politics

Welcome to the Vegetarian Food Fair

Welcome to the Vegetarian Food Fair

Hegui and I recently returned from beautiful Toronto. Do you know the city? It is nestled along the northern coast of Lake Ontario only a short drive from Niagara Falls and the US Border. We planned our trip by committee: first we thought Seattle, though I’ve read that the weather gets dreary at this time of year. Then we toyed around with Chicago but Hegui vetoed it, saying he wanted to go “abroad.” We’d both been to Montreal already, so Toronto seemed like a good choice. And who knew that the city is the “festival queen” of North America? We scheduled our visit for the week of theToronto International Film Festival, the annual Queens West Art Crawl, and our story for today, the 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair.

Here’s the “about” from the Toronto Vegetarian Association, the fair sponsors:

Regarded as the largest event of its kind in North America, the Annual Vegetarian Food Fair gives you an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy a diverse cross-section of vegetarian cuisine. Discover new products and ideas from more than 100 exhibitors and enjoy a wide variety of presentations and cooking demos.

Not a vegetarian? Whether you’re looking for new ideas to add colour and variety to your meals or you’re a seasoned vegetarian interested in expanding your knowledge of nutritious and ethical foods, this is the place for you.

think organic soy milk:  it even comes in strawberry

think organic soy milk: it even comes in strawberry

checking out some cruelty free clothing

checking out some cruelty free clothing

dancing with the crowd at the fair

dancing with the crowd at the fair

Here’s someone else’s review. We missed the vegan “Iron Chef” cook off and the various exciting cooking demonstrations. I was curious about Carol Adams talk, “Living Among Meat Eaters: A Survival Guide for Vegetarians.” But that required way too much planning for a lazy afternoon. Nevertheless, we truly enjoyed wandering around the various booths and listening to live Beatles cover music while munching our vegan banana leaf-wrapped steamed rice stuffed with shitake mushrooms as we lounged around on the artificial turf that surrounds the Harbourfront Centre. That’s right: artificial turf! Doesn’t that seem ironic at a vegetarian fair? We thought so, too. But I have to admit that the stuff felt surprisingly soft and seemed remarkably clean. I wonder if they use a carpet cleaner on the thing?

even a few vegetables made it to the fair

even a few vegetables made it to the fair

some literature for sale at the 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair

some literature for sale at the 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair


I thought that these wrist bands were really neat

I thought that these wrist bands were really neat

close up of the amazing Astroturf

close up of the amazing Astroturf

The kiosks had a whole range of things that you might expect to find at a vegetarian fair. It was a real mix of information booths about organic foods, the welfare of animals, health, environmental protectionism, veganism, raw food, etc. Numerous folks seemed to be selling various kinds of enticing vegetarian or vegan desserts (though aren’t most desserts vegetarian?) We saw tents selling clothes, ceramics and belts. There was even one woman, Sally Grande, hawking paintings of carrots. Her sign said that carrots are the internationally recognized symbol of vegetarianism. I wanted to talk to her about that but just as we approached, some one spilled a huge cup of steaming coffee over everything and she was way too distracted for chitchat. The paintings were beautiful.

Inside the main building were stands with meat-like products made from soy. I tried a sample of a pseudo-beef but found it repulsive. I’m a firm believer in eating the real thing if you really must but why pretend one thing is something else?

having fun at the 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair

having fun at the 26th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair

is the carrot really the international symbol of vegetarianism?

is the carrot really the international symbol of vegetarianism?

