Six Guiding Principles for Fabulous Flavor

Six Guiding Principles for Fabulous Flavor

I have found

that making delicious, nutritious food is a delightful and rewarding process. I don’t like rules, because they can be arbitrary and by their very nature provoke insurgence from any rebellious soul. I stand by principles, however. To me, principles operate like laws of nature. There isn’t any moral value in gravity working, nor is there a question about whether it will work or not; it just does. Following are some key guiding principles that I believe apply to food preparation and beyond. Making use of these principles in a conscious way will make the food taste better!

Energy has a taste.

Have you ever eaten food prepared by someone who was in a foul mood as they interacted with the food? Did it taste good? Or was it bitter or harsh tasting? How about the opposite? Have you eaten something that was prepared by someone who brought joyful energy to the task? How did that food taste? The energy with which we do anything permeates that thing with its nature. This is the most important principle to understand and embody in order to make tasty food or really to create anything that will have a positive impact in the world. Given that I know my energy cannot be hidden in the final product, but will be revealed for all to taste, I choose to infuse the food I prepare with the energy of love. And how does the energy of love taste? It Tastes Like Love!

Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.

This principle was stated by George Washington Carver and is a favorite of a former mentor of mine. If we love something, we pay attention to it. We are curious about it. We listen to it and we observe it. We take time to be present with it. We notice what is wonderful about it, and we offer appreciations. If we love it enough, we make a commitment to it, and we faithfully honor that commitment over time. When we find out disturbing or unsettling things about that which we love, we lean into our love for it so we can re-cultivate a sense of connection. Through this process of paying attention, being curious, listening and observing, taking time, being present, praising the good, making a commitment, and coming back to the love when we feel separate, we do learn so much about the object of our love. And by knowing our beloved more deeply and understanding its secrets, we are able to interact with it in effective ways that result in bounteous expressions of good.

I love preparing, serving, and eating delicious, nutritious food, and this love comes naturally to me. Because I love it, I pay attention to the vegetables, the herbs, the fruits. I understand little secrets that have come to me over time, so when I go to market I can select fruits and vegetables that taste the best. Because I love it, I take the time to be present, to smell, to feel, to intuit. Because I love it, I get curious. Will this taste good with that? Or with that? Because I love it, I notice and appreciate the delicious creations that come through. And because I love it, I feel inspired to share this love with others.

But what if one doesn’t love food preparation, I hear some readers object! My suggestion is to start with willingness. Are you willing to learn to love food preparation? Declare your willingness! Are you open to the possibility? Cultivate that possibility by seeing your future self in pure delight as you create delicious nourishing dishes. Is there some small thing about food prep that you do love? Maybe you like to make smoothies in your blender or mash up an avocado for guacamole. Start with what you love and grow your love from there. Set your intention to learn to love food prep, and you will move in that direction. You will find that as you love it more, the food starts tasting better, and you will be carried into a delightful feedback loop in which love feeds more love. Through that increase of love, you too will learn the secrets of food prep and your food will demonstrate that knowing.

We are always at choice.

[1] At every moment in time we have the capacity to make an infinite number of choices. We can choose to do what we did before, or some variation of it, or something entirely new. We may be out of touch with that choice, but it is always only a conscious thought away. This is as true for food preparation as for any other area of life. I see recipes as suggestions, inspiration, and options, not as dictates that must be followed rigidly. The recipes in this book are meant to be a starting point for your authentic creative expression. When you make choices to follow the guidance you receive because of the love you have for the food, you may stray significantly from the recipe as written. By paying attention to what you love, you will almost certainly notice that food tastes better when it is fresh and in season, for example. Therefore, if you are making a fruit salad that calls for apricots and when you go to the store discover that the apricots were grown in the other hemisphere and are hard with no fragrance, you will make a choice to substitute the delightful ripe pears that you started smelling the moment you walked into the produce department. You are always at choice and the recipes are a starting place. Be creative, flexible, spontaneous, and bold!

Junk in junk out.

This saying is often used to refer to data, but since it is a principle, it also applies to food preparation. My second most powerful secret for making food delicious, after “energy has a taste,” is to use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients that I can find. When you are shopping for food or picking it from your garden, use as many senses as possible. Touch it, smell it, observe it, listen to it. Look for vegetables that are plump and tender rather than dried up and woody. Choose fruits that are fragrant and have good color. Learn the sounds of ripe melons. Learn the feel of young root crops. Grow or purchase and use fresh herbs, and lots of them. If you must use herbs out of season, consider freezing cubes of herbs when they are in season instead of using shriveled up old dried herbs! Buy whole spices in small quantities and grind what you need. Perk up a dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, not the kind that comes from a bottle. Use whole foods, minimally processed. Purchase organic food for the best flavor, sustainability, and health value. If something gets too old, find an alternate use for it rather than spoiling your good food with junk. For example you can use wilted or dried up produce in vegetable stock, or give it to your worms or your garden.

