Sunday, November 14, 2004

Vegan Culpa

The first snow, which fell overnight Friday in an unexpected amount, was a serious snow. The small trees by the river were bent under the weight of it, more than one would think, as if they, too, had been taken by surprise and had been unable to brace themselves.

I was braced, though. Double socks, long underwear, and even my old leather-and-rubber felt-lined lace-up boots, a gift from my ex husband a quarter century ago. (My description makes them sound vaguely erotic. Believe me, they are not. They are industrial. Although, I admit, there is a certain eros to the industrial.) They're one of my two non-vegan articles of clothing. The other is a red, woolen scarf my Lithuanian Bubbi knit even longer ago and which I still wear.

I've been a bad vegan lately.

Two packets of non-vegan veggie burgers, one containing egg white and the other cheese, had been languishing in my freezer for months. I bought them both by accident, since their boxes resembled the vegan kinds I'm used to getting. The first surprised me. I opened the oven and found that little nubbins of strange cheese-like substance had burbled up out of my dinner. I went back and read the box. Cheese indeed.

I ate them anyway.

And, last night, I cooked and ate the other kind, fully aware of the egg whites they contained. It was a kind I used to eat when I was just a vegetarian. A kind I used to really, really like. A heavy, greasy, fattening kind. Mmmmmmm, fattening.

They were tasty.

So there's my list of transgressions against vegan orthodoxy. Each has its accompanying rationalization.

The boots ? The cow's long dead. I contemplated the cow with reverance, and gratitude for keeping my feet warm. I asked its forgiveness. Tossing the boots out would be a waste. I'm a cheapskate. My other, vegan boots -- synthetic Payless Shoe Source specials, probably made in a third world sweat shop -- are too small to accommodate two pairs of socks. I tried. They hurt.

The scarf ? We're talking my dead grandmother for Christ's sake ! Family values, sentimental value, some kind of "value" must pertain here that transcends the discomfort a sheep, long gone to mutton, endured getting shorn circa 1965.

And those cheesy veggie burgers ? It was a double accident ! First I bought them and then I cooked them through inattention. Isn't it a sin to waste food ? Think of all the hungry people in the world ! How could I possibly throw away food just for a "belief" ? Preposterous. It would be a sin NOT to eat them.

But then there's the matter of the greasy, delicious ones. The ones I might have bought by accident, but cooked intentionally, even though I had plenty of the vegan kind. The ones I wanted. Because I knew they would taste good. So I ate them. Those veggie burgers.

The ones I desired.

Little venial sins are one thing -- sins fostered by accident, inattention, expediency, competing values. But pure desire is something else. It's mortal. And dangerous. Pure trangression. Revolt, in fact. Next thing you know, I'll be clubbing baby seals and eating veal marsala three times a day. On my leather sofa. In my silk pajamas. Drinking wine clarified through isinglass.

A sybarite, a voluptuary, doomed to vegan hell.

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