There was this one very unusual group apparently representing the Supreme Master Ching Hai, who promotes vegetarianism as part of a path to enlightenment, I think they explained. Ching Hai has a very complex biography that made me a bit squeamish though the folks we saw were definitely true believers. She has a 24-hours a day cable channel. The “movement” has even developed their own vegan restaurant chain, Loving Hut. Prior to our Canadian trip, Hegui and I tried the one at the Westfield Mall in Downtown San Francisco. The food wasn’t bad, but I wonder what we’d think now that we’ve learned about the business model?

need we say more:  hemp foods

need we say more: hemp foods


Zespri:  possibly the worlds most powerful fruit

Zespri: possibly the worlds most powerful fruit

A few of the booths were sort of funny. For example, there was Zespri: possibly the worlds most powerful fruit! And the ever present booth with hemp related products. Is the hemp fiber really superior to cotton? Does it really have a role in a healthy diet? If so, I wish that someone would enlighten me. I think that people are thrilled by the “hemp” idea merely because the plant produces cannabis. It seems so easy to blend and distort the issues surrounding hemp: “No, officer, really, I’m only growing this hemp because I need some new T-shirts and all my stuff from GAP was ruined when someone threw bleach into the machine. Honestly! I’m not using the leaves at all! You can even have them.” ‘course, that may all be an academic question in California this November if the marihuana legalization ballot measure passes. (Surprisingly, at this fair, we hardly smelled any marihuana smoke and counted less than a handful of people wearing tie-dye. That would be way different here in San Francisco. Vegetarianism must finally hitting the main-stream!)

After our stroll around for an hour or two, while listening to “Hear Comes the Sun,” sprawled out on the soft Astroturf, Hegui and I had a big debate about the meaning of the fair. I was perplexed by the fact that though many people were selling desserts and unusual vegetarian/vegan foods without much of a strong cultural provenance (e.g. vegan chocolate anythings, artificial chicken and steak), I hardly saw anybody selling more “conventional” vegetarian food. There were a few Asian (were these Chinese, Japanese or Korean, I wonder?) foods. And one guy had olive oil for sale. But what about vegetarian takes on Italian, Mexican, or even regional American food? Where were the organic wine producers and boutique beer micro-brewers? I would have welcomed some Ethiopian food or perhaps some Vietnamese. There could even be a farmers market connected to the event; that would be very vegetarian, pro-environment, organic, raw, green and what have you.

we really enjoyed the 26th Annual Vegetarian Fair

we really enjoyed the 26th Annual Vegetarian Fair

Hegui thought that I was overreacting, as most of the food for sale was merely snacks, not meals. That’s true. I’m sure that the cooking demonstrations would have touched more on the everyday side of vegetarianism.

Misgivings aside, the fair was thrilling because of all the sights and sounds and, like lots of vegetarian events, the many controversial ideas about the role food has in our lives and the role our lives have in the larger world. In that sense, it was a huge success. Thank you for organizing it, Toronto Vegetarian Association, and thanks also to your numerous devoted sponsors.

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Well, I’ve finally been able to finish this challenging book. To be honest, I skimmed the last quarter of it. Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair was a real struggle for me. Ostensibly the book is about exactly what the title says: the slow food movement and the philosophy behind the goals of “good,” “clean” and “fair.” Really Petrini’s work is a bizarre mixture of self-promoting autobiography, name dropping, a travelogue, a political manifesto against the agro industry, a vague sort of self help guide and an almost spiritual exhortation to embrace the lifestyle and thinking of a gastronome. It’s no wonder with all of that going on in a mere 255 pages that reading this was tough going. I simply cannot agree with Alice Waters, who wrote in the introduction that Petrini’s writing puts “big ideas together in sparkling, strong language.” ‘Sparkling’ and ‘strong’ suggests a kind of crisp clarity that I could not find anywhere in this book. Instead it was written in a repetitive, contradictory and condescending style that left me very irritated.

has urbanization really led to the decline of quality tasty environmentally freindly food choices

has urbanization really led to the decline of quality tasty environmentally friendly food choices?

The Slow Food movement has its origins in Italy as a reaction against what, to some, was the gradual disappearance of traditional food lifestyles and the rise of fast food chains in Rome. Petrini consistently targets the agro industry as a leader in the disconnect between the farm and table throughout the West. As a result he complains somewhat histrionically that the world “seems to be drifting aimlessly.” Quality, taste and biodiversity have all suffered as a direct consequence of people leaving farms for the cities and becoming disconnected with their traditional culinary cultural histories.

