My brother Pete and I talk often about books and writing; he is the novelist, I am the poet. He is also a chef, and we have both recently migrated over to whole-foods-plant-based diets, so food enters the conversation as often as syntax and punctuation. Car rides are usually the setting, as we fly around the northeast when I'm in town, visiting various family, friends, clam shacks and vegan eateries.
You’d really have to be with us to capture the full flavor of our ‘car talks’–Peter is one of those rare individuals who can actually keep up with my brain as it leaps around the planet. But here’s a glimpse ( I should add, we are often on the subject of spirituality as well, so brace yourself for our typical trinitarian convergence of food, literature and God):
It was snowing as we left the certified Kosher Korean vegetarian restaurant in Queens NY. We crossed the street to an Asian market to pick up some things for dinner with our sister in CT. And then we had a 90 minutes drive...the perfect setting for a perfect storm of conversation...
I was talking of the impact the new diet was having on me spiritually—to my astonishment for some reason, when it actually makes logical sense. Animal cruelty, human slavery, manipulation and corruption in the food industries and pharmaceutical companies, greed and gluttony, laziness and passivity—all stuff to test your spiritual fiber and moral spunk, right?
My body seemed to be physically engaged in a new spiritual integrity; spirituality less an intellectual or even a heart exercise, with a neighborly gesture thrown in now and then. I am, after all, my brother’s keeper.
“What about obesity?” Peter asked, in response to a rabbit trail down the hole of institutional school diets, with which he is too familiar. Someone had recently chastised him for his lack of sympathy and compassion for school boards who would not change school diets to healthier choices. “I feel for the children, but at some point families and school boards have to take responsibility for health—they should read the labels! My friend disagreed—said they are not to blame. I think that’s a victim mentality talking. YOU HAVE TO READ THE LABEL!!! But they don’t want to…”
“Yeah, it’s the culinary equivalent of “Read the Bible!”
“It’s like people who say they aren’t sinners, and they’re not to blame—it’s Adam and Eve’s fault. I tell people to read the owner’s manual—the Bible—but they don’t want to!”
“Yeah, it’s not really all that complicated when you jump into it, it just takes time to learn the ropes, like vegan eating.”
“So…the Bible is like…the label?!”
“Yeah – you have to read the label!”