Dining on Duck While Vegan

Bad title. I didn’t order duck, she did. Still, it presented a dilemma all vegans face from time to time.

I was eating at a well-known restaurant in Northern California. I asked for a vegan meal. She ordered duck. Just like that: “I’ll have the duck.” She did not ask: “Do you mind? But I don’t think I would have said anything had she done so.

My belief, at least until that moment, was you don’t dictate to friends what they can and cannot eat in your presence. Imagine if she had objected to my vegan dish: “Would you mind terribly ordering something with meat?”

Of course nobody does that. But could I ask her to order something that would satisfy my sensibilities, while offending hers? It seemed churlish.

But I was not prepared for the impact those four simple words had on me: “I’ll have the duck.” I felt sick. The Duck? The Duck?? You mean that small animal who hours before had been innocently carrying on her life as nature intended, doing what ducks do? You are going to eat that duck? Eat her? “Are you insane,” I felt like shouting, conjuring up the ghost of Geraldine Ferraro.

I didn’t say anything. My meal was already ruined, why spoil hers? Nobody likes an argumentative vegan.

Yet I felt almost complicit in the murder of that duck, sitting there, quietly munching away at my vegan meal without saying a single word in defense of ducks. For that duck it was too late. But maybe my words would save a different duck, on some future occasion. Maybe my dinner companion would suddenly think: “He’s right. This is the whole lifetime of the duck I’m taking just for the sake of a few minutes of my pleasure. No more.”

Unlikely though.

So what should a vegan do? Dine only with the like-minded? Raise polite objections? I really don’t know.

I just know that I felt a bit like a lucky bystander: they came for the duck, not for me. And I didn’t say anything. What if they came for me, and nobody stood up in my defense?

About jeffreymasson

My new book BEASTS is out this March from Bloomsbury http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/beasts-9781608196159/ or the eBook http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/beasts-9781608199914/
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9 Responses to Dining on Duck While Vegan

  1. WhippetGirlNowEatingKindly says:

    But what can you say? To me being vegan is like a religion…these are my beliefs and I 100% belive in them but I understand that not everyone does.

    I also understand that if I make a fuss, it makes vegan un-cool. And I want to make vegan cool.

    (But I am also sick of people waving meat in my face…the only positive is that none of them are as slim/fit as I am so I feel a bit smug (and no one needs to know that my size and energy are herditary and I had them when I was gobbling down bits of cow!!)

  2. Girija says:

    Gosh Jeff!

    Our plight recently was so like this when my husband and I went for a barbecue with friends. We had carried a salad that was attractive to just us and nobody else. The gusto with which they were cooking and eating was getting very difficult to bear. And somehow, the act of barbecuing seemed way too cruel for me to be party to – eyes welled up. Dust flew in, I lied.

    We seriously wondered if we should consider other ways to socialize .. may be go to movies or play a game of tennis or something. Make a list of activities that does not involve food, my husband suggested. We both sure said a prayer for compassionate children.

  3. Gata says:

    Ciertamente, no me gustaría estar en su piel Sr. Masson; pero sólo por lo mal que al parecer debe usted sentirse varias veces al día.
    Me he planteado si lo de la alimentación vegana podría llegar a rozar lo irracional.
    Sr. Masson, los patos no se nos comen a nosotros, porque no estamos en su cadena alimentaria y porque no pueden.
    Sr. Mason ¿cree que un león hambriento se le comería a usted si se le pusiese a tiro?.
    Opino que lo de la alimentación vegana tiene unos pilares de equilibrio, bondad y seguramente salud, muy admirables, pero, como en todo en esta vida, hay que buscar el equilibrio.
    Esta noticia ha salido publicada en la prensa española de hoy:
    http://www.elpais.com/articulo/sociedad/pareja/veganos/juzgada/Fr

    ¿Estamos locos o qué?
    Todo tiene su puntito de equilibrio.
    No se puede pretender ser etéreo cuando se es mamífero, omnívoro y mortal.

    De cualquier manera, yo no hubiese pedido pato si hubiese sido la persona que comiera con usted, después de pedir su comida vegana. Seguramente yo le hubiese imitado para probar y hubiese comido lo mismo que usted, si le sirve de consuelo. Mi duda es si aquella chica sabía lo que significaba “vegana”.
    Saludos.

