The Mindful Carnivore

Free The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli

Book: The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tovar Cerulli
when we think we’ve found it, isn’t always comfortable.
    —John Hersey, Blues
    O ur doctor, a soft-spoken Buddhist naturopath, was the last person you’d expect to say, “Go eat an animal.” And she didn’t. It was gentler than that. She simply reviewed an analysis of my blood chemistry and suggested I could use more protein.
    She did not mean more tofu.
    The suggestion was corroborated by Cath’s study of holistic health and nutrition. A few of her instructors—themselves former vegetarians—offered words of caution about long-term veganism. They had seen the effects repeatedly: people showing up in their offices after twenty years without any animal foods, bodies drained and depleted. They pointed out that certain kinds of protein, particular types of omega-3 fatty acids, and key nutrients such as vitamin B 12 were difficult or impossible to get by eating unfortified plant foods.
    Cath and I eased into it slowly. Local organic yogurt. Then eggs from cage-free hens. They tasted strange and rich. But I ate hungrily, and I started noticing changes. I had more energy, felt more alive. My allergic sensitivities to cats and dust mites diminished. Within a few months, wild-caught fish and locally raised chicken were also on the menu, their flavors and textures even more alien.
    We could have held the line at dairy and eggs, refusing all flesh. By then, though, I knew more about dairy products: Bovines do not lactate spontaneously. Milk comes from pregnant cows, pregnant cows give birth to calves, and virtually all male calves end up as veal. Though I had no interest in eating any kind of mammalian meat, let alone veal, I recognized that yogurt production involved the killing of calves as surely as soybean production involved the killing of deer. Ethically, which was more palatable: flesh from a wild fish, or milk from a domestic cow with a calf about to be taken away to slaughter? Legs from a chicken that lived a couple of months, or eggs from a chicken that lived somewhat longer? My faith in simplistic claims to moral superiority had shattered.
    Doubts about our dietary shift did linger. If I had tried harder, could I have achieved this newfound energetic health in other ways? I had read and heard so many contradictory nutritional arguments, supported by opposing references to the longevity and health of peoples around the world, their diets ranging from rice and vegetables to fish, meat, and fat. Even more confusing were the conflicting appeals to human morphology: some noting that we lack a predator’s fangs, others that we lack the masticating jaws of a ruminant; some arguing that we resemble herbivores in our digestive chemistry and structure, others that we resemble carnivores; some comparing our eyes to those of tree-climbing, fruit-eating primate ancestors, others suggesting a link to broader ocular tendencies in the mammalian world—“eyes in front, you hunt, eyes on the side, you hide.”
    By then, though, figuring it all out by rational means felt futile. I was listening to my body.
    My physical craving for animal foods made me think of a winter camping trip to the Adirondacks. A few years earlier, when Cath and I were at Bird Cottage, a friend and I had driven up toward Blue Mountain Lake for a long weekend in February. The day we hiked in, it was oddly warm, near sixty, and the crust on the deep snowpack had begun to soften. Our boots punched through in places, our legs disappearing to above the knee, until we stopped and put on snowshoes. By the next day, the weather had shifted. Even as the stream outlet near our pond-side lean-to continued to swell with snowmelt, the mercury was plummeting. As we prepared dinner over our camp stove that evening—eager for both the immediate warmth of the food and the caloric fuel—my companion added butter to the pan. I watched ravenously. Except for cream in the occasional cup of coffee or cocoa shared with Cath, it was the first animal product I’d consumed in

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