Smile Politely

Flying green, veganism, and the pleasure of food

PlaneI hate to fly. It makes me sick — the scented air, like toilet bowl cleaner; the jerky, motorized sounds of the wings; the impossibly narrow seats. The only consolation, for me, is the beverage cart. Even on short flights, most airlines will offer a variety of drinks and a small bag of pretzels.

Recently, I flew to Vermont. I flew Continental, an airline with a respectable environmental commitment statement on their website. Right up my alley. What I didn’t find on the website before I flew was that in order to cut down on waste, and increase their recycling, they now only serve orange juice and water on short flights.

On most flights, I tend to go for something non-traditional, like cranberry juice, or sparkling water with lime, or tomato juice with ice. Something enjoyable and distracting. Something to sip on. Not to mention pretzels, one or two? I love the two package option because two packages take longer to eat than one.

The beverage cart distracts me from my discomfort in flight. Without it, the flight is everything I dread it being… slow torture.

Food and drinks create a sense of emotional well-being that for me is otherwise absent on an airplane. This emotional attachment to food and drinks is why I failed at veganism. I wasn’t “getting enough” from my food.

I Heart FoodI’ve been a vegetarian for a couple years. It was an easy choice, based on extensive research of the meat industry. I haven’t second-guessed my decision even once. Yet when I tried to make the ultimate jump and go vegan, I only lasted a month. I had assumed at the time that it was a time factor. I just didn’t have time to cook three edible vegan meals for my family every day. We were starving!

But my Continental flight seems to point to a different dependence on food. I expect more from food than sustenance. I want to feel good too.

My husband would be satisfied if we invented something similar to dog food for humans. A product that would contain everything essential for the human body, have a long shelf life, and make more time for other things, like school work.

Oh, the pain! The suffering! Life may as well be one, long cross-Atlantic flight.

CheeseA variety of delicious foods, made from quality ingredients, is one of my greatest joys in life. I know there are lots and lots of delicious vegan dishes out there, but it’s not enough. What about wine and cheese parties? Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese? Jarling’s milk shakes? Fresh eggs? I can still be responsible to animal welfare and educate myself about where my food is coming from without sacrificing that which I love so much, the pleasure of food!

So why pleasure? Why indulge our carnality over other matters, such as: maybe goats don’t like being milked, maybe chickens hate living in backyards?

I’m not saying that. Pleasure is not more important than the welfare of animals. But we can eat animal products responsibly, especially in Champaign-Urbana. We don’t have to choke down grilled seitan and we don’t have to spend hours every day preparing meals to ensure that we get all of our vitamins.

That’s not to say that I think vegans are lacking in pleasure. I know many people feel intense joy when eating kale. My husband happens to be one of them. And some people are incredibly healthy and happy vegans — I just took photos of a woman who is eight months pregnant, and feeds her baby and herself on vegan food alone. She looks amazing!

CheeseBut what is lost? Variety, being invited to dinner out, your mom’s chicken noodle soup, letting grandpa buy your child a milkshake, not being the person who says: “I’m sorry, but is there cheese in this?”

Is this pleasure false? I don’t think so. When the plane dips, I take a larger gulp, focusing on the novelty of sparkling water. I might even take the lime out of the cup and hold it in my mouth for awhile. And for a few moments, I’ll forget that the plane might fall out of the sky at any minute.

And when my father comes to visit this weekend and suggests we all go out for ice cream, his treat, I’ll say yeah, we’d love to do that. It’s the same reason I pay extra money for beer. Budweiser has the emotional value of water (still, no lime) and it’s not worth my time.

I realize this is a very personal and subjective topic. One person’s kale is another’s chèvre. But for this flier, it’ll be chocolate milk. And yes, two bags of pretzels.


Feature image from Looking Glass

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