By K P Hartman
When I first went vegan, my mom didn’t make the connection between her religious beliefs and animals – but since, her kitchen has changed.
You can learn a lot about a person by the way they manage their kitchen. By the way they keep the dining table, by why they cook, and who they cook for. For many years, my parents cooked because they loved it. My father would glow with new energy when he was able to push away from his desk and don his favorite apron. My mother’s eyes would light up any time a child got sick and before long the kitchen would buzz and hum with the sound and smells that would make any flu tremble.
But there was always something wrong, something that didn’t quite fit with the way they raised their children and the way they managed their kitchen. You see, my siblings and I were raised amidst religious confusion. We attended both Jewish and Christian houses of worship and study schools for the first decade or so of my life. Like most spiritual families, our faith continued outside the church or synagogue grounds. In Sunday school, Hebrew school, and our home, the Ten Commandments were taught ad nauseam. They are such a fundamental part of faith that it was the only consistent thing 8-year-old KP learned in both Hebrew and Sunday school.
The fifth commandment, tucked right in between “thou shall honor thy mother and father” and “thou shalt not commit adultery” is “thou shalt not kill.” Full stop. Period. End of sentence, no conditioning clause dictating any exceptions. And yet, it was entirely taken for granted.
We were so disconnected from our understanding of where our food came from, the life that cow or chicken once lived, that we failed to recognize death in front of us.
My father’s kitchen was a meat-and-potatoes kitchen. The kind of kitchen that belonged to his mother and father — blue-collar workers in a little flat above a Jewish deli in Cleveland. My mother’s kitchen had more variety. When she cooked, there were more vegetables and colors on the plate. But for many years, between church services, temple services, and Sunday school, meat was cooked in the kitchen.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my father’s kitchen as he prepared meat and potatoes for dinner.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my mother’s kitchen as she roasted the chicken over a bed of carrots and celery.
We were so disconnected from our understanding of where our food came from, the life that cow or chicken once lived, that we failed to recognize death in front of us. Despite the scriptures we read daily, we failed to see how our own hand played into the death of the creatures we called “our daily bread.”
By the time I was 14, I rejected the Judeo-Christian god of my family. Not necessarily for this reason. I had other ones. To be quite honest, my father left the Synagogue and the Church wasn’t a big fan of me anyway. So in that sense, it was a mutual decision.
Around the same time, I declared myself a vegetarian and quickly became a vegan. My reason was simple. I did not want to eat what I would not kill myself. I wasn’t interested in having someone do my dirty work for me. I still remember the day it all came together for me.
“But even the Bible talks about it,” I said.
And my mother with all her Roman Catholic upbringing and Sundays at church said, “Where? Which verse?”
“The Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not kill.”
I saw the initial conflict in her eyes, until she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Huh, I never thought of that.”
I like to think it was that moment where her kitchen started to shift. But I know it was a series of moments, points in her history where she was forced to confront her faith, her belief systems, and the relationship she had to the very food she put into her body.
Nonetheless, her kitchen started to change. Meat became less prevalent and less available until one day, several years later, she was going to the store. She asked my father if he needed anything, and he asked for eggs. Without missing a beat she said, “I’m sorry. You’ll have to buy that yourself.”
Finished. Off to the store she went. And that was the end of that.
My mother still has a profound love for Christ. She still attends church services every Sunday like clockwork. Her kitchen has become a temple of sorts. A place of prayer and worship. What always amazed me was the way people would come to gather around her table. The way we’d all hold hands, say grace, thank the Lord for our daily bread, and then eat. It became a place of community and communion and faith and healing. Something sacred was built from her kitchen.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my mother’s kitchen as she makes a soup strong enough to chase away even the most vicious of colds.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my mother’s kitchen as she whips up a plate that will have even the pickiest child coming back and asking for more carrots please.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my mother’s kitchen as she sends me a box of my favorite vegan cookies whenever I feel a little sick for a mother’s love.
One day my kitchen will mean home and home will mean safety and safety will mean we’re all held, and we’re all here.
I moved out of my mother’s house several years ago. I’m still learning to build my own kitchen. My mother’s kitchen has continued to evolve. Sometimes, when the soups on, and I look around my tiny, white-tiled kitchen, I think of hers. I think of all the years she’d had to make it a home. I wonder when my kitchen will be like hers.
One day, I’ll have a kitchen like my mothers with a soup strong enough to battle even the most trying of flus; with sliced watermelon on the first day of summer and banana nice cream to stare down July heat; with oat milk hot chocolate on the first winter snow; with vegan banana pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning; with warmth and tenderness and gentleness and care. One day my kitchen will mean home and home will mean safety and safety will mean we’re all held, and we’re all here.
As we change, our kitchens change. As we change, the way we cook and why we cook changes. We can create kitchens of love and compassion and healing and empathy and peace.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my kitchen, a place we can call home and be held.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my kitchen, a place of sacredness, a place of prayer and faith.
“Thou shalt not kill” in my kitchen, a place of community and grace and healing.
As we change, our kitchens change. As we change, the way we cook and why we cook changes. We can create kitchens of love and compassion and healing and empathy and peace. We can create kitchens that stand as an emblem of the statement “thou shalt not kill” regardless of whether we walk with the faithful or the faithless.
“Thou shalt not kill” in our vegan kitchens.
Tell me, what magic, what love, what tenderness, what miracles will arise out of your kitchen?
Original Source: https://medium.com