Many years ago I was a young chef running a kitchen herself for the very first time. I was in beautiful algonquin park. My fellow comrade from my previous gig at the courtyard restaurant, Michael Hay, was also off in the wilderness. He was in British Columbia, cooking for tree planters. Every once in a while he would get internet access and we would exchange emails about the trails and tribulations that faced us now that we were in charge.
That summer in Algonquin park I was fairly isolated. We were about an hour from town but I didnt drive. Lucky for me, amazon.ca delivers everywhere. I cant remember the exact number, but I believe I purchased something like 30 odd books in the 6 months I was there. But only one stands out.
I didnt get Stanely Park from amazon. It arrived one day, unexpected, from my friend Michael Hay. Inside it says:
Stanely park by timothy taylor is a wonderfully creative book with a lot of humour and insight. But the thing I ( and likely michael as well) took away from it was ” bloods and crips”.
In the second paragraph of the second chapter Taylor shares this :
Crips versus Bloods. Crip cooks were critical. They fused, they strove for innovation, they were post-national. They called themselves artists. They tended to stack things like mahi mahi and grilled eggplant in wobbly towers glued together with wasabi mayonnaise, and were frequently suspicious of butter. Vegetarianism was an option for crips but not for bloods. Blood cooks were respectful of tradition, nostalgic even. Canonical, interested in the veracity of things culinary, linked to “local” by the inheritance or adoption of a culture, linked to a particular manner and place of being.
Michael and I would spend years discussing which gang we belonged. For me, my beginning was definitely in the crip camp. My mentor Marc Lepine is a near perfect crip. My current boss, chris lord, a perfect blood. A couple years ago I left a really good job at a really good restaburant and started working in a pub. This confused everyone. But I didnt leave atelier for the manx. I left atelier because I did not love what I was doing. I didnt want to make that food anymore and I was bored of it. I took the job at the manx because my dream jobs werent hiring, and I needed a job. Besides, I figured, the pub gave me the chance to work a bit less and figure it all out. I thought working there, being a blood would make me happy. It did not. I was back in crip territory within 2 months.
My understanding of crips vs bloods has always been this : crips cook for a few, bloods cook for everyone. And somewhere along the way, that became my goal. To be a cook who cooks for everyone. To make people happy. With food. And I realized that blood do not cook for everyone.
My passion for food had been in hibernation. I even briefly considered changing careers. And then, strangely, in the oddest of places I found it again. A style of food that is creative, challenging, and truly for everyone. Food I am excited to make and to share. Food that can change minds and perceptions. Plant-based, animal-free food.
A bloodless blood.
Disclaimer: I dont want to deal in labels. Am I vegan? I dont know. I have been for the last 5 days, but I dont think the way I feed myself requires me to put a label on. Like everything else in life, I will deal with it one day at a time.
Its been 20 days now since Veganuary ended and I began consuming animal products again after a month without them. How do I feel? Not so great.
Aside from the physical aspects, its my moral code that is most afflicted.
In the first few days I consumed only some animal products. But quickly convenience took over, pure and simple laziness. I didnt really miss many of these foods. I wasnt eager to eat chicken again. But I did.
I have always been an all or nothing kind of girl. It was easier for me to be vegan for a whole month than it was for me to be vegan twice a week. All the issues I wrote about, all the horrors and injustices, forgotten. Washed away in a sea of ranch dressing….
I heard a TED talk recently and one thing the speaker said, which really stood out to me was ” familiarity is the gateway drug to empathy”. Simply put, the closer something hits home for you, the more you can relate. But I think it goes beyond that.
We often assume to know how we would deal with certain situations in our lives, should they arise. An unplanned pregnancy for example. Almost everyone has a opinion on the subject of abortion. Could they do it? Is it morally wrong?
I am not opening up that can of worms, but it is an example of where our morality may bend to fit our needs. Or maybe we just bend, morality intact.
A member of my family is currently incarcerated. He did something bad to someone else. A lot of people would say he is a monster. But to me he is not. Because he is my family, because of my familiarity to him, I could see this story differently. I could empathize. I could see how his illness related to my own. But does this change my morals? Once I realized I could empathize with him , suddenly the bar had shifted. Was there really good and bad people? Or just good and bad acts? And who decides?
Murder is wrong. And yet, we as a country, as a species do it all the time. We kill in the name of war. We kill in the name of peace, we kill in the name of justice. We kill for revenge, for punishment.
Now, if you live in canada like me, you know we do not support the death penalty. But under the right circumstances, almost all of us could be driven to cry out for revenge. If someone hurt someone we loved. Or say, a school full of children. We would not sympathize with a child killer. We would want them dead, tortured or worse. But isnt that wrong?
Back to the subject of veganism. When I wasnt surrounding myself with it, I began to turn off or turn down the voice that told me killing and eating animals the way we do is wrong. I was able to turn on my ignorance because I fit my needs. Occasionally it would pop back up. A real trigger seems to be when people put some animals on a pedestal, and others on the chopping block. How we can love our pets like they are our own family, how they show us their personalities and individuality. And how we convince ourselves that it is not the same way with “farmed” animals. If I took one of those tiny tea cup piglets and tied it up, and locked it away, if I hurt it in any way, if I killed it, you would call the police on me. You would call me monster. If I kicked your dog, you might just punch me in the face.
But its different you say.
But is not really, is it? Its just bending our morals.