Starting with high-quality food gives you a great head start and is the first of my two part equation: “start with good food and don’t wreck it.” After you have taken the time to use your love and your choice to select fresh, whole, nutritious food, prepare it in ways that enhance and compliment the fresh, high quality food you have. A few tips for “not wrecking it” include serving most vegetables raw or lightly cooked, combining flavors that complement each other without putting too many different flavors in any one dish, and adding salt, salty condiments, and oils sparingly. Remember you can always add more of something but generally cannot take it out once added. When I’m creating in the kitchen I often have a tiny testing bowl in which I can put a spoonful of something and add an herb, spice, or other addition. Then I taste the dish to determine if my proposed addition will work well in it or not.

Blessing food has a tangible impact on its vitality.

I remember hearing many years ago about a study that demonstrated that blessing food before eating it results in a measurable, statistically-significant increase in nutrients. I don’t know if the information I heard was correct, but I do know that significant research confirms that the regular practice of prayer confers health benefits on the person praying.[2] In the studies, the beliefs and specific practices of the person praying doesn’t matter; the act of blessing has the same impact regardless of particularities. So I consider my household’s communal practice of having a moment of silence followed by a verbal New Thought style prayer a suitable blessing, and I also consider my quick “Thank you for this delicious food” an appropriate prayer when I’m on the run. Words are not even necessary for it to be a blessing: sometimes it’s enough just to breathe in the fragrance of the food for a moment with a feeling of gratitude in my heart. In my adult son’s home, they bless each meal with a high five over the food, and I have no doubt that this blessing enhances the experience of eating as well.

One of the most powerful experiments I ever encountered regarding the act of blessing and its impact on the nutritional value of food involved some rabbits on a high cholesterol diet. As vegans, rabbits do not normally encounter cholesterol in their diet. This group of rabbits was being fed cholesterol as part of an experiment about heart disease. There was a surprise at the end of the study; one group of rabbits had not developed heart disease even though they had been fed the exact same diet as the others. It turned out that the person in charge of this healthy group of rabbits was petting and cuddling the rabbits and talking to them lovingly each time she fed them the toxic food. It seems that this act of “blessing” somehow created a different metabolic experience for the cuddled rabbits, an experience that resulted in vitality in spite of eating the same foods that were killing the other rabbits![3]

And while I have never seen studies about flavor improvements based on blessing, I absolutely believe it is true from my experience. The first time I experienced the difference that blessing could make on taste was when I was about 15 years old. My family was helping out a friend by selling a bunch of pumpkins he had grown. We would take a truckload of pumpkins into the center of a nearby town and sell them to people out of the back of the truck. One day we had a significant amount of pumpkins left when we were ready to go home. We gave them to a Hare Krishna group that was chanting in the park.

A few days later when we returned to the city where we had encountered the Hare Krishna devotees, we gratefully accepted the free meal they were offering, and part of the meal was the pumpkins. Now these were not Sugar Pie pumpkins. They were Halloween-style pumpkins that I had tried unsuccessfully to prepare for consumption in many ways. They just didn’t taste good. On that day in the park with the Hare Krishnas, I found to my surprise that the pumpkin dish they served, made from the very pumpkins that had completely stumped my considerable culinary capacities, tasted absolutely delicious! When I asked the cook the secret, she put her index finger up in the air and said she had made the dish for that One and had given Him the first taste. That was a lesson I will always remember. So although I stand by the importance of selecting fresh produce with naturally-obtained deliciousness, when that is not possible the food can still be made whole with a blessing.

Our thoughts are creative.

The final principle for fabulous flavor is a truth that has been known and written about by sages and teachers from ancient times through today. This principle has many variations: “What you think about comes about,” “Whatever you focus your attention on grows in your experience,” “Thoughts become things,” “Every idea in consciousness finds its corresponding expression in the physical world,” “Cause and effect,” etc. When I say that our thoughts are creative, I’m not talking about creativity in the artistic sense, though that can be true as well. What I am pointing out is that things that we experience and create in the world start out with thoughts. I cannot make a delightful five-course Asian California Fusion meal without starting with some idea in my mind. I cannot make endless varieties of nourishing salads or raw whole foods desserts or new flavors of live sauerkraut without first having an inspiration.

