Friday, October 8, 2010

Beef or Tofu?

When I first saw the title of an older New York Times article, from August 6, 2010, I thought it was a silly question, one with too obvious an answer. "At Vegan Weddings, Beef or Tofu?" seemed to me to be barely a question at all.
Tofu, of course, you would think, should be the right answer. Or roasted vegetable lasagna. Or mushroom and pumpkin risotto. Or a summer vegetable tart. Or any number of many delicious and festive cake.

But instead, I was surprised to read that Chelsea Clinton, a vegetarian who was married over the summer, served short ribs at her wedding. As a vegan who wants to get married someday, I started to ponder: what would I do?

Coming from a family who only serves plant-based fare, I have seen enough dinner parties, barbecues, graduation banquets, and general get-togethers without meat. Even on Easter, we serve what we affectionate call “the traditional Easter pizza” instead of the standard ham or lamb. My family has been blessed to have been spared loutish guests like the article’s Patrick Moore, who not only snuck out of a wedding for a chicken sandwich, but had the audacity to bring it back! He says, “I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you. Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that? Just print a bumper sticker." By “be like that,” does he mean honor the couple’s sense of morality and ethical value set? Isn’t that what the wedding, and all weddings, are about? Of course hosts should consider the comforts and pleasures of their guests, but wedding attendants will not go into meat withdrawal in an afternoon.

What have we come to expect as a culture? As we discussed in class, culinary culture is socially constructed. Has our convenience based culture created a situation where we come to expect whatever we want, at all times, regardless of circumstance? Has it come to a point that even on a day devoted to love and becoming family, you are unable to put aside your demands for a particular meal? Is it possible that people have become so accustomed to the "have-it-now" culture that we presently live in, that they are unable to set aside their desires for others? I certainly hope not.

I know that I will have a vegan wedding. Even if I were inviting world famous chefs, as the couple in the article were, I would only serve vegan fare. If a chef is unable to appreciate the taste and quality of food made without “enhancement” from animal products, what kind of true appreciator of food is he? For me, the question beef or tofu? is barely even an issue. Tofu. If someone was unable to go an afternoon without meat to celebrate with me, then they’re probably not the kind of person I want at my wedding. I like to think that my future wedding guests would just be happy to celebrate and have a good time with me…regardless of what I was serving for supper.

What do you think? Should vegans serve honey and dairy? Vegetarians serve meat? Baptists and straight-edgers serve champagne? Should people of certain religions serve their versions of unclean food, be it meat, seafood, pork, or something else not kosher or halal? Where do you draw the line, if there is one at all?


  1. I would like to think that the wedding fare would consist of more than one option to appease both the ethical values of the bride and/or groom but also have some consideration for the variety of backgrounds of guests at the wedding. For the same reason I wouldn't invite a vegetarian to dinner and serve beef I wouldn't invite a meat eater and have only tofu on the menu. A wedding is definitely for the bride and groom but it is also a celebration for everyone else that attends, so why can't both needs be met by providing an alternative to those who aren't vegetarians?

  2. For me there is a huge difference between a vegan, who never consumes in any way, any animal products, not serving meat and an omnivore, who eats all food products, serving vegetarian fare. That said, I would never attend a wedding or even a dinner party expecting to eat.
    Also, I find the use of the word "needs" in regard to omnivores wanting a meat alternative interesting. People are fully capable of going a single meal without animal products, so it can hardly be constituted as a need.

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