I was afraid to read Eating Animals. Very afraid. One of my husband's most macho, beef-eating, football-watching, no-feelings-having friends read it and didn't eat chicken for a year. After that, that book became my Pandora's box. Day after day, I saw it on the employees' picks table of my local bookstore, McNally Jackson Books, a bookstore in Soho, which, considering how tiny my studio above it was, became like my second living room. (Or only living room, really.)
*Spoiler alert*, as in I'm not going to spoil that book. I'm not going to be the one to share the horrors that make up the meat industry: the pollution, the waste, the cruelty to animals, the inhumanity to workers, the bad health effects of eating food raised in noxious conditions. I'm not going to do that for a couple reasons, chief among them the fact that I once lived next door to a militant vegetarian. She was a young mother, probably lonely and bored, and she used to spend hours calling companies to find out what was really in your favorite brand of licorice you happened to mention you liked eating.
Then she'd tell you.
It was never good.
All that's to say, Foer's book is nothing like that, because it wasn't just about disgust but about hope and humanity, too. It's filled with compassion for animal suffering and, yes, a decent dose of disgust at what the industry is doing to the planet as much as to the animals being butchered like they're simply cogs on an assembly line being rendered for parts, and, most of all, for the low-income earning people who have to do it.
After I moved away from Soho, I forgot about that book until I became more and more interested in sustainable fashion-- also because of living in Soho. The mobs of shoppers thronging those streets used to be in such a frenzy when I tried to walk my dog, they'd scream, "Better pick up that dog before it gets trampled to death."
It was not a relaxing place to come home to.
Shopping ceased symbolizing a harmless activity after that. There was something more sinister at work, if glazed-over, zombified humans were what the shopping experience could turn normal folks into. When I went to my local library, though, they didn't have anything on the subject. Instead, in the same section reserved for all things granola I suppose, they had Foer's book. I took it out, but I still didn't read it. It was when I was returning it unread, I finally screwed up enough courage to peek inside.
And then I kept reading.
And reading. Partially, because he's so readable, but also because I was horrified. That was also the day I became a vegetarian even though three weeks later I'd have to put that project on pause for ten months. However, what I'm not sharing here, I did share with my husband. I shared what I read, just the facts mind you, and he became a vegetarian, too. His stomach problems vanished by the way, and my skin has never looked nicer, if that's any inducement to anybody. We're also both losing the baby weight-- he got a sympathy tummy-- at a decent clip. Those are all good, superficial reasons for making the switch to a meat-free diet, but there are even better ones. Ones that will make you feel more human, or at least, more mindful for not eating animals-- especially factory-farm raised ones. It feels good to consciously choose not to participate in a cruel game whose fashion world equivalent are stampeding herds of humanity, too maddened with lust for the latest trend to avoid stomping a little dog to death. But, like I said, I think deciding to read up on such an upsetting topic is up to the individual. What I really want to share is that, for my part, and to my great surprise, becoming a vegetarian has made me feel 100% better inside and out.
And now a recipe.
I'm also lucky, as in my husband can cook, otherwise I'd be stuck eating a lot of pizza and pasta and bagels. One of my favorite recipes he's come up with is a variation of Food & Wine's Crispy Kale with Lemon-Yogurt Dip. You can try the original recipe here or Ryan's version below.
1 pound curly kale, stems and large inner ribs removed
3 tablespoons of truffle-infused olive oil (The original version uses plain olive oil, either works.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I, personally, would find that part too complicated and would probably use lemon juice, but that is probably why I'm a terrible, lazy cook, who once infamously mixed a can of tuna fish with chili, "because it ends up in the same place anyway". Also, that way there's less dishes. This is why my husband doesn't let me cook.)
1 teaspoon berber spice (We also learned about this spice when we lived in Soho. Public, a really good restaurant in the neighborhood and recently featured in a Jessica Jones episode, taught us to put this on our eggs and then let our mouths orgasm, which is also what this recipe did to my surprise. I hate kale chips, but this is much better and tastier.)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss the kale with the cheese, garlic, berber spice, and olive oil. Spread the kale on 2 baking sheets and roast in the upper nad lower thirds of the oven for about 15 minutes, until crisp; shift the pans from top to bottom halfway through. Season the kale with salt and pepper and transfer to a large platter.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the lemon zest and juice and teh remaining garlic and 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the roasted kale.
An old shoot for a lookbook. The other model informed me that "only one girl can win" when a shoot features two models. I just thought, "Oh boy, Gloria Steinem! We need you! Someone shine the bat light over Gotham!" The following story proves my point even more.
"Let them win."
