Mr. Fish and I got in a bit of a row the other evening while dining with some friends chez eux. Ok, not really a row, but I felt a bit attacked, and singled out, and it made me feel rather glum.
We’d had a really lovely outing with our friends and their two little girls and earlier in the day. Pony rides for everyone! Seriously, pony rides, and being someone who did most of her growing up in rural Michigan where there are cows and horses growing on trees, or at least grazing under many of them, one would think this to be rather un-exciting, but I was a ‘city kid’ (oh my dog what a laugh that is!) and I only ever rode a horse twice in my life. The ponies were for the kids, but we got to groom them before our hour-long promenade through the forest and it was all very exciting, especially for the Guppy who is still just a wee lass of 32 months.
After our Mutual of Omaha adventure, we went back to our friends’ place for the ritual apéo & dinner, and this is when I began to feel a bit, well, different.
I decided to become a vegetarian when I was 16 years-old. Half my life ago. The decision was made for several reasons which I just won’t take the time to delve into now, though I’d like to send a special thank-you to the sheep farmers who were striking at Bastille in the late summer of 1990 and the terrifying industrial-agriculture practices complete with growth hormones and environmental damage (rivaling Hummers and Third-World chemical factories) in the U.S. I’ve had my less proud vegetarian moments (the leather jacket, a gift, worn many times and still collecting dust in my closet), but generally I fight my war with integrity and as much dignity as I can muster. I have also learned over the years to pick my battles as they say. Many of the people I love are carnivores, and while it saddens me for many reasons (like, uh, for their cholesterol & their colons) I don’t preach at them like some ranting religious fanatic trying to convert the damned.
The dinner was a French raclette, a sort of inside-out fondue for the un-initiated. There are little dishes on a sort of hot-plate where you place slices of cheese to melt, and on top there is a sort of skillet where you can sear veggies, and more often meat. The dish is most usually served with boiled potatoes. This isn’t a vegan-hostile meal because you could bring along some vegan cheese, have fresh veggies (which my hostess did have beautifully displayed on a platter for me), and bring along a bottle of organic wine.
I was the D.D., so I didn’t bring any wine, but because every one else was indulging, the conversation because more and more lively, and inevitably the question of ‘so, why are you a total freak and shun meat and dairy products?’ came up between mouthfuls of ham and cured meats completely hidden by artery-clogging cheese. As I said before, I pick my battles, so recognizing that I was totally out numbered, and about to embark upon reasoning with three wine-infused carnivores who were orgasmic on their heart-stopping feast, well, I tried to play it cool.
I gave the most basic points, then quickly said, ‘you know, I prefer to have these sorts of conversations either before or after dining, because much of what I have to say isn’t terribly appetizing’ (well, it was in French, but you get the picture). I tried to get them to see the connection between the cute, adorable, not for dinner-ponies we’d been sharing company with earlier in the day and the intelligent and affectionate pigs they were eating, but they just refused to see that it was the same thing. “Would you eat a dog or a horse?” “Of course not, how barbaric!” “Well, pigs are just as intelligent…cultural norms…blah, blah…” Yeah, that sunk in. They continued to push the subject, and what really made me bitter was Mr. Fish was the most annoying of them all. Now, yes, he was enjoying the wine because he knew I was sober and so in charge of the Guppy and driving and all that, but it’s no excuse.
As is often the case, when wooing me, Mr. Fish was all about animal rights, tolling the dangers of unleashed carnivorous practices on the environment and our individual health, extolling the virtues of how we would raise our child vegetarian. Uh-huh. Yeah, that lasted about as long as a big mac in the hands of the deranged. He’d never known a vegan or vegetarian before meeting me, but gave up meat illico presto once we were together. Sadly, like many- dare I say backsliders – his sinning is worse now than before. While he doesn’t eat red-meat here at the house, he does eat fish & dairy, and has become more and more aggressive about it over the past few months. I wish I could join a support group for vegan wives & mothers who feel nutritionally-separated from the ones they love.