He’s ambivalent about industrialization. On the one hand, he clearly recognizes that it has improved life for many. He cites the example of the virtual end of malnutrition and scarcity of food in western societies as evidence of that. Yet he raises the concern that these same changes are ultimately “unsustainable” as nature becomes more and more “an object of domination.” Throughout the convoluted text, Petrini returns again and again to agro industry as the real problem. By focusing on quantity versus quality; exploitation of farmers and agricultural workers; the use of pesticides; and relying on a few agricultural products which can be easily transported vast distances, thereby reducing diversity and damaging the environment further, industry is literally wrecking the planet. It’s true that monoculture and pesticide use cause environmental problems. But is it obvious that the older methods of agricultural production, used on a large scale, are environmentally superior to the current ones used by big industry? He does not really offer a lot of facts to support this grand thesis. But he is persuasive and whether or not you really believe the world is at risk, he does have some good ideas for improving your appreciation of food and wine.

As a self-styled gastronome, Petrini is all about quality and taste. He’s really into relationship building with your local farmers as “co-producers” or maybe even getting back to nature and growing your own food. He seems positively convinced that this will improve quality and taste. That may be. Yet I couldn’t help noticing that nowhere in this book does Petrini ever recommend in any serious kind of way that aspiring gastronomes should actually learn to cook. How, I wonder, would someone know what to make from produce at the farmers’ market or their kitchen garden if, as he claims, we’ve all been raised on pre-made foods that you merely reheat?

I do appreciate the idea that we need to learn to taste though I still firmly believe that taste is subjective. The Slow Food tasting workshops that are offered around the world do sound intriguing. I’d love to go to a tropical fruit tasting fair in Rio de Janeiro sometime, for example. Perhaps we can see the 2016 Olympics while we’re there? Seriously though, must one attend a special workshop or will home tastings do? That’s what the WC crew does with wines and it seems to work out pretty well. I definitely notice vinous nuances much better now that I’ve been consciously paying attention and writing about them for this blog. An added benefit of home tastings might also be less damage to the environment. Instead of taking a huge jet to another continent to learn to appreciate mango better, I can do it from home. Sure, the mango needs to be shipped to me, but I understand that those large ships use less fuel per load than planes. The net effect will be less environmental damage, though with this more environmental friendly plan, I’d miss out on the fun sounding trip.

Travel is another problem issue in this complex work. Petrini strongly champions growing locally and learning about the local culinary history of food wherever you happen to live. I get that. At the same time he emphasizes quality and variety as key for any gastronome. Doesn’t variety by necessity imply foods from beyond any particular locality? Petrini identifies travel as a “right” for all gastronomes. And it certainly sounds like he travels a fair bit. He flies from northern Italy to San Francisco quite regularly. But he also gives anecdotes throughout the book about visits to Mexico, India and Scandinavia, to note only a few. Frankly I’m jealous. It gets a bit absurd at times. One of his fondest memories comes from a Barbaresco tasting held at the Marriot hotel in Times Square. These wines come from Petrini’s home province in Italy. What does that mean?!? He travels thousands of miles on a jet plane to sample wines from vineyards that he could have bicycled to from his home. Isn’t that the kind of thing that leads to the destruction of the environment? I wonder. Perhaps since we’re talking about people traveling rather than food, you can conveniently ignore the environmental cost because it’s out of the realm of concern for the gastronome?

He’s most passionate while decrying the “cultural annihilation that has affected the countryside of every part of the world, on a scale that is unprecedented in human history.” I’m hard pressed to fully grasp what that means. I do get it that there have been mass migrations from the countryside into cities; a trend towards eating out more and cooking less, at least in more developed industrialized places; and that advertizing and marketing has taken hold of the food industry more and more. Does that equal ‘cultural annihilation?’ I don’t think so. It’s merely cultural change, which is an ongoing process for all time. Yes, certain food traditions get lost over time, but there are new things to enjoy too. I couldn’t have developed a taste for sushi living here in the United States had it not been for the industrial changes of the 20th Century which permitted fresh fish to be flown overnight from anywhere in the world. Without improved shipping methods, I’d never had the chance to develop my love for French wine either. Even Petrini recognizes that “traditional” foods are the product of change. He notes that tomatoes are native to the New World and pasta is a version of something developed by China carried through the Middle East. But Italy alone claims paternity for spaghetti with tomato sauce.

