Tuesday, September 15, 2020

'The Disapproval of the Dietarily Correct'

No one can be too dedicated to the cause du jour. Fanaticism is mere prudence. Ideological purity – in politics, in religion, in lunch – demands that the wayward be exposed, berated and erased. The logic is cannibalistic. Some time ago I mentioned in passing that I had lost the taste for eating meat. I eat chicken and fish as a convenience, beef almost never. It’s not a subject that interests me. Well, I’m paying the price for my carelessness. In the last week, a reader has sent me three emails of growing stridency condemning my failure to live ethically and answer her. “Do you want to have a heart attack?” she asks, Socratically. “Do you know what meat does to your arteries?”

Rather than answer in detail the questions she asks, I direct her to Turner Cassity’s “Vegetarian Mary and the Venus Flytrap” (The Destructive Element: New and Selected Poems, 1998), which poses philosophical questions of a related nature:

“It is not edible, but if one ate it . . .
For the paradox it poses should one hate it?
Where upon the food chain to locate it?

“Would a salad of it or a souffle
(Soufflé lacking egg white) be at one removal
Eating meat, and have the disapproval

“Of the dietarily correct?
Would Fundamentalist teetotalers be wrecked
If Pitcher Plants should drown their prey in Sekt?

“(Insekticide: destroying bugs in bubbly.)
To think of eating meat unknowing troubles doubly.
I shall sew my lips up and starve glubly

“(Glumly; I am writing with a cold)
One-upping native Ecuadorans of old
Who only sewed the lips of others, sold

“To ethnocentricists as shrunken heads.
Not all species are those protected by the Feds.
The franchise is a Panama Club Med’s.

“Med-Sea-Born Goddess into insect trapping,
Permit that a grain of irritation, capping
My career of vegetary flapping,

“I seed your natal shell: the inner, all
Encompassing correctness—amnesty-in-general—
 Where, pure pearl, I end as mineral.” 

Cassity poses questions that call for Thomistic rigor. Pitcher plants feature a rolled leaf shaped like a bowl, containing a soup of digestive enzymes waiting to dissolve careless insects. Sekt is German sparkling wine; thus, Cassity’s coinage, “Insekticide.”

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