What Happens When a Vegan Falls in Love With a Carnivore—an Actual Hunter, Even?
A love story about two opposite lifestyles.
(page 2 of 3)
Illustrations: Erin Maala
WHEN WE FIRST STARTED DATING, I made neutral, gateway vegan breakfasts such as peanut butter, banana and pumpkin seeds on toast; curried tofu scramble; brown rice and quinoa cooked with taro and coconut milk. But then I slowly began buying eggs, then yogurt. Brie, even. I felt the queasy lurch of hypocrisy, wrapped in acute anxiety that I would run into someone I know at the grocery store and have to exclaim, “I thought it was vegan Brie!” I didn’t know who I was more afraid of—fellow vegans and their surprisingly uncompassionate judgment, or carnivores who would revel in my bullshittery.
A Neanderthal sitting on my shoulder whisper-grunted, If you feed him nutritional yeast sprinkled on kale, he will leave you.
What’s spectacular about new relationships is how they bring out insecurities you hadn’t even considered. I could never be one of the girls Hunter would wax nostalgic about dispatching bunnies with—side by side, holding hands, and the dead bunnies. The kind of girl that could joke about rabbit being the cutest protein, and not feel the skin on her soul crawl. The kind of girl he didn’t call excessively compassionate, as if it were a weakness.
Before I knew it, I was cooking him wild salmon burger loco mocos and birthday bacon cupcakes frosted with bourbon caramel and amaretto buttercream. I hadn’t touched a package of bacon for years, and bought the most expensive “cruelty free” organic bacon from pigs that had frolicked in more wide-open spaces than some urban children—but it still made my heart wince. Why did it haunt me? I watched the most thoughtful, inspiring and world-saving obsessed people I know eat Spam, and I couldn’t help but wonder—why can’t I just eat Spam? I tried not to be the stereotypical self-righteous vegan, but how could mouths that bemoan the mistreatment of dogs and cats consume Spam musubi,
of all things?
There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but, if you’re a 30-something vegan woman living in Hawai‘i—the state where Spam is worthy of its own festival—you eventually begin to say, “To hell with everything I believe in, I’m lonely,” and reach for hands that have just snapped a dozen bunny necks.
With every animal product that found its way into my kitchen, I sacrificed a little bit of my ability to sleep at night. (Literally. If pharmaceuticals had years like the Chinese zodiac, 2014 would have been year of the Ambien.)
I couldn’t help imagining an enduring companionship with Hunter, a life built in our sustainably designed Venn-diagrammed space—sharing a bucket to poop in in order to create beautiful compost together (humanure—Google it); splitting protein bars during marathon used-book–buying binges; me dragging him (clothed) on a trail run, and him dragging me (naked) into even the smallest of waterfall pools; waking to a sky of silhouetted leaves in Kalalau or to the silver glinting of wild dolphins between us and the horizon—waking to the known, warm shiftings of one another but persistently thrilled by each day’s unknown adventure and D.I.Y. wonder.
I wanted to own goats, minus the part where we eat them. I wanted to not hear him tell his roommates how he put his sweet goat down after the goat was attacked by hunting dogs.
“Did Shippy make it?”
“He made it to the pot. He was delicious.”
“How did he die?”
“I slit his throat. His head is out front, if you want to see.”
“I DON’T GET ATTACHED to my food.”
“How can’t you?”
At the beginning, I ignored the livestock pigeons caged in his backyard in order to keep my moral compass from spinning in nauseating circles. When the baby goats and pigs arrived, I understood they were his food, but that didn’t stop me from putting a camo harness on the pig and taking her to Mākua beach (success!) or from swaddling the baby girl goat in a pink vest and trying to take her hiking in Mānoa with my goat-loving blue heeler (epic fail!). I tried to be present, to not juxtapose the half-smiling face as I rubbed a pig’s belly with the image of another, rotating over a fire. I tried not to see the randomness of affection. I didn’t think I would love the type of person who could kill. Perhaps he never imagined sharing even a dark corner of his heart with a vegan, her Tolstoy-quoting T-shirt proclaiming, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will always be battlefields.” I should have known better than to snuggle a man’s food and dress it in floral-print spring fashions, but I hoped that compassion would be terms for detente, and that somehow we would all survive.