I couldn’t help but see this seeking for a fantasized past of high quality, tasty regional food as an attack against the US. As I’ve already mentioned, Slow Food itself is a reaction against the expansion of fast food chains in Italy. I suppose it was in America that fast food chains were born. Beyond that, Petrini completely dismisses the idea that American culture offers any culinary tradition that meets his criteria for taste and quality. Alice Water’s Chez Panisse is the one possible exception that defines this general rule. That’s obviously absurd. As I’ve noted elsewhere, we Americans have rich traditions of regional cuisine. I won’t bother to enumerate them because I don’t think that we need be defensive on this point. Instead it suggests a kind of cultural snobbery and superiority underlying the writer’s world view that is quite troubling.

In the end, this book touches on a lot of exciting and controversial issues: the growth of the agro industry, changes in patterns of eating and living, environmental issues, and the recognition that taste matters. I have to admire his emphasis that learning about food is a lifetime occupation. I just feel that it’s not quite enough. Agro industry exists for a reason; so do fast food chains. Why? I think that the latter survive because a fair number of people like fast food. But what about about big agro? That’s something for which the book has no answer. At his best, Petrini simply demonizes it as the source of the problem. That makes no sense. It’s not here by accident. What would happen if everyone did as Petrini suggests, and go back to nature and begin to cultivate food in small plots ourselves? With the necessary duplication and inefficiency involved, I suspect that we couldn’t grow enough to sustain us all. There are a lot more of us now then there was two hundred years ago. Whether you like it or not, the agro industry exists to sustain the massive world population. We should look at that first before dismantling it wholesale.

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are you going up or down?

are you going up or down?

I’ve always been ghoulishly fascinated by theories of the afterlife. I can never get enough stories about heaven and hell, the Greek/Roman underworld, etc. I wonder what the appeal might be? Maybe having an idea of what to expect after death is comforting?

I’ve finally gotten through Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The Inferno was never a problem. It’s sort of exciting and disturbing, which makes it an easy read. Purgatory starts to lose me and by the time Dante travels to heaven, I’m usually bored witless. This read, I got a copy in prose rather than verse, which helped. I also skimmed the last book. There’s something so invigorating about the violent excesses and anti-Catholic attacks in book one. No wonder they banished Dante from Florence while the poem remained a best-seller for centuries.

I used to be in love with the novels of Piers Anthony until I finally quit him when I decided he was a homophobe. That said, his Incarnations of Immorality series is incredibly fun, what with regular people who become the Incarnations of abstract concepts like “Time,” “Death,” and “God.” T.V. has some amazing programs that deal with this stuff, too. I like “Dead Like Me” though I think that I might be the only one in America! “Reaper” is great, too, but my all-time-favorite has to be “Charmed!” Those witch sisters and all of their boyfriends are smoking hot; they’ve got a huge house in San Francisco with no apparent money problems; and, no matter how messed up things get, they’re always smelling like roses by the end. That’s a dream!

There’s something puzzling about the Percy Jackson series. Just how do you explain the Greek gods surviving for millennia as the heart of Western Civilization when it’s obvious that Christianity, Judaism and to a large extent Islam have been so fundamental in transforming our culture from the ancient classical period?

