Cooking for guests

On occasion, I have been asked whether I will cook non-vegan items for guests. Sometimes, the question is worded a bit more forcefully: “You’ll cook meat for guests when they come over, right?”

Um, no.

And there are several good reasons why not.

1) Why should I sacrifice a perfectly good opportunity for activism? While there are tons of good reasons to be vegan, it’s basically useless to tell them to someone who believes that vegans only eat stuff that tastes bad. So, culinary activism is absolutely central to promoting veganism, which is clearly something I want to do. I’m confident that I can make good food that everyone can appreciate. I can’t really picture anyone becoming vegan just on the grounds that vegan meals are satisfying and tasty, but I definitely can’t imagine anyone taking the idea seriously at all if ey believes that ey’ll have to suffer.

2) Doing so would send very strange messages. I’d interpret it as something along the lines of “I’m above eating this stuff, but you aren’t.” How frightfully condescending! No, that’s not what I want to convey to my esteemed guests.

3) To a large degree, I see veganism as being economically-driven. One of the best ways to combat animal exploitation and all the other ills that animal agriculture promotes is simply to avoid purchasing such products, and to convince others not to purchase them. If I continue to purchase such things for the consumption of others, I’m not really playing my part in this in the way I ought.

4) More frivolously, I actually don’t know how to do it very well. To a first approximation, I learned how to cook as a vegan, so that’s what I’m by far the most comfortable with.

Any time we offer other people something to eat, we’re rather explicitly making a judgment about what that other person ought to eat. It’s not a complete categorization, but at least, it’s a statement of approval of the provided offerings. So, when we don’t approve of something, it doesn’t make much sense to offer it.

And, on the flip-side, when we do approve strongly of something, we should offer it when we present meals to others. Not every time, of course — who wants to eat the same thing every day? — but roughly in proportion to how good of an idea it is. So, idlis and sambar and raw cheesecake a lot, but Boca burgers not so often.

I suppose the counter-argument is that we need to do what is necessary to make our guests feel comfortable. But it’s possible, even easy, to do that without sacrificing our own principles, and that’s what I’m interested in doing.


About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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