It is also true that I cannot make a spectacularly failed pot of soup or batch of muffins without first having this thought in mind! For example, on the few occasions on which I have made a dish or a meal that was truly awful, I can always trace the origins of that mess back to a thought or series of thoughts. Typically when this has happened, my ego was engaged in trying to impress a person or group and I started entertaining fears of disaster. Instead of moving my mind back to love and aligning my consciousness with the possibility of deliciousness, I have allowed my mind to fixate on the possibility of failure. I have worried and fretted, therefore infusing the food with the energy of worry, fret and fear. No wonder the food tasted less than spectacular!

I have proved this principle to myself so many times that I trust it implicitly. I encourage you to give it a try and see if your experience doesn’t replicate mine. Just remember to discipline your mind, keeping your thoughts on the beautiful, powerfully nutritious, scrumptious food you are preparing, and hold a vision of it done. See yourself in joy as you nourish yourself and all life by preparing and consuming the fruits and veggies of the earth!

Excerpted from the book Tastes Like Love: Sensational Salads to Cool the Earth, © 2016 Beth Love. Several of the photos of salads are from the book.





[1]One of my editors pointed out that the phrase “we are always at choice” is not standard English. This phrase is a statement of principle that would most likely be familiar, however, to people who study New Thought metaphysics or similar philosophies, and to those who have been exposed to popular culture figures who have been influenced by these movements. After my editor made this observation, I did consider changing it to something like “we always have a choice.” For me, however, there is more power in the original phrasing. It has an immediacy that is lacking for me in the standard English version. The phrase “we are always at choice” conjures up a mental image of this now moment, this point in time, this place where I am in consciousness right now. In this place, I am always at a point of choice. Acknowledging that I “have” a choice, does not call me up to the same level of accountability as knowing that I am making a choice in this moment, and in this moment, and in this moment, and that each of these choice points is a place of tremendous potential power. What will you do with the power of your choice of this now moment?

[2] See, for example, Kenneth F. Ferraro and Cynthia M. Albrecht-Jensen, “Does Religion Influence Adult Health?” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30, no. 2 (1991): 193-202,  (accessed September 16, 2016.); or Richard Shiffman, “The Blog: Why People Who Pray Are Healthier Than Those Who Don’t,” Huffington Post, January 18, 2012, (accessed September 16, 2016).

[3] Robert M. Nerem, Murina J. Levesque, and J. Fredrick Cornhill, “Social Environment as a Factor in Diet-induced Atherosclerosis,” Science 208, no. 4451 (1980): 1475-1476, cited in “Study Shows Cuddling of Bunnies Helps Keep Their Arteries Clear,” Ocala Star-Banner, April 13, 1980, (accessed September 16, 2016).

Going Upstream: A Parable for Our Times

Going Upstream: A Parable for Our Times

Have you ever heard a story that so influenced your understanding that it changed the course of your life?

A story containing truths that were so…well, True, that hearing the story compelled you to see things differently ever after?

I heard such a story in the winter of 1996.

I had just begun my undergrad work as a Community Studies student transferring to the University of California Santa Cruz from a community college. I was on a mission (as usual!). This mission had its origins in a series of experiences I had in 1991, several years after entering recovery to heal from childhood trauma, specifically sexual trauma. As a result of my healing process, I felt a surge of creative energy. In releasing coping patterns of denial and control formerly used to keep myself feeling safe, the creativity began to pour forth in the form of original songs. These songs were an integral part of my healing, expressing the pain, hope, betrayal, terror, and ultimately the triumph of the journey.

I had never studied music, did not play any instrument, and certainly did not know how to read or produce written music, but this outpouring of lyrics and melodies through my voice reminded me that I used to sing original songs as a child as well. I had forgotten my youthful attempts to find comfort in a sometimes constant stream of make believe imagery set to upbeat, repetitive melodies. It was lovely to remember and to acknowledge the creativity and resourcefulness of the child I was, the resourcefulness that so many children muster up in the face of oppression, confusion, and abuse.