The Greeks had it worked out totally differently. In their metaphysics, everyone ends up in the Underworld eventually. Sort of like the Christian theories that sprouted up later, you might get punished or rewarded though more often than not, nothing much happened. Sometimes you’re offered a new life and a return to Earth after drinking from the River Lethe. That’s a novelty that the West has rejected. Too bad I say. I’d love to come back as a professional athlete or winemaker or something. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Rick Riordan sort of takes the whole classical Underworld and modernizes it. I’ve already written that it makes perfect sense to put the main access point to the place in West Hollywood. I love the little details in The Lightning Thief. Who’d have thought to make Charon have an obsession with Italian designer suits? And having an “EZ DEATH” lane to improve traffic flow into the place seems brilliant! It’s the last commute most of us ever need make. May as well make it simple! Though if we can believe what’s written, it’s a complex bureaucratic mess with way too much congestion. Hades’ exasperation with the crowds on the Plains of Erebus and how we learn at then end of The Battle of the Labyrinth that he uses Daedalus’ engineering skills to improve traffic flow seems just like the kind of modern highway planning that CalTrans is always talking about in the news at home to help folks improve access to San Francisco from the East Bay.

Death is a funny topic that can be uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why Hades’ kids don’t have a house at Camp Half-Blood. Who’d want to live next door to someone who might summon an army of zombies and ghosts to bother you if they’re annoyed by your loud music or something? It’s pretty unfair to Bianca and Nico. It’s not like it’s their fault that their dad is ruler of the Underworld. Percy’s right to force the gods’ hands on that one. Plus it helps keep Rachel from becoming a vegetable like Luke’s mom.

I’m wondering about the part in The Last Olympian when the Titans are finally vanquished and the gods are doling out rewards to the surviving heroes. Artemis makes a big deal about her dead Hunters, sort of pressing Hades to let their spirits into Elysium. If it weren’t so serious and disturbing, it would be almost comical. His response? “Okay…I’ll streamline their application process.” The Underworld is full of bureaucrats, just like on the “surfaceworld!”

Really though, isn’t that sort of fixing the game? Aren’t you supposed to be evaluated for your accomplishments and failures when you “go on” to the next life? To simply manipulate the result is troubling. It calls into question the entire basis for the Underworld and its division of the spirits. Perhaps Daedalus’ new role as the Architect of the Underworld is ambiguous; is it a punishment or a reward? It does seem a bit self-serving on Hades’ part, either way. If you look at it, aren’t the Titans eternally punished because they were the losers in the original war with the gods? If it had gone the other way, I suppose that Kronos would still be digesting the Olympians and he would rule. In either case, it’s all politics, politics and more politics. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all.

If I was confronted with the task of assigning a spot in the Underworld for Luke, I’m not sure where I’d put him. He did side with Kronos against the West but by the end he’s praised as “the hero” of the prophecy. Would you ship him off to Elysium with Beckendorf, or to rot eternally in Tartarus? More challenging still, where would you send Ethan Nakamura?

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If you were a Volturi, what would you make of the Cullens?

We know from “Twilight” that Carlisle stayed with the Italian vamps for a decade or two somewhat soon after he was transformed into a vampire. It sounds like he was Aro’s protégé. But the good doctor wouldn’t dine on humans, preferring to be a “vegetarian” rather than a “humanitarian,” like normal vampires. Aro didn’t mind but didn’t get it either. Surely he thought that C was a loveable, guilt-ridden crackpot by the time he left for America.

who's the dragon and who's the angel?

who's the dragon and who's the angel?

Really it was probably better that Carlisle decided to leave Volterra. Had he remained, wouldn’t his constant presence tend to challenge one of the fundamental concepts of the vampire lifestyle: humans are necessary and o.k. for lunch? Who needs the added headaches? I do a bit of administration on my day job, and I can tell you, it’s not usually a good idea to have a staff naysayer butting into the business of work. It just causes problems.

So that’s it for centuries. Then suddenly, imagine that you’re confronted by a deranged Edward Cullen, a disciple of Carlisle and all of his goody-two-shoes ways. Not only that, this “son” of the quintessential pacifist vampire wants you to kill him. And once you learn about the case and turn him down, he has the nerve to try to provoke you into the execution anyway?!? How ballsy! If I were Aro, Caius, or Marcus, I’d be vexed.

