The green posole Viva Vegan is probably our most used recipe in the book, and I have tried almost everything from Terry Hope Romero‘s guide to Latin cuisine. It is made with tomatillos, her white seitan, and swiss chard all nicely thickened with toasted pepitas and hominey.
It is a delicious stew that we have eaten many times but last night Dan asked me what makes posole a posole. I guessed that it had something to do with hominey or corn but went off to wikipedia to look it up and learned that, while that’s true, it is often made with animal flesh, traditionally human flesh!
I guess the ancient Aztecs believed the gods made humans out of masa and they made posole for special occasions. They would remove the heart out of a criminal and offer that to the gods and mix up the rest of the body with some corn and serve it to everyone in town. Tradition! Eventually cannibalism was banned and Spanish priests switched the staple meat to pork because it “tasted very similar”.
As a vegan I get into a lot of stupid arguments that I would rather not be involved in. I mean, when people want to talk about veganism with genuine curiosity that’s fine, we can talk about it all day if you want. But, instead, veganism often brings out the real life troll in some people who just want to invalidate your morals or ethics or choice in whatever in any way they can. These people live to annoy and I try to avoid getting into conversations with them at all costs.
A few weeks ago I got into two different unwanted and almost simultaneous debates about traditional food definitions. I was wondering why no one in Austin made vegan barbecue and somebody replied, because there is no such thing as vegan barbecue. Sorry Homegrown Smoker, you don’t exist! It’s all a lie! I’ve never eaten your delicious smokey soy curls or enjoyed your barbecued tempeh. THAT NEVER HAPPENED, Meanwhile, I had someone insisting on blog post about Arlo’s delicious bacon cheeze burgers that calling a veggie burger a burger was incorrect. The funny thing about that was that he could have easily made that point about the bacon but instead he chose the burger. I tried to calmly explain that a hamburger is made of meat but a burger is just about anything in patty form but he insisted I was incorrect, even after I busted out the dictionary definition!
In both cases the troll tried to use the framework of “tradition” to make their argument but, the thing is, food changes all the time! That is why people like to talk about it. I mean, I understand liking things the way they are, the first time I made my Baba’s soup for a group of people one (possibly) well meaning guest immediately said, “this would be better with garlic”. I was confused because I was trying to make a recipe not improve upon it. But, that is what people do; they change things to the way they like them they or to use ingredients that they have easy access to or take the gluten out if they have celiac disease or, in my case replace the animal products so I can happily enjoy it.
The next time someone tries to denigrate my life choices and tells me that whatever I am eating isn’t real because it’s not traditional I can’t wait to tell them about the Aztecs and human flesh and how humans taste just like pigs.
Ok, I can wait.
your posole looks delicious!
it was awesome! Now I want to try it with real corn like yours!
This is a great post! The idea of evolving definitions — and tastes, preferences, beliefs, etc. — is so essential to understanding our humanity. This same dynamic plays out in the debates about marriage (about which I imagine most compassion-driven vegans like us share common attitudes).
As a rabbi, I regularly field another dimension of this issue regarding food and our relationship to the rest of nature, with self-described “traditionalists” arguing that a vegan diet — or even the ethic that underlies it — is in conflict with traditional Jewish perspectives. I am currently working on a blog post that responds to some of these attacks.
Another interesting category where this plays out is in understandings of what we mean when we speak of “God.” This word, too, and all it entails, is subject to evolution over time in keeping with other changes in our knowledge and experiences. And again the self-described “traditionalists” think they have the last (and only) word on the subject.
This example of the changing ingredients in a traditional “meat”-dish is an excellent one for dispelling misconceptions and certainly raises serious questions for those who refuse to see the similarities between the flesh of human beings and other animals. Thank you!
that looks SOOOO delicious! i’m going to have to try this out! thanks for sharing!
Oh wow, posole made out of human hearts & such…freeaaaky.
As far as tradition goes, love your take on it! Sometimes what we make is what we make and there’s no reason to argue it. Authenticity is a whole ‘nother argument though…(one which I haven’t made my mind up on yet). Such tough questions!
Add to your arsenal that in Polynesia, human flesh (as food) used to be called long pig.
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real life trolls are the worst. i try to avoid those conversations as much as i can, but some people just INSIST on trying to tangle me up in semantics. i work with a guy who has a real chip on his shoulder about nutritional yeast and he is always trying to get me into arguments about how vegan cheese is horrible stuff and how it’s not ‘cheese’ because it’s not made from milk and on and on and on. i’m just like, ‘don’t eat it then, no one is forcing you’. sheesh.