What do you eat?

During a retreat at Esalen Institute Alan Watts was asked what type of diet he followed. Since he was a philosopher of eastern thought and a man of wisdom, some guessed, perhaps it might be a macrobiotic or vegetarian diet. His reply was. “I only eat three kinds of foods; the gourmet cooking of the French, Chinese and Japanese.” 

Today  I want to clarify some words that many might be confused about or are using incorrectly. These words such as meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, herbivore and omnivore relate to the world of food and the culinary arts. 

It is important to understand the definitions and the correct usage of words to have clear and accurate communication with others. To clarify here, unless everyone understands and uses words that have a particular meaning in the same and precise way, we are in danger of revisiting the biblical tower of Babel. This already seems to be the case in the political and social arenas. 

 In the world of food as it relates to animals, we all seem pretty clear about: herbavore and carnivore, i.e. plant eater and meat eater. Carnivores such as the tyranasaurus rex, lions, tigers and wolves. Herbavores such as the brontosaurus, antelope, deer, koala bears, rabbits, and wombats. 

And of course, the omnivores: hunters and gatherers. Omnivores eat foods from all categories, such as a bear that eats berries and salmon, or a bird that eats fruits and insects. Humans were hunters and gatherers before the agrarian and industrial eras. Humans have omnivore teeth. 

If you already know this stuff please bear (no pun intended) with me. 

The  most confusion about words seems to dwell with humans: Are you a vegan, vegetarian, omnivore or carnivore? 

A vegetarian is one who eats vegetation (plants). A carnivore is one who eats meat. A vegetarian’s diet could consist of vegetables, seaweed, roots, legumes, seeds, nuts, and fruits. 

A meat eater’s diet could consist of four legged creatures such as cows, sheep, goats, deer, pigs, or winged creatures such as chicken, hens, and pheasants. Then there is seafood of all kinds from tuna and squid to crabs and clams. 

If you eat any animal you are a carnivore or an omnivore. Not a vegetarian as some may claim. 

If you eat, as I do, plants then you are a vegetarian. I also eat dairy and eggs so I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian. 

If I only ate plants as well as nothing that is derived from animals including honey, dairy, eggs, and bee pollen – than I would be a vegan. 

 Most vegans also do not wear or use anything that is derived from animals such as leather, feathers, down, and furs. 

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds live on nectar and provide the service of pollination as a gift. Humans can’t do this. 

 Which category do you fall into?

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