Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash
How many times in your life have you heard the words, “Dante’s Inferno”? How many times “Dante’s Paradiso”? I’m guessing the ratio leans heavily toward Inferno.

How familiar with those two works are you? This isn’t a Literature test. I’m just guessing that if you’re familiar with either, it’s probably the Nine Circles of Hell. And I’m willing to bet the Nine Circles of Heaven are a complete mystery.

It’s not just you, Inferno has been the subject of plays, movies, even a video game. By comparison, Paradiso is shunned.

And it’s not just Dante. William Blake said of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God and at liberty when of Devils and Hell is because he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

It doesn’t take a poet to realize that writing about hell is easy, “at liberty,” and writing about heaven is difficult, “in fetters.”

I believe there’s a key to human nature and human history in that dichotomy. Our race’s origins are in savagery, “nature red in tooth and claw.” Civilization is something we build despite it. Nobility is something we strive for. We work to be better individuals, we labor at it, because selfishness, fear, and hatred are so easy. We strive to transcend our animal nature.

I’m vegan. I’m not asking you to be. But I’m weary of hearing the line, “It’s only natural for humans to eat meat.” Of course. I know as well as you that for our race, killing and eating other animals is natural. No argument there.

It’s natural.

But is it necessary?

The Accidental Vegan

faceplant

I’m a vegan by accident. Consequently, I’m not evangelical about it. If anything, I’m apologetic for any inconvenience when out with other people. We can go anywhere you like; I’ll manage.

On the other hand, while it happened by accident, I’m not at all casual about it. My wallet, belt, and shoes are all fabric. I read and research the ingredients of everything I buy. And I’ve developed this lifestyle on purpose, with thought and determination behind each decision.

So how can it be both “by accident” and “on purpose”? Allow me to explain.
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Kuto~urufu to Bejitarian Sushi

Jamie Chambers meets me for dinner to fulfill an old Cthulhu Haiku II Kickstarter promise. His performance really seals the deal.

Kuto~urufu to bejitarian sushi

CREDITS: Lester Smith as Cthulhu, Jamie Chambers as Jamie Chambers, Karalyn Smith as Voice of Server, Filmed by Karalyn Smith, Edited by Ralph Faraday, Music by Kevin MacLeod

Buttered Toast and Jelly

"butter" and jelly

When I turned vegan about a year ago, I didn’t plan to find faux versions of old favorites like butter, cheese, and ice cream. I just figured it was time to eat differently, learn new recipes. Given how busy I stay with Popcorn Press in my off hours, my diet largely became salads, spicy beans (or mixed beans and corn) on toast, and (more often than not) refried beans with hot salsa eaten with corn chips–all easy-prep meals.

That having been said, after a couple of months, I got a hankering for hot dogs and tried Smart Dogs, to great satisfaction.

And I missed buttered toast. To compensate, I’d use olive oil spray (poured olive oil drips too much) and nutritional yeast. But it wasn’t nearly the same.

I’m happy to report, however, that my non-vegan wife and daughter have been shopping for me, and they came home from a co-op store recently with earth balance spread. Historically, I’ve been something of a butter snob. When the family began buying a popular “lite” product years ago, I insisted on calling it “I Can’t Believe It’s Passed Off as Butter!” (You may recognize the actual product name.) So I was skeptical of earth balance.

Turns out the stuff is awesome! I’d have a difficult time distinguishing it from actual butter. So I’m back to buttered toast! Add a little Braswell’s Hot Jalapeño Pepper jelly, and I’m a happy man.