essays kaddish in two-part harmony

the meat and the messiah — a kaddish

— sacrifice/d — sometimes with a prayer 

— defined by others (i.e. often passive recipients of the category)

— unnatural arc, so who would make this stuff up?

— untimely demise — averting being wrinkled, old, or unlovely

— they die so that we may live, especially the meat

— frequently male, for some ungodly reason — but that’s okay with me.

— post-mortem rave reviews (in both senses of the word)

— etc. etc. etc.

This is what I get for reading Gershom Scholem’s Sabbatei Sevi: The Mystical Messiah at the same time as reading edible brooklyn: the good meat issue. The parallels have been uncanny.

The human need to torture others in order to be sated cannot be underestimated. 

On another note, tangentially related, I have not had a single good (vegetarian) meal in New York yet this trip so far, except for the home-made meals my precious daughter improvised here on the ‘urban pioneer’ edge of Brooklyn. And we’ve gone to some old standards and promising nifty places. Even New Orleans chefs have been way more creative than these in the accommodate-the-goddamned-vegetarian department.

Rant, rant. And not a rave in sight.

I find it curious that I became a vegetarian (again) on October 25th, 2010 on the first yahrtzeit of the tzaddik’s death.  And I’ve been thinking what the connection might be. Haven’t come up with anything that sounds more profound than trite, yet.   But there it is. Sometimes, we’ve just had enough of death and don’t want to be party to it more than we can bear.

Sure, why not that?

Perhaps my association with vegetarians is that they do less harm than others.  But I also think they’re missing something really really tasty.  But they’ve decided to give it up.

Just say no, right?  We’ll see if righteousness and abstinence are really what they’re cracked up to be.  But as for me, I’ve tossed edible brooklyn meat issue across the room in favor of Sabbatai Sevi.


By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

8 replies on “the meat and the messiah — a kaddish”

Holy crap, Mira. Those are quite the parallels you drew there. Hard to contradict any of them.

…muttered the carnivore who still has shreds of beef stuck in her teeth from lunch… 

A delicious spicy beef, green onion, egg stew and all the usual ban chan at the Korean joint on the way home from nose surgery. I may have blood on my hands and in my nose, but I also had a darned good lunch.

And I didn’t even start with the ‘scape goat’ and ‘koporos’ —

Harder to put your sins onto a slice of Bulgarian feta on a slice of Roma tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper…

I’m not much for proselytizing, but we could give it a try if you like. Not sure if I could work myself up charisma-wise to sell the veggie diet, but I could cook you some wicked Sephardi dishes…

How best to play this? Do I brag that I’ve been through a vegie phase, loved the food, and am not unwilling to consider it again, thus earning brownie points? Or do I cling to my carnivorous canines and complain about what a pain it is to be vegetarian in restaurants, so that you’ll demonstrate the wonders of Sephardi vegetarian cuisine? Seems like the stubborn play gets me meals.

Well, Erin, we should indeed! But only if somehow we can bring our project to bear on that dining experience.

I mean, let’s take a look at the feast we put together. Do we mourn a leg of lamb but not the kalamata olives? The hard-boiled eggs but not baguettes and salted butter? Or do we bow our heads in gratitude for it all? And say thank you for being fairly complex organisms with enough consciousness to feel both guilt and pleasure over some tasty dish we cannot manage to give up?

The problem with abstinence is that it either makes you grouchy or a monk (or both) — or self-disciplined, or perhaps at last you see that abstinence is not the answer. And maybe neither is restraint. Maybe the answer is only just the gratitude for the abundance we are given.

Gratitude. That sounds about right to me. Mindfulness. Seems to me that being a wee bit more aware of our food supplies and all their impacts is the crux of it—eating an animal you’ve skinned and gutted out yourself and then prepared with all the culinary skill you can muster is quite a bit different from buying the tidy shrink-wrapped meat on the styrofoam tray, or God forbid the breaded, deep-fried fast food hunk of chopped, pressed, and formed something on a plastic bun.

Nobody’s hands are clean. Just as carnivores need to remember that it takes—what, six or seven pounds of grain?—to produce a pound of meat and that eating the grain instead might be more efficient, vegetarians need to remember that plowing fields under to raise grain crops kills at least as many animals (gophers and so on) as slaughtering cattle on a ranch of similar size.

So—ja. Gratitude. Mindfulness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.