Lent 9: Fast and Abstinence

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This morning (meaning yesterday morning since this post is late… oops), Child and I went to A&W for breakfast before he drove me to work. As it’s Friday and it’s Lent, that means that I’m fasting and abstaining from meat. Yeah, I know, normally fasting doesn’t start with fast food for breakfast. I need to eat when I take my seizure meds. That’s my rationale and I’m stickin’ to it. Anyway, I’m not a monster, so the fasting fast food breakfast at least needed to be abstaining. A&W has a plant-sourced sausage patty that they use in their egg sammies, and I quite enjoy it, so that’s what I got.

I was thinking though, *technically* I didn’t eat meat. But it tastes very meaty, and it has a good mouth-feel like real meat, so did I actually do the spirit of the exercise?

When I eat by myself (lunch at work, dinner when my gentleman associate is elsewhere), I’m just as likely to not eat meat as I am to eat meat. Not because I want to be a vegetarian, because my vegetarian leanings are mostly environmental impact and the fact that I’ll happily have eggs for dinner. Although, when my gentleman associate tells me that the cow we bought into is being slaughtered that day I do feel a little more morose than when my MamaEarth Organics newsletter says that one of their vendors has pulled all the baby onions out of the ground. So I dunno. I have no illusions about where my meat comes from, but I don’t want to look into it’s eyes before it ends up in my freezer. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t tell me it’s name. My gentleman associate used to hunt. I’m OK with him bringing a deer wrapped in butcher paper, but I don’t want to sit in the tree stand with him or help him field dress it. No thanks.

I’m veering off topic, here…

I know lots of vegetarians, and there seem to be two major buckets that their reasoning falls into. They don’t want to harm animals, or they believe that not eating animal based protien will help a health challenge they’re facing. Both excellent reasons. Some in the latter group even miss eating meat, and it is for these people that I think that meatless meat, like the sausage I had in my egg sammy at A&W, is becoming more popular. I worked with a vegetarian years ago who was horrified at a chili cookoff that someone would use a meat analog in their recipe. She mused about why someone who didn’t want to eat meat would want it to feel like they were eating meat. I think there are more people who fall into that category now than she thinks there is, and that’s why these plant-based meat products are gaining traction.

So, here’s my conundrum… the point of fast and abstinence is to feel denied. It’s to remind our RC selves of the sacrifices others make on a daily basis, and the ultimate sacrifice that JC made for us all. So if I’m not *really* denying myself with the Beyond Meat, that’s maybe a weaselly way of sliding out of my obligation. I had a similar debate with myself a few years ago when decided that I would piggyback a dairy and wheat purge (which are upsetting to my system) onto my Lent efforts. So if it’s something that’s a benefit to me, that doesn’t really make it a denial. I mean, sure, I don’t get to have cheese toast during my allergy elimination cycles, and that’s denying me the delicious delicious cheese toast. But really, maybe not the spirit of the denial exercise we were aiming for. Because really, if I’m going to give up cheese toast or pasta or bacon on Fridays or (insert vice/luxury/indulgence here), and it will help *me* be more healthy/stable/else, that’s not about my spiritual betterment. But it maybe does make me a better steward of this mortal vessel, right? Still, I don’t want this process to just be a 40-day mulligan on New Year’s “Quit poisoning yourself, dummy” resolutions.

I mean sure, giving up something that’s easy isn’t the point – you should feel like you are missing something. Today (meaning yesterday because I’m late), it’s that I could have had bacon and I had a different meat substitute instead. It’s that if it wasn’t Friday, I would have gotten bacon. La Famiglia will revisit this Denial vs Abstinence on Fridays quandary once more when we have Good Friday Fishfest. Every year, someone always remarks that surely the Pasta and Peas and salted cod and merluzzi and calamari are not a hardship. But we gather and think about that, and maybe that’s closer to the spirit of the thing than it seems.

I found a note (from the Spo-Reflections blog) I added to the Lent ThinkyThought Incubator a while back: “the pang of missing a mawkish pleasure is a gentle tug to remind me of more spiritual matters”. Yes, that’s exactly it. So maybe the fact that I’m even thinking about what denial and sacrifice means in my life means that even though I had not-meat meat and fast food on a fasting day, there was still some religious benefit that came from it.

This Lent May I heed the tug when I feel it.

Extra Credit:

Spo-bits on Fat Tuesday

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