December 7, 2019

Satirical Semite: Thanksgiving for the Ideological Vegan

Thanksgiving can be tough for vegans. As a resident alien, I’ve learned the American ways and grown to love this November celebration, but as a lifelong vegan, I struggle with the idea of the turkey sacrifice. When I say “lifelong vegan,” I have been vegan for 99.95% of my life, spending no longer than 1,929.8 hours of my years on earth consuming meat. If you round up 99.95% to the nearest decimal point, I am 100% vegan, although the turkeys may shout, “Fowl.”

The only turkey celebrating Thanksgiving is the one who annually is pardoned by the president, unless it supports Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in which case the turkey may be willing to sacrifice itself.

Technically, I am an ideological vegan and love the idea of it, although every genuine attempt to go vegan has left me hungry and feeling a little depleted after a couple of weeks. Nobody promised that lifestyle change would be easy, and like most things, it takes planning. I also love the idea of visiting a kosher slaughterhouse to watch a shochet perform the ritual shechitah process. Watching this process will be a great motivator to go meat free.

There is overwhelming evidence that livestock give off methane gas emissions that contribute to global warming, which may lead to the end of ranching and food chains, that may lead to the end of life on this planet. That said, it is easier to stick my head in the proverbial sand, which is an admirable trait because sand is vegan.

My favorite restaurant is Cafe Gratitude, a fully vegan restaurant chain, unlike my 0.0005% mathematically inaccurate assessment of personal meat consumption. Cafe Gratitude is more of an ethical-spiritual movement than just a restaurant group, and items on their menus are presented as affirmations. Brussels sprouts are “I am Thankful”; a black-bean burger is “I am Magical”; and creamy puttanesca pasta is “I am Brilliant.” If you proclaim the affirmation when ordering, look the server in the eye and say, “I am Awesome,” they reply “You are Awesome.” #ThisIsLA. Although, if I said to a waiter in England, “I am awesome,” he would respond, “You are an a——.”

It would be great if the ethically sourced, fully organic Cafe Gratitude attained kosher certification, although if that happened, they might have to add a Judeified menu, with dishes like “I am Complaining,” “I am Negotiating” and “I am Kvetching.”

Adam and Eve were vegan, as was Noah,
but it’s complicated.

Another favorite eatery is Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory. This Pico-Robertson landmark may only be 50% vegan (french fries) but it is 100% tasty, and restaurateur Jeff Rohatiner is a community treasure. The menu is more traditional than Cafe Gratitude, unless you want to say to the waiter, “I am the Possible Burger,” “I am Beef,” “I am Tasty Meat” or “I am Jeff’s Sausage.”

How Jewish is a vegan diet? Adam and Eve were vegan, as was Noah, but it’s complicated. I try to reduce my 0.05% carnivorousness by meditating on the water shortage caused by beef ranching, the horrible conditions of commercially raised chickens, the fact “cage-free eggs” can mean that chickens are jammed together on the floor rather than being jammed together in cages. Then there are the screaming slaughterhouses, how livestock is treated in fields and how animals are treated like, well, animals.

I once had a memorable visit to the Hazon Jewish Food Conference, which has roots in the movement led by British visionary Nigel Savage. A brilliant innovation of the conference was a visit with a shochet who performed the kosher ritual slaughter on an organically raised turkey, which was then prepared for the Shabbat meal. I loved the idea but the turkey was stringy, gamey and tasteless, unlike the hormone-fueled supermarket turkeys that taste great unless you think about how they got to the table.

The rabbis teach “it is not studying that counts but actions” (“Ethics of the Fathers” 1:17), to which the turkeys may respond, “And you can’t be a little bit vegan.” Whatever you’re eating, Happy Thanksgiving.


Marcus J Freed is a Los Angeles-based actor. For more on Freed, visit his website.