Monday, October 29, 2012

Ethical Eating and Cultural Sensitivity

I love to eat and I love to do so ethically, which for me means avoiding meat unless I can look the animal in the eyes and kill it--which I did once but can no longer do. But eating ethically also means trying to be a smart consumer of other foods and produce, which usually results in the yummiest, healthiest food anyway. You know, supporting local farmers and whenever possible growing things yourself or foraging or just not buying meat or dairy from big nasty farms or whatever. Generally trying to be a Decent Human Being who knows that honestly, you're not going to make much of a difference, but you may as well try because otherwise you'll not be able to live with yourself sober--and since you can hardly live with yourself drunk, you'd better not eat that lunch meat, b@#ch. 
Some of my food related ethics are negotiable though. When I'm travelling, especially in another country, I consider any sort of pickiness in eating to be considerably rude. This is, of course, dependent upon the country and culture, but I think it's equally important anywhere really. I don't want to hate on anyone here, but let me just say that I've encountered some truly awful Americans abroad who expect to be catered to by everyone and are so ungrateful and superior that they give us all a bad name and are generally miserable to be around. And so, my motto is eat what your host gives you, or, basically, don't be a dick. 
Before I studied abroad in Russia, I did not like mushrooms or tomatoes and I was a baby vegetarian. There just aren't many vegetarians in Russia, and I knew that I would be staying with a host family, so I had decided before I left that I would eat everything they served me without complaint. I started thinking about it as an adventure and a chance to make myself more open to trying new things. And it was mostly awesome. My host mom did feed me hotdogs for breakfast for the first week or so, and most of the hunks of gray meat that they served in the cafeteria were hard to get down, but I loved their soups and bread and I learned to love mushrooms and tomatoes--I can't get enough of them now. I also started liking buckwheat and different kinds of porridge and I actually enjoyed the raw fish with vodka as well. Also, Russian pastries are delicious. Sure, I would not choose to eat a lot of these things (namely the meat) here in the US, where I cook for myself, but it's part of the experience of traveling to try new food and to be a good guest. 
Now, don't think I'm encouraging people to lie about what they like and don't like. There is a big difference between being polite/grateful and lying. If you are certain you cannot compromise your morals and eat meat or you are allergic to peanuts or something, you need to tell the people you are living with in a sensitive way. I guess what I'm talking about is more a more general openness to trying different food. I mean, when my host mom actually asked me if I liked hotdogs, I told her they were okay but I preferred porridge and that was that. But if I had just been visiting her for a couple days or a meal, I wouldn't have said anything. 
Anyway, this won't happen in Ecuador probably since I'll be staying with my aunt and uncle and there are a lot more vegetarian options available from what I've read and heard. But, there is the infamous roasted guinea pig, which I will try if it is offered to me in someone else's home. After all, I did grow up eating deer hearts; I can handle a small rodent, no problem. 
I loved Russian soup so much that I've since become quite the soup-cook. This is me making soup in Aaron's kitchen last week. Being unemployed helps with this. 

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