Eating Jonathan Safran Foer
I haven’t read the book yet. I’m actually scared to.
I emailed with my friend Tim yesterday and I told him about my latest purchase and what I did on Tuesday night. Liza (of ES) and I saw Jonathan Safran Foer speak about his new book, Eating Animals. As I wrote to Tim, I’m afraid that after I read it my pending vegetarianism will be cemented. Or I will only eat properly raised animals. Ugh. I just don’t know.
I’ve been on a mostly vegetable diet for the past year and a half. There are a ton of reasons for the slow conversion, but reading Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, his New York Times Magazine pieces) has been undeniably influential. And of course my ritualistic dedication of eating what the farmers are selling at my local market has enthusiastically showed me how to eat produce with the seasons.
Andrew Sullivan, of Subway fame, introduced Foer at the 6th and I Historic Synagogue in DC. I had no idea that the already segmented gay Republican is also a vegetarian. He started with a story of his own book tour in Scotland. He’d been hammered with questions regarding his sexual orientation and was then innocently asked, “Do you eat meat?” With laughter from the audience, Sullivan joked with us that there were several possible answers to that question. He replied, however, that “No, never. It’s the only thing I can truly justify.”
And then Foer came on and pisted me off.
What made me interested in this book, besides the subject matter, was Foer’s beautiful piece in the New York Times Magazine. I knew it was an excerpt of sorts, but I didn’t think that the excerpt—that has now been in circulation since the beginning of October—would be what Foer read for 20 minutes.
I mean, dude. I get it. You’re on a book tour, saying the same shit in cities across the country, but come on. Don’t you think most of the people here have read about your book and have also read your excerpt. We only have an hour with you. Couldn’t you find another section to read? Couldn’t you have told more stories about your kick ass grandmother?
His answer to a question about hunting in comparison to factory farming was quite hysterical though. Because the talk was in a synagogue, with many Jewish audience members, Foer, a Jew, brought out our famous humor. The leading question was about how tied Jews are to meat eating but would never hunt animals themselves. The questioner also brought up that if you kill your own meat it is much better than being tied into the industrial agricultural complex.
Foer: “It’s not that they think hunting is unethical, but it’s more like feh. Jews recoil at the act of hunting.” I’m not sure how to show the Jew-flection in the word feh, but if you had ever met my Aunt Jodi you’d be cracking up right now. Foer continued his no kill rule, correcting the questioner, “Hunters are hunting to eat, not eating to hunt. People hunt because they like to kill things. We don’t need to go out and kill things. A lot of things are exciting but we don’t do them.” Although Foer admitted to the allure of primal urges.
Foer shaped the issue, not as a crusade to persuade people into vegetarianism, but to encourage people to be thoughtful. He claims it’s not vegetarians vs. meat eaters, but people who care vs. people who don’t care. Does this qualify as passive aggressive?
But I’ve taken Mr. Foer’s bait. I’m willing to think about it. I will weigh the many consequences of eating meat, especially the devastating environmental impact. I’m not sure if I have the ability to adhere to values, to deny the deliciousness of flesh.