  4. QueenBee says:

    I don’t know either. I once had a person order rabbit. Keeping Ghandi in mind (“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”), my hope is that the person is equally as impacted by the vegan dish as I am by the non-vegan dish.

  5. Melly says:

    Jeff, ouch!
    I’m only a vego because every time id eat meat i could only too easily picture the life i’d taken and by taking responsibility for it and acknowledging how actually gruesome it is for me to chew on a previously living creature, like myself, I couldn’t face eating meat myself- I didn’t have a problem with others indulging their cannibalistic tendencies- but now I’m finding it overwhelming how barbaric the act of eating meat is. And the more I can’t tolerate it the more I start to take responsibility for the other animal products I consume! I feel so terrible for taking advantage of the status quo and exploiting animals for my pleasure! I am inclined to stay quiet unless challenged (why do meat eaters care that Im vego- unless it’s suppressed guilt?) and then I feel fine saying In as little preachy voice as possible- “eating meat is wrong on so many levels…”

  6. Helen says:

    It’s getting very hard for me to dine with meat eaters. The cause we take up almost seems religiously zealous, even to me. I have quit talking about it. But from time to time, I have a chance to bring up veganism to a student after class; the discussion has taken that direction, almost if by divine intervention. Melly, QueenBee, Girija especially, we’re even writing on these comment sections because what Jeff writes causes us to revolt internally; we know how they lived and died. My visits with the students almost always can go into websites that show a pic or two of factory farming; that is all I need to see to re-motivate me into being brave enough to even talk about it. Yes, I would say, our lives are ours to live wisely; and picking the social occasions to attend or not is our choice. Recent abstinents of alcohol have to bow out of dinner parties and happy hours; why should we be any different? There are a million reasons we could use. For this, I think it takes militant behavior: I will not be in a social event that does not offer strong vegan alternatives, for example. Being near Austin, the flagship WholeFoods has a raw food bar and restaurant in the vegetable section (that store is not too different from Harrod’s Food Hall, but immensely larger) that just “feels good” to be in. The barbeque story you had was an example of church potlucks I’m forced to be part of; they now know I eat veganly in my car outside (this is not to sound high-and-mighty), and occasionally I get told how much he/she wishes he/she had the courage to just eat rabbit-food, for their health…and it goes on…thanks again for this comment section, Jeff.

  7. carole says:

    The blog is nice, thank you Mr. Masson.
    I can relate to the sensitivities and the “am i weird to feel that way?”
    With the lobster and the duck, I can identify with the “I did nothing” in the face of situations that I find terrible…ie cattle tied up with their calves at farm shows….all day…sheep too…hot in the sun. Organic farmers talking about raising pigs organically at a “Green ” event.
    I think well, I can’t say every 2 seconds “I’m a vegetarian, why don’t you consider the option yourself” or “Those animals are suffering” or “I see them in the trucks going to the slaughterhouses and it’s terrible”. However, every 2 seconds would be ok, And I’ve been opening up my mouth more often…even though sometimes I get essentially a slap in the face.Sometimes I get friendly responses.
    My issue now is “how to make a living as a vegetarian”… I wish I could hear more stories about work and being vegan/vegetarian.
    There’s a farm show coming up…that’s one of the main economic activities where I live…painful.
    I like the phrase from Gandhi…just how to apply it (also since I feel like a scaredey-cat) (and I feel I’m not always so actively pure myself).

  8. Eva says:

    For me veganism is not a “religion”, it is a social justice movement. Animals are not things for us to use, but persons who live their life for their own purposes.
    And it that sense, the question could be rephrased like this: would mind someone eating another person at your table or not? Would you think it’s his/her choice and you shouldn’t say a word about it?

  9. Eva says:

    For me veganism is not a “religion”, it is a social justice movement. Animals are not things for us to use, but persons who live their life for their own purposes.
    And in that sense, the question could be rephrased like this: would you mind someone eating another person at your table or not? Would you think it’s his/her choice and you shouldn’t say a word about it?
    (sorry to comment againt, a “you” missed from the previous one)

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