Thursday, May 6, 2010
Recently, I became familiar with the term 'Flexitarianism.' A flexitarian, according to Wikipedia, is someone who decreases meat consumption without eliminating it entirely from his or her diet. Here is an MSNBC article "Meet The Flexitarians." This basically describes how I already eat.
I have some friends who consider themselves vegetarian, 'vegan' and a few who are 'raw vegan.' I respect their beliefs and place a similar value on meals that are fresh, natural and health conscious. I try to shop at environmentally aware stores such as Whole Foods and enjoy a lot of healthy meals, especially here in New York where there are a good number of high quality organic and macrobiotic restaurants. I understand the need to move away from a typical processed, saturated, meat heavy diet and be more aware of where your food is coming from. However, I refuse to label and limit myself in such a way.
When I visit great high quality, upscale restaurants, such as Lola in Cleveland, Les Halles in New York or Chez Panise in Berkeley, I don't want to only order the token vegetarian selection. That would feel disrespectful to the chef and the art of cooking itself. And the same applies to my frequent travels to Asia, Europe, South America and Australia. I'll make sure to eat a lot of natural food such as vegetables, but also seafood, poultry and less often, red meat. Part of experiencing the culture is enjoying the dishes indigenous to these regions.
It is the raw vegans who I am simultaneously in awe of and occasionally annoyed by. I see their point and admit to feeling especially energized when I eat good organic raw food. But I refuse to limit my diet to it and am turned off by some who seem to be on a religious like crusade to convert others to their way of life.
There is however, one special restaurant I recently tried in New York, called Pure Food & Wine which alters my perspective slightly on raw cuisine and its practitioners. While it may not have convert me to a 'raw vegan' lifestyle, it inspires me to want to eat more healthy, more often.Sarma, the charismatic young co-founder/owner/mascot of Pure Food & Wine, has a blog post that makes a lot of sense. She's also a fan of classic Metallica. It is refreshing to hear from a raw food specialist who is not 'cult-like' about her beliefs and more or less 'flexitarian' in nature.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that "flexitarianism" describes how I feel about a lot of movements, musical, religious,philosophical as well as dietary. It represents getting what you can out of a practice without being controlled by its limitations and unrealistic expectations.
For example, I'm a metal guitarist who is seriously into jazz but can't stand the stubbornness and prejudices that exist among certain fans of both genres. If I play metal, does that mean I should cover myself in tattoos, be culturally illiterate, drink beer all day and date strippers? If I play jazz, does that mean I have to avoid all other genres of music and say 'dig' every other word?
Similarly, I like to take a yoga class now and then. But I don't want to practice it every day, wear yoga-like clothes and hang out with yoga disciples who live in communes and ashrams.
When it comes to faith, I feel there is much to be learned from the old fables of
Judaism, the Christian principles of forgiveness and love, the honor emphasized by Catholicism and the wisdom of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other Eastern religions.
But why does it all have to be so exclusive? Why should one religion forbid me from checking out the teachings of another? Don't tell me I'm going to hell just because I don't follow your specific beliefs to a 'T.'
Group based movements of all types try to enforce labels on people, place psychological pressure and incorporate decisions that should be up to the individual. It is the strict rules, restrictions and disqualifications that put me off from these movements, as well as those who follow the rules like blind sheep.
To me, what works best is exploring any activity, seeing what works
best for you, doing so in moderation, never abusing it and never
trying to push it on others. I'm starting to think my entire belief
system could be described as 'flexitarian.'