Monday, October 11, 2010

Veggie Friendly

Salute to Mr. Natural
You may or may not know, but Isadora Duncan was an “on again, off again” vegetarian for most of her life. Duncan biographer Peter Kurth supposes that the Duncans first decided to eat veggie after a cross-Atlantic trip from New York to London on a cattle boat. In her ever-endearing talent for romanticizing difficulties, Duncan writes of the experience in My Life, “Altogether it was a very happy time, in spite of the hardships, and only the bellowings and moanings of the poor cattle in the hold depressed us.” Of course, Isadora’s brother Raymond spearheaded many of the family’s more austere moral commitments, and he maintained the disciplines of both vegetarianism and alternative dress (tunics and sandals) for the duration of his life.

Duncan, on the other hand, was more emotive in her decision-making, and although she was inconsistent in her commitment to vegetarian eating over the course of her life, she did express strong opinions about the moral verity of eating a no-meat diet.  Expanding on Bernard Shaw’s analogy between killing animals and war, Duncan writes, “as long as men torture and slay animals and eat their flesh we shall have war. I think all sane, thinking people must be of this opinion…. Sometimes during the war, when I heard the cries of the wounded I thought of the cries of the animals in the slaughter-house, and I felt that, as we torture these poor defenseless creatures, so the gods torture us.” Having lived in Europe during the First World War, and even donating Bellevue, the site of her school in France, for use as a hospital, Duncan’s experience of the violent consequences of war was first-hand. She goes on to say, “While we are ourselves the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal conditions on the earth?” (Duncan, My Life).

Running to Kerbey on the weekend!
Duncan may not have realized it, but she was advocating the application of the yogic principle ahimsa, nonviolence, to relations between both people and animals and among people. The notion of ahimsa underscores the commitment to vegetarian eating for many yogis, and just as Austin is an abundantly yoga-friendly town, it is also a veggie-friendly town.  This is important for a city whose culture centers on casual dining and a “foodie” fascination in addition to the live music scene.  And while there are many veggie restaurants worth mentioning in town, two of my favorites, both for the quality and range of choices and for the reasonable prices, are Mr. Natural (pictured above and also mentioned in last week’s post) and, of course, Kerbey Lane, whose menu features local produce (as well as non-veggie options for the inconsistent among you!).