Wednesday, August 10, 2016
An Open Letter to Tyson Ho, Offended Pitmaster…
Dear Mr. Ho,
I promise I will be mature. I promise I will not refer to you as an (arm)pitmaster as I did on my Facebook post as I have cooled off a bit and as I have nothing really against armpits per se as they serve an important and useful function in the world. Some consider the axilla an area on the body worthy of fetishizing. This is neither here nor there. I just didn’t want to jumble armpits up with the likes of you, Mr. Ho, as it is unfair to one of our most hardworking sweat gland locations.
Now I should add the obligatory trigger warning to anyone else reading this letter as depictions of gratuitous violence featuring you and the animals you slice up are forthcoming. I should also add that the inevitable vegans who will grasp at their faux-pearls at my lack-of-helping-the-cause with this open letter can, I don’t know, concentrate on their own efforts.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk, Mr. Ho.
You were brought to my attention yesterday, when I innocently clicked on a link in my aggregated vegan Google alerts. The link was to an article about the success of a Brooklyn-based seitan company called Monk’s Vegan Smokehouse and because it was in the mainstream outlet Gothamist, in order for everything to be fair and balanced and potentially clickbait-y, of course conventional flesh-slingers had to be quoted as well. For the most part, your brethren were gracious and showed courtesy. Not you, Mr. Ho. When asked about the concept of vegan BBQ, you took off your pitmaster gloves (I imagine you wear gloves and I imagine you took them off with what you consider panache) and issued forth this stunning quote: “Vegan BBQ is as nonsensical of a term as pork-chop sushi or composing a garden salad out of candy bars. BBQ centers around the philosophy of contextual communal feasting. Smoked seitan is violently antithetical to that. Rather than call to mind the excessive feasting of laborers at the end of the fall harvest, it's an anemic dietary constraint. Rather than a celebration of abundance, it's a solution to a problem no one wanted solved.”
I meant it when I said that your quote was stunning. I was, quite literally, stunned, and as someone who tracks the public response to veganism as part of my job, that is saying something. Let’s dissect this cumbersome quote line by line like one of “your” hogs, Mr. Ho, but with a lot less gristle and viscera and no unnecessary violence. Rolling up my sleeves as I have no pitmaster gloves…
“Vegan BBQ is as nonsensical of a term as pork-chop sushi or composing a garden salad out of candy bars.”
Why? Because you say so? Because you lack vision and you are a traditionalist who does not allow for adaptation and re-interpretation in your worldview? Is that why vegan barbecue is, as you say, nonsensical? If vegan barbecue is indeed nonsensical, is it in the first meaning of nonsensical, “conceived or made without regard for reason or reality” or the second, “showing or marked by a lack of good sense or judgment,” because both sound like opinion to me, not something grounded in anything resembling fact. Who knew meat-carvers could be so emotional?
Personally, I am very grateful for people who do not accept the status quo of traditions as they were handed down and have had the confidence and the imagination to leave behind the customs that are predicated on violence and harm. Further, are the dead animals you barbecue covered with maguey leaves before they are set aflame in a hole in the ground, Mr. Ho, as in keeping with the original tradition? My good sir, please don’t tell me you are selling something that does not adhere to that exact preparation protocol and still referring to the flesh as “barbecue”. It is an abomination! It’s an act of aggression! It is just this side of veganish! Further, I hope you don’t think that all barbecue is the same when there are regional BBQ preparations that vary throughout the southern U.S, as well as Kansas City, Texas, Maryland and Chicago-style BBQs to name a few. If there can be all these different BBQ traditions just in the U.S., why can there not be a vegan one or even several vegan ones? It sounds to me like you don’t respect the art of the BBQ at all, Mr. Ho, and are sorely lacking in creativity. You have angered the BBQ gods!
“BBQ centers around the philosophy of contextual communal feasting.”
So many fancy words, two of which are completely superfluous, to convey that BBQ is about sharing a meal together. Again, can vegans not feast together? Must roasted animal flesh be present for it to be an official Ho-approved bacchanal? The BBQ gods are angered again.
