I’ve learned mindfulness of eating from Hannibal Lecter.
I have been an omnivore for the most of my life. I am still. Once in a while I cut out certain food following the fad diet of the day, but never followed through. I have vegan friends. I also have Paleo friends. I don’t mind what they eat or don’t eat, so long as they don’t force me how they eat.
When my dog passed, I stopped eating meat. It was my mourning. I never consider dogs and cats as meat. They are individuals with names. If a dog is an individual, then what about a cow? What about rabbits? On Saturdays In Union Square green market, rabbit meat is sold. Across the street in Petco, pet rabbits adoption event is going on. Where does the line between friends (some call them pets) and food lie?
So I just stopped eating the four-legged out of respect to my late four-legged partner of 14 years. I didn’t specified the term. I simply chose to go back to the indigenous diet of my old country and see how it would go. As a Buddhist country, eating four-legged animals was spoken of as taboo. Fish, fowl, and properly hunted game meat were allowed.
My first “oops” happened when I ordered turkey club sandwich. It had bacon bits.
Since it was not for religious or medical reason but my personal choice, I didn’t avoid bacon bits. Wasting the life already given up for the sake of respecting a dog’s life didn’t make sense.
Before my dog’s death, when I went to a diner, I would order “Burger with fries,” or “Philly Cheesesteak” without thinking much about what I put in my body. Switching to turkey burger or just salad didn’t work. Chef’s salad contains processed meat.
This experiment turned out to be a good exercise of mindfulness practice.
Every time I eat, I have to stop and be aware of exactly what I am going to put in my mouth. I have to be aware what is important for me and why. Then I have to make a fully conscious choice. I am to be fully responsible for the consequence of my choice.
When I visited my mom in my old country, I forgot to tell her my current diet restriction. Anyway, special diet as a personal choice is not well-respected in the culture where people experienced starvation a couple generations ago.
In the 2002 film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula’s boyfriend Ian is vegetarian. She tells her mom that Ian doesn’t eat meat. Her Greek mom understands and says, “Then eat lamb.”
My mom served “good” beef for dinner. I knew what it meant to her. When the country and we were poor, keeping her children well fed was her mission. Beef was expensive and reserved for special occasions. So what should I do? What is my choice? Do I tell her that I won’t eat meat because my mutt died? The old woman with a bad hip walked all the way to the butcher shop to buy the gourmet meat. I didn’t say anything, ate the beef and appreciated it. It was my choice.
Through this exercise, I’ve learned to be aware of the lives I consume to live. BLT is not BLT anymore. A Four-legged creature was killed to feed us. It is a life taken and given to us.
I was watching Hannibal (NBC TV show by Bryan Fuller), and one scene hit me. I will never see Ossobuco in the same way again. Hannibal was preparing the “meat” for Ossobuco, cutting a leg (it did not belong to four-legged creatures). It was not the scene of cutting a human leg that upset me. It was the realization that Ossobuco was made of a cow’s leg that shocked me. I had never thought of a cow’s life taken when I enjoyed Ossobuco.
“I’m very careful about what I put into my body. Which means I end up preparing most meals myself.” Hannibal says to Will.