Omnivores and Herbivores – Living together?!?

This past Sunday, readers of the Seattle Times were treated to a piece of hard hitting food journalism which asked the basic question – Can carnivores, herbivores, break bread together?

We’ll ignore the basic premise that there are humans out there who are strictly carnivores (quick trivia fact – there aren’t), and instead redefine the question to include omnivores into the equation.

But first, let’s check to see that there was no hyperbole in the reporter’s approach to the story…

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit,” ranted television chef Anthony Bourdain in his book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”

Not to be outdone, Carol J. Adams, a vegan feminist, calls omnivores insincere, obtuse and unenlightened in her book “How to Live Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook.” In a recent interview, she calls eggs “chicken ova” and meat “the carcasses of innocent animals.” Not exactly bridge-building rhetoric.

While both Bourdain and Adams have received flack for their extremism, neither is alone in their sentiments.

Ummm…okaaaay. Maybe the article was a tad bit over the edge.

Jonathan Mahler, 27, a vegan, has learned to go for a walk around the block when his girlfriend cooks meat in their home. Chuck Bourg, 25, lived in a house where all meat — even freeze-dried bags of chicken-flavored Top Ramen — had to be kept in Ziploc bags on the porch.

So what does all this mean? Are we destined for a culinary apartheid?

Culinary apartheid? I’m sorry, but when someone is a vegetarian in a society that caters to omnivores, there’s an cultural separation inherent in that decision. “Culinary apartheid” has already occurred.

But I’m arguing semantics here.

In my own reality, such as it is, the vegans and vegetarians I have come across (and who have written to me) have been more than diplomatic. It is only a handful of vegetarians who have come across as more fundamentalist and evangelical when talk has turned to food. My suspicion is that it is the vegetarians that are more often slighted and offended by carnivores with unthinking and offhanded comments and behaviors.

But generally speaking, I don’t think there’s this tremendous culinary divide, any more so than there is with people who avoid foods due to Kosher laws, Halal tenets, allergy concerns, non-sustainable food practices, or even simple matters of taste.

For myself, the only concern I have is to respect the choices others have made as long as they respect my own. And yes, the “as long as” qualifier is a bit immature on my part, but I’m not about to deny my own fallibilities.

So, can omnivores and vegetarians live together in harmony? Of course they can, and do so every day. Certainly there’s a contingent from both sides who act like doofuses and dorks, but this is common in any group of believers. At the end of the day, we all add to the conversation, and that is where beauty exists.