I have attended and hosted many community meals wherein no animals were sacrificed, a.k.a., vegan potlucks. To me, they felt like community gatherings and feasts. Alas, no smoldering corpses were present. I suppose they are now null-and-void in your view. Please validate my existence, Mr. Ho! Though I honestly don’t know how anyone could still have an appetite with this happening near them.
“Smoked seitan is violently antithetical to that.”
Again, why is smoked seitan antithetical to a community feast? Because you say so? You seem to be fond of making blanket pronouncements and having them stand in the place of fact. Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, has its origins in the Buddhist practice of nonviolence and was first referenced in the Qimin Yaoshu, a Chinese agricultural text written in the sixth century. Surely you are not implying that Buddhists who have shared communal meals for centuries with seitan and without dead animals feasted together in a way that was and is illegitimate. That would be, at the least, culturally insensitive and at the worst, highly arrogant. Seeing as the name of your business has the word “arrogant” in it, though attached to the sensitive animals who are slaughtered for your living, I will assume it is the latter. Also, should you be the one using the word “violently” as though it’s a pejorative after having posed for the above photo?
“Rather than call to mind the excessive feasting of laborers at the end of the fall harvest, it's an anemic dietary constraint.”
Okay, I could harp again on your opinions stated as fact, but I’m getting bored with that. I hope you are, too, and will adopt a different rhetorical style. Instead, I will ask you to please consider exhibit A, B, and C before you wax rhapsodic about the experience of laborers again. Or are you only interested in the golden-hued vision you have of our glorious past? Could you be laboring under a romanticized pastoralism? I hope you will click on those links to get a better sense of the lives of modern agricultural workers. But, but, but, you and your fellow flesh fetishists might sputter, I only buy free-range, organic, coddled, massaged noble beasts who have but one bad day…To that I have to ask, Who is the sentimentalist now? And, yeah, I’m calling bullshit on that. Are the laborers treated better? Most likely, considering that working in industrial agriculture is as dangerous, low-paid, exploitative and degrading a job as they come, they are treated better. Is this the bar, really as low as they come, one that you want to really boast about vaunting over, though?
As per the “anemic dietary-constraint,” you get points for your purple prose but I must deduct more points for your lack of vision and awareness of the abundance and variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes and herbs available to us. How sad for an alleged culinary artist to be so limited in inspiration and sensuality. The BBQ gods, they are pissed.
I’m running out of steam, but this last pithy remark, oh, it’s a doozy.
“Rather than a celebration of abundance, it's a solution to a problem no one wanted solved.”
For real, Mr. Ho, are you punking us? Yes, no one wants the “problem” of needless violence and suffering solved. No one at all. No one wants the “problem” of workplace exploitation solved. No one at all. No one wants the “problems” of water pollution, water scarcity, air pollution and climate change that are inextricably tied to animal agriculture solved at all, certainly not the future generations who will inherit this mess. Why would we want any of these problems solved when we could be sitting around a smoking pig's corpse in Brooklyn and picking our teeth with small-batch dental floss, ranting about seitan and patting ourselves on the back for being awesome, if completely narcissistic and oblivious, BBQ pitmasters?
Mr. Ho, you are the living manifestation of everyone’s dinner party-meets-Portlandia nightmare that unsuspecting, unlucky-as-hell people get seated next to and are forced to hear blather on and on about your sentimental version of BBQ culture of yore and history and sociology and philosophy and veganism and whatever random thing you pull out of your hipster ass and, speaking of your hipster ass, I am betting $100 in craft beer that you have at least two or three deeply regrettable tattoos.
You had to be this cold-hearted and psychopathic looking and be photographed doing whatever sick thing it is you’re doing to this tortured body with a FREAKING CIGAR in your mouth? Because it wasn’t mean-spirited and obnoxious looking enough without the cigar. Smoked seitan did not cause this problem. Human arrogance did.
Get help. And buh bye.
PS – Seriously, I mean it, get help. I am an optimist so I still believe it’s possible that you can be reformed. That may just be an anemia-fueled fanciful notion of mine, though.
PPS – You should be paying for the exorcism of my laptop I'll need to have now that I saved your demonic photos to my desktop even briefly.
PPPS – The BBQ gods really hate you.