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Dispatch From Spain: Meat is Gross

Hola from Teruel, Spain (please don't call it "te-roo-ell" like an Ugly American, okay? Roll that "r"!), where I'm living, off and on, this spring. My beloved got a Fulbright, and I'm along for the ride, my understanding being that when you have the chance to live in a random mountain town in the middle of Spain, you do so. Just 'cause.

It's a cool town. Around Valentine's Day, when I got here, they were having their annual, massive festival de Los Amantes, which is about a medieval Romeo & Juliet (Isabel and Diego) who basically love each other a lot and both wind up dead as a result. There's a story, but it's convoluted. Romantic!

Hundreds of people were hanging out in full costume and roasting shit over open flames and selling tinctures. There was even a "Jewish quarter" with actors playing the three Jewish families who apparently lived here before they met their various heinous fifteenth-century ends. We hesitated before exclaiming "Somos Judios!" and were met with blank stares.

Anyway, it's far away from home. There are none of the global chains that have invaded many an international metropolis. It's quiet and chill. No one speaks English. There's a café in town that serves little cups of the thickest, crazy-good spicy hot chocolate, which you consume with a little spoon.

But it's also kind of far away from home and no familiar chain stores and no one speaks English and really quiet and ever so slightly depressing (I mean, if one were prone to depression in the first place, which I wouldn't know anything whatsoever about; I've got serotonin to spare). Ah, life: the bad in the good and the good in the bad. I know you've got to roll with travel, and that the discomforts and compromises required can yield enormous rewards. But it invariably takes me a little longer than I'd like to get into the swing of that.

And the food. The food has been a problem. I'm a hard-core vegetarian. (Skip the next few lines if you hate airtight conviction.) I think eating animals is completely amoral. It requires an inexcusably willful ignorance. It's totally irresponsible in light of our current environmental quandary, and it's just plain disgusting in general. (It also, for you self-identified Torah freaks, goes absolutely against the spirit of the laws of Kashrut. Like, one thousand million percent.)

And since the diet here consists almost exclusively of animal products (giant bloody rumps of dead pig hanging in every third store window, along with ubiquitous sausage, which in combination make me think fondly back on my first eye-opening read of The Sexual Politics of Meat) eating has been a challenge. I kid you not, they sell Pringles con Jamon in the supermarket. It's made me reflect on the many ways our food choices mark and distinguish and separate us. And how eating restrictions can be a powerful statement of personal ethics and priorities. And how adherence to personal ethics can be a pain in the ass. And also, how much I miss Perelandra in Brooklyn Heights.

Thankfully, after a few days of extremely crankily (sorry, babe) subsisting on bread and cheese and potatoes in some kind of orange mayo-sauce (they're not huge on greens, either), my beloved found me not only a little produce market, but an honest-to-goodness health food store to boot! (Now that, Los Amantes, is love… and no one wound up dead). I wandered the aisles caressing the tofu and green tea and seitan and olive oil soap in a trance. Life's been much improved ever since.

It's really hard to appreciate badass 15th century Mudejar architecture when you're hating on an entire country's eating paradigms, you know?

Related: From Krakow, With Love

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