When the recovery era songs began to move through me, I started sharing my songs with others in recovery from childhood sexual trauma. I found that the messages moved them deeply, helping them to courageously touch their own pain, to connect with their internal strength, and to feel hopeful in the face of hopelessness. The mission was born. I would go back to school and study music, starting with community college. Once I obtained my Bachelors degree in music, I would get a Masters degree in music therapy so I could help other survivors heal as I was healing. I even picked out the school where I would get my Masters degree, even though attending that school would entail a move to Stockton, and I wasn’t sure if I could get healthy whole foods in Stockton!

As is often said in spiritual circles, we plan and God laughs.

My plan did give me several delightful years of studying music. This introduced me to long term friends and gave me the capacity to write chord charts for my songs so I could speak to my accompanists in their language. But an undergrad degree in music was not to be, nor was music therapy. The first glitch was finding out how poorly I fit the model of the successful music student at UCSC! As I prepared to transfer, I realized that the program was no fit for a single mother who had come to the study of music late in life. I held onto the dream, declared music as my minor, and took on the Community Studies major with the intent to use that major to focus on healing childhood trauma.

It was in my first Community Studies class, perhaps in my first week at UCSC, that I met the story that was to change the course of my life. The class was CMMU 100: Health Activism. The class was an introduction to the theory and practice of social change through the lens of issues related to health. The class introduced me to the public health model, a model that looks beyond individual choice to examine social, cultural, and other contextual factors that influence outcomes and produce trends. Without further ado, I present the story here, as I remember it. I acknowledge that I have certainly embellished upon the story over the course of the years, so I hope the original writer will forgive my liberties.

Once upon a time, a group of professionals was walking alongside a river, deeply engaged in inspiring conversation. In the group there was a doctor, a social worker, a therapist, an elected official, a minister, the director of a nonprofit agency, and many others who cared deeply about children and families and worked to make their lives better.


Suddenly, a nurse in the group spotted a child drifting by on the current, struggling mightily to keep from drowning. As the child succumbed and began to disappear beneath the surface, the nurse jumped in the river, pulled out the child, and began resuscitation procedures. Just then, another struggling child appeared in the currents, and the doctor jumped in to retrieve her. Then another came down river, then another, and another.


Pretty soon, all of the professionals were jumping into the river, pulling out the children, performing triage, and helping those they could help to the best of their abilities. But it was, in many ways, a lost cause, because the children kept pouring downstream, struggling to keep from drowning, and in many cases being pulled under to their death. The professionals simply did not have the bandwidth to save all of the children.


Finally, the minister, having just lost yet another child, stood up and loudly declared, “I’m going upstream to see what’s causing all these children to fall in the river!”

And so ends the story,

at least as I heard it in CMMU 100, and at least as the potent impetus that provoked my shift from focusing my studies on the healing of childhood trauma to prevention. That decision proved to be much more than an academic choice. It opened up a different way of thinking that ultimately led to different career choices. I never became a music therapist, but after that incident the lesson of the story had informed my rich and varied career. And eventually I did get my Masters degree, but in a different field than envisioned.

The story has deeply impacted how I think about problems in the world.

Where there are trends, there are macrocosmic causations, and the most powerful place to make change is at the level of those macros, rather than with the individual. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fish the kids out of the river, but by all means, let us also go upstream and keep them from falling in if we can.

Fast forward to now.

That story, and the systematic approach it inspires, is now deeply embedded in me; yet, as most people enculturated in our individualistic society, I often find myself looking for the cause of things within the individual. Up until recently, when I spoke with people about the connection between food and health, I have been focusing on the individual food choices that result in disease and those that result in health.

What’s great about an individual focus is that since we do each have choice, we are empowered to make a new choice. What’s not so helpful is that in failing to acknowledge the labyrinth of contextual factors which condition and sometimes even constrain our choices, sustainable change cannot occur. Some very resourceful child or a child with proactive parents might learn how to be a super strong swimmer, and therefore survive the dunking in the river, and her act might inspire others to also learn to swim well. But the paradigm remains the same, and the majority of children are still being swept up into the treacherous currents.

This is the place where we find ourselves

in the realm of food today in the 21st century in the United States of America, and increasingly around the world as people adopt our dietary patterns.

If the minister in our story went upstream to find out what was causing so many of our “children” of every age to be drowning in the river of overweight, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, etc., she would find that the Standard American Diet is throwing the people of America into this mess. And if she looked further upstream at what was putting the Standard American Diet onto so many people’s plates and forks, she would find a complex interconnected collection of contextual factors, intentionally chosen by industries and other vested interests who are more focused on their own bottom line than on the health and well-being of those drowning in the river.

