This book is a case in point. Written by a gourmet vegan chef, it assumes you can find all those exotic ingredients and afford to use them. But that just isn't so if you are on a tight budget. For example, a lot of these recipes call for pure maple syrup instead of sugar. But the only reason we have pure maple syrup in my house is because I make it myself from our own trees every spring (See my previous blog post on that at http://rooster613.blogspot.com/2011/03/warmd-days-cold-nights-maple-syrup-time.html.) At $10 or more per pint in the store, we could never afford to cook with it as often as this cookbook calls for. As it is, most of the time we still use sugar.
As for a lot of the other ingredients in this book, you are simply not going to find them in rural America. It's hard enough being an ovo-lacto vegetarian out here, let alone vegan. I am lucky enough to live near a small health food store, but even then, I have to special order certain vegetarian "meat" products because, the shopkeeper says, they do not sell well enough for her to carry them on the shelf. Special orders must go by the case and that can really kill a limited budget. Not to mention the cost of the necessary freezer space.
But beyond the question of ingredients, there is a much bigger question: Do I really believe in vegan philosophy? Do I believe that it is wrong under all circumstances to never, ever use animals or their products for any reason? The answer is no. Although I do not wear leather or fur, I have no problems with feathers that are naturally-shed, nor do I have a problem with riding horses or training service dogs. (My old sheep dog, Grett, enjoyed patrolling the yard and guarding the geese and chickens. He got depressed when he didn't have some kind of work to do. The same is true of a lot of other working dog breeds, as well as many horses who enjoy being with their riders.)
|My land in winter -- no veggies growing here!|
The American Indian philosophy about animals is not that different from the Jewish/biblical one, namely, that the Creator permits us to use animals, but we must not abuse them in the process. We must remember that animals are living beings, and be respectful of their feelings and well-being. If we find it necessary to kill them, it must be done humanly and with respect. (The word "sacrifice" comes from the same root as "sacred.") If we do not treat them with respect, the Indians say, the souls of the animals will not reincarnate, and the people will starve. This is not unlike Deuteronomy 11:13-17:
If, then, you truly heed My (God's) commandments which I enjoin on you today, loving and serving the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your soul, I will give the seasonal rain to your land, the early rain and the late rain, that you may have your grain, wine and oil to gather in; and I will bring forth grass in your fields for your animals. Thus you may eat your fill. But be careful lest your heart be so lured away that you serve other gods and worship them. For then the wrath of the Lord will flare up against you and he will close up the heavens, so that no rain will fall, and the soil will not yield its crops, and you will soon perish from the good land he is giving you.
Part of those commandments includes the proper treatment of animals, and the prohibition against cruelty to animals (tsaar baalei chaim.) This respect issue was the main reason that I gave up eating meat, because, in the modern meat industry, there is no longer any respect for the animals. Kosher meat comes from the same cruel factory farms as non-kosher meat, the only difference is in the processing. So I choose not to eat it. I believe that, in this modern age, vegetarianism is the best diet for Jews (and others should they so choose.)
But as for "using" animals, I do not believe it is "animal slavery" to ride a horse, shear a sheep (who, in hot weather, really appreciates it!), or collect honey from bees. I sometimes wonder if the purist vegans ever really have personal relationships with animals. If you do not keep dogs, cats, horses, birds or chickens in your home or your immediate environment, can you really connect with them? Or do they just become subjects of politcal theory?