My cooking class in March proved to be very interesting, and while I haven't written about it, there were quite a group of individuals who attended. Vegetarian/vegan cooking classes draw all kinds of people, mostly non-vegetarians - people looking to include more plant based meals into their diet. Well, in March, this proved to be the case. However, there were several that stand out in my mind.
Two women arrived with an aura of resistance around them. One a self proclaimed gourmet cook, and the other, a vegetarian looking to please her non-vegetarian husband and still remain a healthy vegetarian herself. Both came with the attitude of already knowing "everything" about vegetarian cooking, and I wondered why they were there.
A New Belief
There was a woman who reminds me of a friend of mine. She talked with me after class. She shared some information I find intriguing. She told me that she is now a Buddhist. I know a bit about Buddhism, primariy with regard to death and dying, and non-violence. She shared that she is trying to learn to cook vegetarian meals now since Buddhists don't eat meat, and that she found herself in a situation where she was offered meat as a guest. (I don't know all the details to this story, but the general gist). I understood her to say that the Buddhist belief permits eating meat in this situation because it was offered and thus, considered a gift. When she said this, I remember crinkling my forehead and thinking to myself, "Huh?" I saw and heard hesitation in her voice. She clearly was having a hard time reconciling the new "need" to be a vegetarian with the permission to eat meat when it's interpreted as a gift.
A close friend koshered her kitchen a few years back. When she told me that she brought all of her cookware to the temple for blessing and had to get rid of much that was in her kitchen, it didn't dawn on me that she could never eat out, or eat at my home again, unless I cooked kosher food or she brought her own food.
I visited her one afternoon, and when I went to put cream in my coffee, I checked out the ingredients in the creamer, and they were less than great. The creamer was kosher. The ingredients included artificial flavoring and hydrogenated oil, and I believe corn syrup as the sweetener. In any case, I passed on putting it in my coffee.
When we follow a spiritual path, are we meant to abandon common sense or stop listening to our own hearts and bodies? Do we eat something that is less than healthy for us because our spiritual path says it's okay?
My Own Way
My world is not black and white, but varying shades of gray. That is where I feel most comfortable, in between the rules and lines and structure. I am so grateful to my ancestors for their deep devotion and spirituality, and I have carved my own unique way of being. Food is an important consideration in any belief system, and yet deeply personal. For me, my heart and current knowledge will help me decide what to eat, no matter my spiritual beliefs or those of my ancestors.