That's what the librarian with Hermione Granger's curls and Harry Potter's glasses was hissing at me from the wings of Union Hall's basement's stage. Me? I was centerstage, under the spotlight, absolutely owning the two guys on either side of me in the "Guess the Pseudonym" category of the Librarian Olympics.
Wild times, I know. But hey, it was a Thursday night in Brooklyn, and I was pregnant.
The dramatic irony of the situation didn't escape me despite three factors: my stage fright, how much the MC's crazy suggestion enraged me, and, most of all, despite the fact I was so focused on ABSOLUTELY NOT letting the two men I was competing with win anyway. Because...
Well, just because. I've always been competitive. Even six-months pregnant on a Thursday night in Brooklyn.
The total craziness of what the Contender for the World's Worst Feminist was saying didn't fully sink in until later. My husband and I had combed the paper for events sponsored by the Brooklyn Book Festival. Although I'm not a librarian, and I wasn't sure we'd be welcome, we were. Still, it was mostly a librarian crew in attendance in that very cool space below Union Hall's bocce courts, recently profiled in the New York Times here.
And when I say cool, I mean it was an uber-Brooklyn event par excellence with judges like David Rees, author and proprietor of an artisanal pencil sharpening joint.
And I am not making that up. http://artisanalpencilsharpening.com/)
I enjoyed watching and not participating in events like "Name That Novel" based on covers of books with the titles removed, if memory serves. I do clearly remember there was one guy who knew absolutely everything, and everyone knew him. They were all cheering him on. All of 'em-- Miss "Let 'Em Win, too. And he didn't once pull back or let someone else win or "shrink himself and make himself smaller" to paraphrase Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihie's "We Should All Be Feminists". Luckily for me (or maybe luckily for him), that guy didn't volunteer for the "Guess the Pseudonym" category hosted by Carmela Ciuraru, author of Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, but I did. Naturally, that's a category I know a little about, especially considering my personal experience with the phenomenon. (I first used a male-ish pseudonym when I was first writing.)
In some ways, I regret not sticking with that male-ish name: Izzy David. Especially when I read what I read today. After I couldn't remember Carmela Ciuraru's name, I Googled pseudonyms and authors. These are the depressing stories a Google search brought up:
"Want to Be a Successful Writer? Be a Man".
And "Why Women Writers Still Take Men's Names"
Actually, I'm not depressed. It's only 2016. We have a whole bright century ahead of us, ladies (and gentleman, too, because I doubt you want your daughters-- or granddaughters-to-be-- to let the men win, either.). And I'm glad I switched to my actual name. I'm proud of my work, and I'm proud to be part of a positive change in the world and its perception of women. I do believe it's coming yet! When man to woman the world o'er will brothers and sister be yet. (To paraphrase Robert Burns this time). There is a difference, slight as it feels sometimes. Charlotte Bronte HAD to write under a male pseudonym. Her publisher told her it wasn't proper to publish books written by women.
"Proper" being 19th century speak for "let the men win."
And maybe I owe that MC a favor, too. Maybe, what with my tongue-tied tendencies, I wouldn't have owned those two guys quite so easily, even though it was a subject dear to my heart, if that other librarian hadn't told me to let them win.
It isn't only men who like a challenge. Fueled by rage, my shyness evaporated.
Over my dead body was I going to lose.
I didn't. And, best of all, the two men, the audience, and Carmen were not only totally fine with it. I'd entertained everyone with how thoroughly I showed only a woman could win at what was, in effect, a woman's game.
So that's the moral of the story. Also, if you're a man reading this, please pick up a book by a woman. If you want grit, there's Katherine Boo's stellar reporting in Beyond the Beautiful Forevers. Try Nancy Mitford's biography of Frederick the Great if you're thirsting for military adventures or Connie Willis if you're thirsting for sci-fi. She's won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards, and I've never heard a fanboy (or girl for that matter) utter her name. For more on women's voices in fiction, theater, and the world, please check out my book of poems here, available soon from Finishing Line Press or Amazon:. Or this piece about juggling writing and mommying published in the perspectives section of Easy Street Mag here.
I'm a busy mommy of two and a writer who loves fashion. I also want to teach myself and my children to care for and love the environment! I don't have the energy or time to be as 100% perfect as I'd like to be about my carbon footprint, but I'm trying to do the best I can. For example, I switched to a vegetarian diet (with a little bit of fish thrown in for now-- ah I cannot live without fish tacos!--), walk when I don't have to drive, wear as many sustainably made or secondhand clothes as I can, and recycle in other ways, too. Follow me as I try (at least 50% of the time) to strike a balance between the two-- mothering and writing, shopping and sustainability. You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram @IsabellaMDavid.