Which animal would you like to come back as?
Come again? First, I don't want to come back; second, I don't believe in re-incarnation; third, fine, I'd like to come back as a cow. That's right. A cow. Not that I have a burning desire to be one, but if I were pressured into choosing an animal, it would have to be either a chimpanzee or a cow. The former because it is the creature that resembles my inner self best, and the latter because a cow possesses all the qualities I lack: patience, gentleness, tolerance and because cows are giving beings!
A few years ago I saw a cow give birth. She went about the business of bringing a calf into this world like it was just another day at the Florida State Fair. She chewed some grass and pushed. Got up, drank some water, pushed some more. Walked about, went: oh goody, more grass over there, and off she went to one corner of the pen. At some point, she ate while the legs of the calf were sticking out of her body.
Cows get extra points when it comes to utilitarian value. In some omnivorous societies, cows give their skin, their milk, their meat, their horns. In other highly carnivorous societies, like Colombia, cows give the same and then some. In Colombia nothing goes to waste; they eat cows stomach (menudo), eyes, tongue, brains, and even make superb sweets, the heart of which is the cartilage of the cow's legs (gelatina 'e pata).
I like big cows and I can not lie. I stare at, photograph and baby-talk to them. I love their protruding eyes, those eye-lashes--straight like arrows, the versatility of their nifty tail. I admire them too much to eat them.
Eating chimpanzee--the king of the anthropomorphic--would be almost cannibalism; eating a cow is pure betrayal.
I'm not a vegetarian with capital V. Let's say that I'm a lousy vegetarian, that I'm known for having short-lived flings with chicken and for possessing a superhuman capacity to eat lobster. Also, my reasons for not eating meat are neither religious nor health-related. I simply don't like the taste of meat. Although I have to admit, my meatless diet, started out as a self-discipline test. I wanted to know if I could go a week without meat, then two, then a month, then three months, and before I knew it, thirteen meatless years had passed. And in the process, I have lost interest in eating any quadrupedal animal, and going steadily off anything with feathers and/or scales. And if any hidden part of me still yearned for meats, these animals displayed at butcher shops in Kathmandu, uncluttered my mind.
So what's left for me to eat other than water and lettuce? Lobster, clams, oysters, squids, octopus...the options are endless, especially in Marseilles, France, where recently, a fisherman taught me a new meaning of the word FRESH.
He went to the ocean in a little wooden canoe, cast his fishing net into the cold waters, and pulled it in when it felt heavy with sea food. Put his catch in coolers filled with salty cold water and drove to the main plaza just outside our hotel. Grabbed a table, wrote the price of his catch on little wooden boards, and released his catch into the belly of the water-filled table. He was then, officially open for business.
Octopus. It's what's for dinner.