Sunday, March 15, 2009
You Are What You Don't Eat
Here we are just about smack dab in the middle of Lent. What is a smack dab, anyhow?
Lent can be equally confusing.
In the old days, and by this I mean the way old days before even Fred Astaire, eating meat was a luxury. It has always seemed to me that giving up red meat for Lent, or on Fridays, was to give up something that, if you had it, it would be really hard to pass up eating.
Then we hit a time when it seems that red meat was just about all we had at every meal. It was hamburger or pot roast or Salisbury steak or Swedish meatballs or beef stroganoff all week, cat fish on Friday and fried chicken on Sunday. Meals at my house as a child were always structured around the meat part, even the fish. Beef, chicken and fish. Everything else was a side dish, a 'go-with'.
Meatless? A pox on your house!
Back then, the Catholic rules and guidelines for Lent were a no-brainer. A day of abstinence meant no meat. The penance factor was obvious and felt.
The rules are the same. But the world around us has changed dramatically.
First we have our vegetarians. Even that is not as simple as it sounds. We have our full vegetarians, who eat no meat at all. We have our vegetarians who eat fish and don't call that meat. We have our quasi vegetarians who eat chicken and fish.
Then we have our vegans, who eat no animal products of any kind, which includes eggs and diary and the horse they rode in on. God Bless them.
And once a person has entered this world of dietary restrictions, we also have people who never touch sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
I'm not talking about people who have diabetes or high blood pressure and have to watch their salt and sugar intakes. The Church already has guidelines for sick people. Sick people don't have to fast and abstain. Neither do little children or really old people.
I'm talking about perfectly healthy adults who have already don't touch everything the Church is asking them to give up for Lent. What are they supposed to do? Skate?
I believe that many of them do. I hear them laughing to themselves behind their hands. To them I say, "Not so fast, bucko! You can't just dance merrily through Lent eating the way you always do." The idea here is to identify with the suffering of Jesus.
I don't think vegetarians should start eating meat, or have an egg if you're a vegan. But you're going to have to come up with something.
Here are my suggestions for days of abstinence:
Full vegetarians should give up beans, a major source of protein. If you don't feel that, throw in the cheese, too. No cheese or beans.
Fish eating vegetarians should cut out the fish. Make yourself a Hula Burger. That should cause some suffering.
Quasi vegetarians should stop calling themselves vegetarians, for starters. But they should also give up fish on Fridays, and find some other ways to atone for being so confusing.
Vegans....I'm at a loss to help vegans. I have one idea. Get yourself invited to a dinner party every Friday and don't say one word to the hostess about your myriad dietary restrictions and then just only eat what you can of what is being served and if anyone asks about it, say you are fasting for Lent. Also spend the entire Lenten season not talking about being a vegan or anything else about your diet. That should cause some profound suffering.
Because it's all supposed to get even trickier as Lent goes on. I hope everyone is not just sitting around saying to themselves, "I gave up desserts, so that's that." That's not that. As Lent continues one needs to step up one's efforts. If you never touch sugar and alcohol and caffeine to start with, you're going to have to dig deep. Only drink water, cut out a meal altogether, eat only half meals.
Trust me. It will make Easter all the more thrilling.