We all know that “New Moon” closes with Bella rescuing Edward at the last second from his own self destruction. Then when Jane and company calls them back for a final interview with the vampire leadership, Edward has the gall to quote the rulebook to the top powerbrokers themselves. This time he compares Bella knowing about the vampires (remember the first vampire rule is don’t tell humans that you’re a vampire) with the Volturi professional secretary, Gianna, who also knows the secret and is not put to death immediately, either. What nerve! I imagine that Caius is thinking, “We Volturi make the rules; they’re not for some young whipper-snapper to manipulate and throw in our faces!”

It’s no wonder that when the Volturi send some of the guard to Forks to look into the matter of the Seattle killing spree at the end of “Eclipse” that Jane and the others wait a bit to let the battle between the newborns and the Cullen clan happen. I’ll bet Marcus thought, “These Cullens are getting way too cocky and need to be taken down a few pegs. If some of them happen to get killed, well, so much the better.” How alarming to have the guard report back that the Cullens managed to kill all twenty of the newborns, their leader and even take one newbie prisoner, apparently with just the seven of them and one weak, silly human girl and no casualties on their side at all. Impossible! “Not only are the Cullens disrespectful and challenge our moral authority, they may even be stronger than we are!”

“Then to invite us to a wedding between a human and a vampire! What are these Cullens up to?” It was a stroke of good fortune to have Irena show up in Volterra with tales of a vampire child. “Finally, a pretext to go and kick some Cullen butt!”

The last book of “Breaking Dawn” describes a final confrontation between the Volturi and the Cullens. I’ve always wondered why the Volturi escalate so dramatically and bring everyone including the guard, the three supreme leaders and the wives to this showdown. It’s pretty clear that the plan was to exterminate the enemy Cullens. But how about that? The tables get turned again. Carlisle gets all of those blasted witnesses! Bella is a much more powerful shield than could have been anticipated. There are those stinky werewolf shape shifters. And the worst insult of them all, the child, Renesme, is actually growing! “We dragged the whole team out to this godforsaken place for nothing. How humiliating!”

The Volturi ruthlessly wield power for power’s sake. They simply don’t understand this live-and-let-live, internally motivated striving for moral and ethical improvement which the Cullens exemplify. I don’t care how intrigued Aro is with the idea of human/vampire offspring or how sentimental he is about Carlisle. This won’t be enough to satisfy the Volturi. The Cullens have clearly demonstrated that they’re a new power; one that has manipulated threatened and shamed the Italians. “Breaking Dawn” presents a false ending of eternal peace and happiness for Edward and Bella, etc. The battle has been won, but the war has just started…

Do I smell a post-“Breaking Dawn” sequel in the making, Steph?

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please don't treat me like a dog!

please don't treat me like a dog!

I feel bad for Leah. Her father dies of a heart attack in “New Moon.” Her lover, Sam, spurns her for her cousin, Emily, in the same book. She is forced to become a werewolf and have all of her most intimate thoughts exposed to all of those rowdy, harebrained teenage boys. She finally leaves Sam’s pack but is stuck hanging at the Cullens with Jacob and Seth. She simply loathes vampires. She won’t even eat the food that Esme finally learns to cook; that Seth finds so mouthwatering. And at the close of “Breaking Dawn” it looks like Charlie might be getting sweet on Sue Clearwater, Leah’s mother. Can you imagine a worse crisis than Charlie marrying Sue and Leah and Bella becoming step-sisters? Already her pack leader, Jake, seems to be destined for Bella’s daughter. And since the werewolves live as long as there is the need (e.g. vampires around), and Jacob seems to have no intention of leaving the Cullen’s place, then she’s really in a jam.

It didn’t start out that way. We first encounter Leah in “New Moon” at Billy Black’s house. Bella thinks that she’s “beautiful in an exotic way,” whatever that means. It’s a happy spaghetti party at least. But quickly things go way bad.

