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Chelsea’s Wedding Menu

Chelsea and Marc photo by Barbara Kinney

Weddings are important occasions. It is not surprising that the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, daughter of a former President, to Marc Mezvinsky  should get a lot of attention and press. I did not expect debate and controversy about the menu of the nuptial dinner.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised. The foods we eat, or do not eat, are significant elements of our culture and community, so the food served at a wedding takes on extra meaning.  Chelsea is a vegetarian and yet she served meat at her wedding. What does this say about her, and about her community? Douglas Quenqua interviewed other vegetarian brides, for the NYT Styles section yesterday, investigating their menu choices.

Cecilia Kinzie, a vegan in California, thought that her loving family and friends could go one meal without meat. Kathleen Mink, another California vegan is so opposed to using animal products that she and her husband don’t even use honey. They did not serve meat at their wedding either. They didn’t even have real flowers.

My first question when I consider this debate is – what is a wedding for?  I think a wedding is to celebrate the entry of a new family into the existing community, a community that will be called on to give their support to this new family. On one hand Chelsea and Marc’s exisiting community is American, founded on freedom of speech, religion — and diet.  She is free to be vegetarian, and free to offer meat to those in her community who are not vegetarian.   I would hope that those vegetarians and vegans at her reception would enjoy their meatless meal, without railing that Chelsea had abandoned her principles.

I would hope that the meat eaters at the reception would not mock the bride and other vegetarians present for their kooky diet.  Their place is to support the bride and her husband, as they take their place as a couple in the community.

For myself, I am glad there are vegetarians in the world because I do feel, as France Moore Lappe pointed out so many years ago in Diet for a Small Planet, that the world cannot support feeding sufficient livestock for everyone to eat a meat rich diet. There is simply not enough agricultural land to feed animals and us.  I try to eat more meatless meals than I did ten years ago, for my own health, and for the well being of others.

At the same time, I feel it is not realistic to think everyone will ultimately be vegetarian. In additon there is the problem of the animals. Vegans, of course, do not eat animals OR any animal products like milk, cheese, eggs or honey, so vegans would not object if cows, sheep, goats, etc. gradually became extinct.  However, for those won’t eat meat, but who do like milk, cheese, eggs and etc. there is the problem of the majority of male animals who are not needed. The males are needed to keep up the herds and flocks, but it is the fertilized females who actually produce the milk, cheese, eggs, and etc.  Since half the animals, and humans, born are male, what is to be done with all those bulls, rams and billy goats if the objection  to meat eating is killing animals?

Do you think brides should express their own principles in their menus, or do you think they should consider the comfort and pleasure of their guests?

A final note. I think nature, and farmers, are extravagant enough and skilled enough to provide flowers for every bride and every celebration. There is no need for them to be forbidden on ethical grounds.

6 comments to Chelsea’s Wedding Menu

  • Pat, I think most of us can agree with your views on vegetarians and meat-eaters and the webs of dilemmas that bind and separate them. As a dinner host I’m happy to accommodate the vegetarian guest whether their impetus is moral or health-related. However (and there always is a however, isn’t there?) I am silently furious at the guest who suddenly is vegetarian, simply and only for the purpose of negotiating or hijacking the dinner menu. A warning sign is invariably the question in response to the dinner invitation, “What are you having?” That question is right up there with “Who else is coming?” A parallel offense is the guest who confuses the host’s question about possible food allergies, taking it to be a wide-open inquiry as to the guest’s food preferences. To be told, “I can’t eat raspberries,” when in fact the person means, “I don’t like raspberries,” is infuriating.

    We have found our diet enriched by the need to accommodate varying requirements. We, too, eat more non-meat meals and that alone has enabled us to discover and experiment with a wide range of new foods and culinary approaches from cultures around the world. And responding to certain dietary limitations, lactose-intolerant guests, has opened up to us the wonderful realization that we prefer goat and sheep’s milk cheese to more traditional (to us) cow’s milk products. But the guest who is merely persnickety – Dante devised a special Circle of Hell for him.

    I’ve vented. What a catharsis! Thank you.

  • Pat

    Flaneur – Thanks for understanding that I was trying to get at the balance between the principles of hospitality, and the responsibilities of a guest.

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    I think it is none of anyones business what Chelsea or any other bride serves or doesn’t serve at their wedding. If I am invited to a wedding or any other function I am just happy to be a part of the celebration. I wouldn’t go hungry no matter what they served I am sure. A person usually knows their friends and family well enough to know what to serve. That I would think is the gist of the matter. You just want your guests full and there with you. I think there are enough meat eaters in the world that we won’t have to worry about all those male animals. I worry more about what the food producers use on or put into their products.

  • Pat

    Lisa – I agree with you in every degree – especially the worry about what some farmers are feeding their animals.

  • I sort of feel that one should eat whatever one wants at one’s own wedding. My brother and sister-in-law, for example, chose a wedding cake of fruitcake and marzipan, knowing that they might alienate some of their guests. (It was delicious, by the way.) I agree with most of your points as I, too, try to be moderate in my diet. But it does sort of depend on why Chelsea IS a vegetarian–is it for principle, or for health? If for principle, then she probably should have stuck to it. If for health, well, I for one don’t expect wedding food to be 100 percent healthy. I do agree with Lisa that we all have better things to do than discuss people’s wedding foods–but I’m glad you did anyway!

  • Pat

    Tinky – I would have loved! your brother and sister-in-law’s wedding cake. You make a good point about the reason anyone is a vegetarian. My daughter is a vegetarian (since age 16) and it is on principle, however when we pointed out that she wore leather sneakers, she was annoyed and said what else could she do? I did not point out that Keds had been around for a long time.

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