On a cozy Friday afternoon of the first week at the School of Public Health, I was sitting in my food science and technology class waiting anxiously to be sparked. Indeed I was, by how the professor opened the class: we were asked to give a short self-intro and to describe the weirdest food we’d ever eaten. Here are some of the answers given:
Specially prepared crab
A worm in an apple!
Although several students skipped the “weird food” part, the whole class seemed to enjoy the ecstatic exchanges. Scorpion was followed by ant and cockroach, appraised for their medical values; dog meat by the professor’s agreement about the yummy taste and recommendations of restaurants in which to eat it. Specially prepared crab attracted no special attention except for the difficulty of dissection. Snakes spurred some scare among some of the women students. A worm in an apple incited the room to laughter.
In these joyful exchanges, the associations between meat and live animals were missing. Concern, compassion, or whatever was traded off to the immediate need to tell a funny story. Academic seriousness was outstripped by the relaxing personal sharing. I couldn’t help thinking that this was a group of brains that made, or are making, or will make, dietary recommendations to the public.
I recall my college classmates in China commenting on my veganism by saying, “A happy life can’t be [led] without meat.” As much as I understand the hedonist part of the statement, I wonder, since when has eating meat been associated with happiness? In Chinese literature, the image of the 11th and 12th century Monastic Daoji (commonly known as Jigong), holding a kettle of wine and eating chunks of meat is poetized, romanticized, and “normalized.” He has become a household name in China, more because of his eating meat and drinking wine – unlike traditional Buddhist monks — than his wisdom.
I regret that we’re downplaying, neglecting, or taking for granted the most ordinary bits of life: breathing in and out fresh air, a sound sleep, simple and fresh food, the movement of muscles…The industrial machine confuses us with refined nature and high-tech achievements. Why take satisfaction from the constructed complexities and transitory ecstasies of life? Why not instead take satisfaction from the simple elegancy of life?