How is it that Steph manages to tie up all of the loose ends by the close of the series except for this one glaring exception? The love triangle thing between Bella, Edward and Jacob gets totally worked out. Bella and Rosalie are completely bonded in a healthy way. Edward and Bella have a delightful, thriving daughter that nobody intends to harm. The Volturi are away for the time being. Nobody is hunting Bella any more. Jacob is happy to be single and drool all day over Renesme. Seth is thrilled chillin’ with the Cullens. Sam and his crew seem cool. Charlie vaguely knows that he has a grandchild and he might even be going off on a romance of his own. Renee is sort of left out but she’s always been happy with Phil in Florida, so there really wasn’t much to fix. So what about Leah?

You’re mean to Leah, Steph! What did she ever do to you?!? Or maybe you’re just planning ahead. I do think that this could be a pretty interesting post-“Breaking Dawn” book. What exactly does happen to Leah after all of the rest is worked out?

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What’s up with Bella and Rosalie?

They are less than friendly in the first novel, “Twilight.” Yet by the close of “Breaking Dawn,” they’ve become the best of buds. For much of the series Bella is preoccupied with Rosalie’s beauty and seems very self-critical in comparison. We finally learn in “Eclipse” that Rosalie is completely envious of Bella’s humanity and ability to have children. By the end of the series, Bella has had a kid and become a beautiful vampire herself. Rose then acts as a kind of nursemaid/proxy mother for Renesme when Bella is recovering from her vampire transformation. The apparent dichotomy is solved.

shhh don't tell! we're a lot more alike than it looks

don't tell! we're a lot more alike than it looks

I just don’t buy this antagonism, or its resolution. Bella, despite all of her protestations to the contrary, is very conflicted about marriage and motherhood, especially early motherhood. As we learn more about Rosalie, it’s also obvious that she has a lot of “beauty issues.”

I’ve recently chatted up some of my female friends about this whole conundrum. As a guy, I’ve never quite understood this woman on woman competition in the looks department. My friends’ consensus seems to be that women do in fact compete with one-another about looks. This is then complicated by the fact that sometimes men’s and women’s views of feminine beauty do not correspond, leading to additional tension. (Personally, I think there’s a similar problem with guys, though most of us would never dare admit it.)

Then there’s that childbearing bugaboo. One of my friends tells me that it’s just sort of assumed that a woman could potentially have a child, whether she chooses to do so or not is beside the point. With this basic assumption, the idea that it is impossible for a woman to bear a child is so disturbing that it almost challenges a fundamental aspect of female identity. In this way, willingly, or unwillingly in the case of Rosalie, to give up this god-given right seems bizarre if not completely insane.

I feel like the fairy tale ending of the series glosses over some serious problems related to perceptions of beauty and biological motherhood about which both Bella and Rosalie struggle. Is it enough for Bella to “become” beautiful as a vampire, or was she always lovely, but failed to recognize this until she changed? Did Rosalie really lose something beyond her ability to reproduce when Carlisle transformed her into a vampire? Was Bella’s casual acceptance of forgoing children to marry Edward believable? Is Rosalie’s being a sort of aunt to Renesme enough to compensate her for this extreme loss that she feels? What if Bella and Edward want a second child? Steph raises the questions but seems very short on providing answers.

I am especially troubled by the section in “Breaking Dawn” where Bella discovers that she’s knocked up while honeymooning on the tropical Brazilian isle (book 1 Bella, chapter 7 Unexpected). Somehow she arrives at this explanation for her supernatural pregnant state:

Of course Rosalie could not conceive a child, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human to inhuman. Totally unchanging. And human women’s bodies had to change to bear children. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. Rosalie’s body couldn’t change….

….And human men—well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death…..Men had no such thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility.

Here we have this elegant “solution” which seems to conclude that a woman can either be fertile and plain or stunning and barren; just not both at the same time. Do people really believe it’s either beauty or babies? This is not the case with Edward, clearly: he looks like an angel and his stuff works. By extension, then, all men have the potential to be both beautiful and fertile simultaneously. This double standard is intolerable!

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