Popeye was no vegan

1395286500-2During the years I served on Navy ships underway on deployment,  one of the most anticipated days was the mid-point of the cruise when the Command authorized a barbecue for the crew.   This was known as “Steel Beach”.  We all would form long lines to have a burger, roasted chicken, hot dogs,  and potato salad, baked beans and chips.  And a beer.  But I can understand the excitement about a barbecue – even a steel beach one.  It seems to be part of the human DNA to enjoy roasted meat.  Perhaps it was the way food had to be containerized, frozen, powdered, steam-blanched for long voyages.  At least, we never had salt beef, hard-tack or meal-wormy bread of our sailing ship forebears.

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Steel Beach, USS PHILIPPINE SEA

I guess I could have fared worse.  Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs have been issued to servicemen on the battlefield – or during Chief initiations – or in SERE schools for generations.   But in our changing society, I hope that vegetarians or vegans do not come to control the food selection of a captive audience be they on a forward operating base or a deployed destroyer.  In Twenty-First Century society,  we have a number of people who choose to eat vegetarian or even more radically, make food choices as “vegans”.  The latter disdain any product that has anything to do with animal-origin; these folks condemn animal-related food industries.   Of course, prior to modern refrigeration and frequent underway replenishment,  I imagine had there been vegans onboard a ship thirty years ago, they would have been hard-pressed to determine if what was offered from the galley had been a creature at one time.   SOS and powered eggs at breakfast, or sliders at lunch hardly seemed to be animal products.

One of my childhood cartoon heroes, Popeye, certainly had a thing for spinach.  But I don’t think he would ever have turned away from barbecued steak, ribs, or a brat.  I certainly never saw any war movie where the men (and women) lined up for soy or critically read the ingredients in any of the slop they were served.    I learned as a child while watching movies about dinosaurs, aliens, and vampires,  there is an undeniable dominance of meat-eating creatures over plant-eaters.   Tyrannosaurs were definitely the hunters that preyed upon the herbivores.   Lions and other big cats, wolves, foxes, and coyotes are predators.  Barracuda, killer whales and other cetaceans are meat eaters.   I know that human beings are more omnivorous, and when times were tough, hunter-gatherers would get by on flour ground from plants.  A rabbit or lamb might do if a bison was not available.  I have heard of some Amazonian warriors eating their enemies.  The Aztecs did have a thing about human hearts, but a Sailor would have to be very hungry to eat someone you had played Spades with late nights.

Gratefully, cannibals do not seem prevalent in the military services.  Nor do I encounter any at my employer.   But I have encountered vegans.  And some of these are a little ill-tempered, particularly when you tease them why they are not joining you in savoring barbecue for lunch or the team picnics.   But inquiring further,  I learn that vegans are predisposed to feeding their cats or dogs in the same manner they have chosen for themselves.   While I can understand personal choice in the type of sustenance that humans put in their bodies,  I am at a loss to understand how we humans project the same ethos on our dogs and cats.

Then again,  I was eating some cantaloupe tonight with my dog monitoring my every slurp.   To humor him, I gave him a small chunk.  He ATE the chunk of cantaloupe.   But of course, he had also just eaten scraps of the barbecue roast I had on my dinner plate.   Omnivores.  I would think it cruel and unusual punishment to restrict him to soy proteins and vegetables.   He might decide to snack on me one night.  Vegans can be a little unpredictable.