February 12, 2007

'Tis More Than Any Man Could Bear

SOME YEARS AGO, Digby Anderson -- founder of The Social Affairs Unit think-tank and a food critic for several publications -- wrote one of the most brilliantly nasty essays I have ever read in my life. The subjects of Dr Anderson's considerable ire were vegetarians and their social graces, or what Dr Anderson charged were their lack thereof.

More indulgent souls might not, for instance, share Dr Anderson's tongue-in-cheek contention the only fitting social relationship between vegetarians and non-vegetarians is apartheid. One might also not agree with Dr Anderson's complaints about vegetarians, whom he described as rude, ungrateful scoundrels. But there's no denying the man skewered his targets as thoroughly as any cook lances shish-kebabs before the grill:

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But whether they are vegetarians or other sorts of food cranks, they show the same characteristics of ingratitude, bolshieness, rudeness, and lack of taste. They are ungrateful to the Almighty, spurning all the good things He has showered upon them. They are bolshie in their contempt for all the wonderful recipes tradition has found for the good things. They are rude in their insolent expectation that normal hosts should lay on abnormal food for them while they never lay on normal food for us. And they lack good taste. Fancy putting a boring quiche in the rightful place of a roast goose.

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I thought of Dr Anderson's long-ago essay when reading this just-published article in The New York Times, in which the paper describes insufferable young people who are planning to subject their guests to ecotopian weddings. These wedding ceremonies -- one hesitates to call them celebrations -- will involve fun and exciting activities, such as environmental tours around an organic farm.

You know, because dodging piles of horseshit and being eaten alive by mosquitoes is what everyone wants to do when sacrificing vacation time to attend a wedding. Christ. But lest my readers think I am kidding, let us examine the opening paragraphs of the Times' report:

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KATE Harrison’s idea of a fairy tale wedding goes something like this:

Gather more than 150 friends and relatives at an organic farm for a prewedding day of hikes and environmental tours.

Calculate the mileage guests will travel and offset their carbon dioxide emissions by donating to programs that plant trees or preserve rain forests.

Use hydrangeas, berries and other local and seasonal flowers for her bouquet and the decorations, instead of burning up fuel transporting flowers from faraway farms. Design an organic autumnal menu (same reason). Find a vintage dress to avoid the waste of a wedding gown that will never be worn again.

“It’s well worth it to start your life together in a way that’s in line with your values and beliefs,” said Ms. Harrison, 28, a graduate student at Yale, who is to marry in October. “You don’t want this event that is supposed to start your life together to come at the expense of the environment or workers in another country.”

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At this point, it's worth stopping for a moment to reflect on a few things.

The first thing I would note is that, as a man, any ideas I have about how weddings ought be conducted can be considered secondary at best. Women have mastered the art and science of the wedding process, and as such, the idea of a man actively intruding on this process is silly and laughable. If he is consulted, that is fine; if his advice is asked, he can give it; but the idea a man would actively direct the process is ridiculous.

I'd also say I'm not necessarily opposed to the principles the couples in the story follow, and I'd say there is much to be gained from having a smaller wedding. I myself tend to look at things through an economic prism, so I'm naturally sympathetic to any wedding plan which keeps the guest list and festivities reasonable.

What gets me about these ecotopian weddings, though, is that they seem pretty ungracious when it comes to one's guests, for the reasons which Dr Anderson described in his essay. For instance, in the Times article, there is mention made of a "vegan" menu, in which all the dishes are prepared to strict uber-vegetarian standards. The way I see it, it is one thing if the bride and groom eat vegan, but guests should at least have the option of eating dishes which don't require a stop at McDonald's on the way home.

Also, there is talk in the story of having guests, in lieu of gifts, sign up for things such as renewable energy projects. This seems gauche at the least and insulting at worst. After all, if a guest has spent considerable time and money just to make it to one's hippie wedding, and one is not even going to give him a dry breast of chicken during the reception dinner, one ought not hit up the guest for donations to this or that cause. That just seems like good manners -- or at least it's just not rubbing salt in a wound, which is also a good thing.

The Times notes that the ecotopian trend is spreading beyond weddings to private parties, but I would argue this trend is not nearly as worrisome. After all, it is much easier to avoid private parties than a family wedding, and there is far less guilt associated with doing so. Still, it is somewhat disconcerting to think private parties are becoming an exercise in finger-wagging. After all, both private parties and weddings are meant to be fun.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 12, 2007 09:39 PM | TrackBack
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