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.