The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

Why Pseudo-Vegan

My rented dog did not give me enough distraction from work, so I clicked on a stray link to a Youtube video, looking for a two-minute entertainment of the intellectual level of dancing kitties. Said video was Earthlings, a feature-length documentary on industrial animal processing. I always had an aloof attitude towards such matters, and I found the explicit images of the documentary didactic and biased. I went back to work without thinking much about it. Living in Argentina at the time, my meals revolved around steaks which underwent varying degrees of incineration. The next day when I went for my lunch, the images from the documentary kept coming back, and I could not eat the charred piece of animal matter in front of me. I have been stuck in that condition ever since, and while preventing animal abuse is the primary reason why I am a sort of vegan, other reasons also emerged.

Hairy pigs taking a nap

You shall not be devoured.

Note that I am not entirely vegan. I do eat terrestrial invertebrates without the slightest sense of remorse. I agree, the way pigs are kept is unimaginable horror. Eggs pop out from the cloaca of hell. It is revolting that every dairy product has a permitted level of puss as a by-product of how milking machines work. On the other hand, I find nothing wrong with frying a grasshopper. I developed a taste for our jointed-legged friends while cycling through Isaan, the northeast region of Thailand. For centuries this area was a hostile environment for animal husbandry, and the primary source of protein had been various types of insects. The tradition lasted until the 1960s when a government initiative introduced an unnecessary level of abstraction, the chicken. Now the chickens eat the insects, and people the chickens. Yet, if you scout the markets, you can still find all sorts of tasty fried bugs. They are crunchy, spicy, and they are 90% protein, so they should be the essential part of the diet of any body builder. Non-terrestrial invertebrates, however, are outrageously overexploited, and should be left out from our diet, unless we find a way to stew barnacles.

Fried insect in Isaan

Abstraction-free protein source which is most delicious with lime.

When blood sugar drops below a certain level, the human body begins to produce the exact same stress hormone as when a drug-addict cannot get his next dose, or when an alcoholic cannot reach for the glass on a hungover morning. This stress hormone makes hungry people so grumpy. I inherited a very bad temper from my grandfather, going from perfectly calm to raging mad in about 0.05 seconds. While my grandfather is a giant of a man, my body mass index reaches eighteen from below, and only on a better day. A scrawny bloke with veins bulging out of his red head is a deplorable sight, I would better avoid getting angry. If I suspect that my blood sugar is getting low and I am in a situation that might trigger my temper, I will resort to eating just about anything. The weapon of choice against myself is typically an ice cream. I hate ice cream with all my heart. It is pure animal fat mixed with sugar and artificial flavourings. It is the united symbol of exploitive imperialism, sarcastic capitalism, and unbounded human ignorance, but it does magic to one’s blood sugar, and thus indirectly to one’s temper.

Ice cream vending machine

“Heroin, be the death of me.”

With the above in mind, vegan food is great because it reduces complexity. I love simplicity above everything. Being reduced to a more limited range of ingredients, I waste less time in the supermarket. I can happily skip the meat counter, I can ignore the frozen pizzas, I can walk by the dairy section without casting a look at the hypocrite products depicting grazing cows, strong bones, and idiot children, and proceed straight to canned lentils and bags of rice. The same thing happens in a restaurant: if there is a vegan choice, there is at most one, otherwise I have to be content with a salad, warning the waitress that grated cheese and deep-fried bacon bits do not count as vegan food. I also do not have to waste effort on thinking how I drink my coffee: I drink it black, and that is that. The fewer the options the merrier I am.

Beef and pork butchers in Goa

Vendors to be skipped.

Given my hatred for cooking, being vegan is a blessing. The more limited the range of your ingredients, the lower the chance you mess up something. Plant material also tends to behave more predictably. Cans of beans on my shelf will not change shape. My quinoa will not grow evil tentacles even if stored for a long time. Tofu will ferment but will taste more interesting. Mushrooms will behave well for an indefinite amount of time even if I forget about them. Green vegetables, however, do have the nasty habit of acquiring a darker colour and a bad smell. If you happen to live in Japan, misbehaving veggies can easily be replaced by dried seaweed and algae, which keep forever. If you ever tried cooking anything from frozen meat, you will appreciate the predictability of vegan food.

Chickenfoot in a puddle

This chicken foot would increase the entropy of my diet, hence it is unlikely to make it to my plate.

Digesting the vegan meal is also a breeze. The primary reason for post-lunch drowsiness is that your stomach requires more blood to process all the junk presented to it. The main culprit is animal protein, which spends the longest time there before moving on to the next section of the digestive track. Animal proteins are very complex compounds, consisting of thousands of amino acids, and they have to be broken down to these elementary amino acids before they can enter the blood stream. If you slurp up a bowl of pig’s brain soup for lunch, the body cannot just suck up the proteins of the pig’s brain and plug it in to your brain, it does not work like that. The protein is first broken down to a gazillion amino acids, which then enter the blood stream, then the individual cells, where they reassembled to a variety of other proteins. Plants do not contain complex proteins, they tend to contain the elementary amino acids. Again, the entire digestion process simplifies by removing the need to break down something complex. The result of the simplification is a pleasant lack of post-meal drowsiness.

A happy alpaca

This alpaca was not unhappy.

Clothing is a different matter. I am barely a vegetarian in that regard. Leather is a crime like no other. A visit to a fur farm should be mandatory for anyone purchasing a derived product. On the other hand, there is simply no alternative to merino wool when it comes to t-shirts, undies, socks, baselayer, sweaters, hats, and I really wish they would make dress shirts of this fantastic fabric. There is at least one brand that lets you track the source of fabric of your purchase back to the farm where it comes from, introducing a sense of transparency, so you can be content that the sheep are jolly. Then there are musk oxen, for example, who just love shearing. It is like a massage to them, and they trample over one another to be shorn first. The resulting yarn, the qiviut, is apparently the finest wool in the world, and it is processed by Inuit families. A hat costs US$100, so I am not the proud owner of any qiviut garment, but the point I am trying to make is that wearing vegetarian clothing is not necessarily an act to be ashamed of. I am also yet to see an unhappy alpaca.

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