I write a little about the specific components of the web of contextual factors that condition our food choices in my post “Set Up for Disease? We CAN Overcome!”

For today’s post though, I want to return to the story of the river.

I told this story recently in one of my classes, and I got a very astute question from one of the participants. She asked what happened after the minister went upstream. In retrospect, I realize the answer I gave her was less than visionary. I told her that is where the story ended. While it is true that when I heard the story, it ended there. As a parable, that ending makes the point of the lesson, I think, because it provokes the insight that proactivity is essential, and that reactivity is unsustainable. I truly hope, however, that a river of people “drowning” as a result of the food they are eating is only the current phase, and not the end of the actual story.

If I could go back to that class, here is the ending I wish I had given:

The minister started her journey up the river, joined by the physician. Now this physician had been a very proactive and resourceful person all her life. When she was attending medical school and, like her peers, was only given one cursory nutrition class, she decided to learn more about nutrition so that she could more effectively steer her patients toward a healthful lifestyle. She completely continuing education through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Her friend, the minister, was also well versed in whole foods plant-based nutrition, having started on a health food path in her very early years.


When the two of them made it upstream to the cause of the trouble, neither one of them was terribly surprised to find that the Standard American Diet was throwing not just the children, but most of the people of the United States of American into a fast moving, treacherous river of disease, that was sweeping up people of every age, putting them on a fast track to death and robbing them of their vitality for the final years or even decades of their lives.


Being smart and curious professionals, the doctor and the minister decided to go upstream a little further to figure out what was causing that diet to be the choice of so many Americans. They found the first layer of causation in nutritional confusion, significant cultural pressures, and the addictive nature of so many of the food items of choice. They also noticed that the Standard American Diet with its emphasis on meat, dairy, and convenience foods, was the most accessible, normalized choice. Inquisitively, they headed upstream to see what was normalizing these toxic foods and making them the most expeditious choice.


What they found amazed them! It turned out that billions of dollars were being spent to get the American people to eat this dreadful diet! They found a cluster of individuals, groups, corporations, industries, governmental bodies, and policies that contributed to the confusion, the cultural pressures, and the food addictions. And they found that the reason these expenditures were being made is that these individuals, groups, corporations, industries, and their buddies were making trillions of dollars off of the sickness of the multitudes being swept into the river of disease! It was no accident that so many people were sick, disabled, and dying; it was entirely intentional, strategically created for the purpose of greed.


And it turned out that sweeping people into this river of disease by promoting animal-based diets was also causing the torture and death of billions of animals each year, and the destruction of our precious earth. Sadly, it was also contributing to food shortages and economic instability in third world countries.


These realizations catalyzed our dynamic duo into action! Together, they rallied all their friends. They used the power of social media, their Facebook networks, YouTube, LinkedIn, and so many other tools of connection. They spoke to all of the groups and organizations who truly cared about human health, the earth, the animals. They spearheaded a coalition of concerned parties that were stronger together than any single entity was on its own.


As this coalition earnestly set about the task of dismantling the constellation of factors that had resulted in the pervasiveness of the Standard American Diet, they also began putting in its place supports, incentives, and education that promoted consumption of whole plant foods. Their efforts began taking hold and a paradigm shift began to happen. Meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and processed food were moved to the margins of many people’s plates, and entirely off the plates and forks of many more people. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds began to take their rightful place at the center of the plates, and entirely filling the plates in many, many cases.


And what was happening downstream? Well, as the cause of the epidemics was being addressed, the rescue team had fewer and fewer people to pull out of the river. They were able to more effectively address the downstream victims, because the upstream measures insured that far fewer individuals were being pitched into the roiling waters of disease.


Eventually, the whole culture was changed, and those peoples around the world who had previously copied the toxic eating patterns of Americans had a new, healthy, vibrant model to emulate. Health and vitality became the norm. The earth began to recover. Mistreatment of animals ceased. It was a new age of Eden, and everyone tasted of the fruit that was good.

Is this fable possible?

I don’t know, but I do know that it is worthy of our time, love, energy, and attention. If you feel called to be part of this upstream revolution and want to go there with me, please let me know!

I’m Soup Again

I’m Soup Again

Have you ever been in a liminal state?

Liminality is a condition in which you had exited from one way of being but had not yet completely crossed the threshold into the new you? This place of being not the thing you were but not yet the thing you will be has often been likened to the pupal stage of metamorphosis, the time when the caterpillar has ceased to be and the butterfly has not yet become.

Just what is happening during that stage?

