever they are. My dad tells me that of his 65 years of life, he has always had food where ever he is. Now, me too. I have never been hungry anywhere I have gone because of my dad’s generational blessings. When I was in Nashville, I learned to grow my own food and built community around organic community gardens across the city. When I lived on my own, my brother brought me food and my patrons cooked for me often from their gardens. And as a gardener who practices a mainly plant diet, I can have food anywhere I choose to go, too. I am not sure how much longer I will be consuming meat, but I know I will forever be eating love.
Praise Jah for his blessings through all living things.

If it’s your jam: find out more on the Western Yogi interpretation of Patanjali’s “Yogic Diet,” in Dayna Macy’s 2008 article for Yoga International, “Eat Like a Yogi: A Yoga Diet Based in Ayurvedic Prinicples.”
Until then,

May you cook with love,
eat with love
and always be in love,