The other day I was washing dishes in the big shared kitchen in my building, cleaning up after a cooking experiment that eventually turned into a mango curry served over braised Swiss chard. As I was scraping quinoa off my pots and pans, one of the guys who lives on my floor came in and popped a bowl of Easy Mac in the microwave.

At that moment, it was hard for me not to get on my nutritional high horse and sneer at the little fluorescent orange package revolving slowly behind the glass. Of course, I used to eat Easy Mac myself. Easy Mac and all kinds of prepackaged atrocities from Cheetos to Fudgesicles. But surely now such food was behind me, beneath me. I pitied the poor souls who sat down in the dining halls with trays of pizza and ice cream while I munched raw salads with self-satisfied asceticism. Truly, I would ascend into organic fair-trade Nirvana while the rest would be left to languish in a high-fructose purgatory.

And then, once the electronic beep of the microwave went off, I tried to snap out of it.

I had to seriously ask myself, what is the actual point of having gone vegetarian and not eating processed foods? To become healthier and presumably stay that way? Or to make me feel somehow better than everyone else?
Now, I like to think I eat my broccoli because somehow, it will allow me to play tag with my future grandchildren; that eating healthfully now will grant me an adulthood reasonably free of stress and disease. But the truth can be ugly. In reality, a considerable part of my interest in nutrition and veganism stems from wanting that coat-hanger body type, which in some ways I am still trying to convince myself is neither desirable nor attainable (at least not without constantly being hungry and miserable). I like to think that by now I’ve decided I would rather be healthy than “perfect,” which led me to another question:
If everyone in my building were to suddenly go vegan, how would I react to that?
I squeezed out my sponge and thought for a minute, realizing that initally, I would be disappointed. Not because I didn’t want the people I live with to be healthier and kill fewer animals, but because I wouldn’t feel “special” anymore. I like to think I would I happily trade recipes and host potlucks, and all kinds of neighborly food-related things. Probably though, I would just be kind of sulky about it.

Needless to say, I am trying to straighten out my motives. To live a certain way because it makes me genuinely happy and well. And not to be so damn judgmental, even if its just in my head. Because seriously, what’s the point of thinking (much less actually saying), “Eew. That is so gross. I would never eat that. That’s just going to make you fat and miserable”? It’s kind of like being yelled at by a far right-winger that you’re going to hell, and then being expected to gleefully convert. Not very convincing. Unless you’re living by example and thriving, you’re not doing much for your case. As far as junk food goes, a lot of people don’t know better (I certainly didn’t for years), don’t care (hey, it’s your body), or don’t have any other option–I live just north a very disadvantaged neighborhood that is formally considered a “food desert;” there are no grocery stores within at least several transfers on public transit. You can imagine the difficulties created by this, leaving whole communities with such limited food options. And this is even in America, where we have more food than we know what to do with!

For whatever it’s worth, I hope Brad enjoyed his Easy Mac. I probably won’t join him for a bowl of it. But hopefull I won’t sneer at him either.

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