What is going on in the pupal stage for the insect or the place of liminality for a human? This article in Scientific American says that in the cocoon or chrysalis, the caterpillar secretes enzymes to dissolve itself! What is inside of the cocoon or chrysalis is “caterpillar soup.”

Well, “soup” is an apt description of my current state of being.

I have been here before many times in my incredible life, so on some level, I trust that there will be a full-fledged manifestation of my next metamorphic stage. I also trust that it will be equally as amazing as the previous stage was, just as the butterfly is as wondrous as the caterpillar.

What’s it like to be soup?

Not very comfortable, I must admit! As a creature who loves to take action, who thrives on clarity, and who prides myself on knowing things, breathing through a state of not-know is extremely challenging! In fact, I would rather plan, organize, and implement 22 events in 13 weeks than be present for this feeling of disintegration.


In fact, what I actually did from October 1 to December 29 was plan, organize, and implement 22 events in 13 weeks! And ironically, that is what it took for the caterpillar that I was to recognize the need to completely dissolve myself so I could become what I feel called to be. The caterpillar was marvelous, AND it had gone through its final molt before pupating. It was clear that the time to enter the transformational pupal stage had arrived. I let go of the known and took a leap of faith into the unknown.

Alright, already!

So I have now been soup for about one month. I feel ready to begin the process of coalescing into the new form. I’m so grateful that, like the caterpillar soup in the cocoon, some very special cells, “imaginal discs,” have survived the disintegration process and have within them a complete blueprint for the next phase of my existence. It is an act of faith to rely on this, and faith is what has gotten me through so many pupal experiences before.

I can’t wait to see what emerges, and to share this new form with you. In the meantime, I’m soup. That is not only okay, but also necessary and ultimately beneficial, for me and for those I am meant to serve.


Have you ever been soup?

What emerged after your experience of liminality?

A Fishing Trip with Dad

A Fishing Trip with Dad

The following is an excerpt from Sensational Salads to Cool the Earth, by Beth Love.

When I was a child, maybe 10 or 11 years old, and several years before the advent of vegetarianism in my family, our father took my sister and brother and me out on a fishing expedition. If I remember correctly, he chartered a boat and we went out on the sea. Much of the experience is lost in the depths of memory, but I do clearly recall that I was the only person who caught a fish, a very large tuna. I also remember the sound of the fish after it had been hauled into the boat, disconnected from the hook, and placed into a wooden box on the deck; in fact this sound is the crispest part of the memory. For the rest of that expedition, until it finally died, the fish flopped around in the box, causing crashing, erratic, drum-like sounds. I was fixated on those sounds. They forcefully drove me to face the fact that I was the instigator of the slow, painful death of a living creature. If, as seems likely, there was blood in the box when the fish was removed, or if the body of the fish was lacerated from its heroic struggles, I have completely blocked these things out of my memory.

In recalling the incident, I want to believe that I begged and pleaded with my father to let the fish go. I can almost see my child self doing that, hear myself crying out for mercy for the fish. I even seem to have a vague recollection of my dad taking a stubborn stand; after all, he had paid good money to charter the boat for the purpose of catching fish! In actuality, however, I don’t really know if I even made the suggestion that the fish be released. I may have simply sat, silent and numb, feeling disempowered to right the wrong that I had surely just committed.

I also want to believe that I took a stand when my Baba (Dad’s mother) cooked the fish and served it to us later that day. I want to believe that I refused to eat it and that I made my reasons clear. But I don’t really know whether I ate it or not, or whether I said anything or not.

I fantasize about the idea of having had that incident be a conversion experience—of having sworn off of eating living creatures ever after. I know that that did not happen.

How is it that most of us who live in cultures in which the eating of meat is normalized become so shut off from the ethical and spiritual dimensions of routine cruelty and killing? How have we, as a species, so fully otherized our animal brothers and sisters such that we can take their bloody, dead bodies into our bodies for pleasure without even giving it a second thought? How can we tolerate the ripping of children away from their mothers in order that we might enjoy the mothers’ milk? Or the excruciatingly horrifying realities of imprisoning animals in Auschwitz-style conditions so we can take pleasure from consuming their body parts, their children, their potential children?

(The photo is of my dad, my siblings Craig and Alix, and me, taken around the time of the fishing trip. I am wearing a treasured pair of bleach-dyed bell-bottoms that my dad bought me, after much begging and pleading and protestations to his suggestion that I get a pair of JC Penney’s “plain-pockets!”)