Note: This is a post about an experience I had in 2013-2014. If you are particularly sensitive to reading about eating animals, you might want to skip this one. I am, too. Even reading this again kind of bothers me. However, I wrote this post to illustrate a way of staying open and inquisitive about our food cravings, and I suppose our life experience in general. I think it’s an important topic. How do we stay in alignment with our values while also honoring our ability (and sometimes a need) to adapt and change? How can we stay open, aware and thoughtful about how our intuition guides us?
One Spring a few years ago I started having cravings for duck. I had spent the majority of the previous 19 years vegetarian or vegan without any meat cravings. This was definitely an interesting surprise. It was a very specific craving.
I don’t want my beliefs to ever hinder my ability to be flexible and open. This extends to my food choices as well. So when I first experienced the cravings, my first instinct was to became curious about them.
Instead of flat out ignoring the cravings because I don’t eat meat or deciding to eat some duck simply because I was craving it, I started to ask myself some questions. What is the source of this craving? What is my body telling me about my nutrition? What is it telling me about the state of my physical body? Why just duck and not any other animal or bird? Why not chicken or turkey? These questions led to way to others, like how do I address the craving? What do I need to do?
Then I sorted through the answers while sensing my body’s response. Maybe I was craving richness. My father hunted duck so we ate it regularly growing up. Food can stay in our bodies for a very long time. Maybe I was discharging duck that I had eaten in the past. I even looked online and in the book Food Energetics to get a sense of the energetic properties of duck. I thought maybe I needed to bring in more of those qualities in my life. Commune with duck instead of eating it.
“Mallards are symbolic of emotions, as they are associated with the water element. They help in reminding one to take care of their emotional self, to nurture, and be easy on the spirit. They represent being able to handle your emotions with grace and strength.” from Conscious Art Studios
Ducks also symbolize community and relationship. To get a sense of the difference between ducks and chickens, in Food Energetics, Steve Gagné talks about how chickens will trample each other when scared, while ducks huddle. Maybe I needed more community.
That year, 2013, as Spring moved into Summer, the cravings went away, so I stopped my inquiry. I still hadn’t eaten any duck because I wasn’t sure if that was really the answer and if I did decide to eat some, I wanted to be really conscious about it.
Near the end of the next Winter, cravings for duck started up again. I renewed my exploration of whether there was something I needed to do about it and finally decided to eat some. To honor the craving and be open enough to see if that was what I was needing. So, the next question was where do I find wild duck? I decided I would have my cousin Mike kill it and I would take it to my mom’s where we would pluck the feathers, cook it and eat it together.
All I needed was to imagine a sweet duck being shot and killed and in that next moment I knew I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. So, I let it go. I decided that I wasn’t going to eat any.
A few weeks later I met a friend for my birthday dinner. I called her because I was running late, so when I got to the restaurant she had already ordered some appetizers. This friend is vegetarian, but when I sat down she told me that she didn’t know why, but she had ordered a duck appetizer and would I eat some?
I don’t know how you would have handled this, but to me it was as if I was being presented with another piece in my exploration. When the appetizer came, I ate some duck. It tasted delicious. My body felt fine. There were no problems with digestion. I ate a moderate amount and that was it. My body didn’t feel like it had a lot more energy than before. It didn’t feel like the duck was satisfying some nutrient deficiency. I didn’t crave any more and I haven’t craved it since. (Note: It’s been at least five years.)
I don’t know if I can say what this whole experience was about, but part of it definitely felt like an exercise in staying open and curious. It showed me how to be content with not having all the answers at once. I was able to enjoy the process of the inquiry. My body was giving me a message. It didn’t necessarily mean that I needed to go out and immediately eat some duck. Being curious about it allowed me to take the time to really understand what my body was trying to tell me. Rigidity, either in our physical bodies or in our thinking, is not a quality of health. Openness, adaptability and curiosity are signs of health. Structure, boundaries AND flexibility. Not always easy to hold space for all of them. But, vital.
Another thing I learned was that it wasn’t necessarily about the food. Sometimes when we crave something, it’s not the actual food we are craving, but the energetic properties of the food or the experience that we have attached to the food. I did eat meat growing up and I now value the fact that a lot of the meat was wild and fresh. My dad hunted and my mom prepared the meals. I have memories of her in the kitchen taking the feathers off and preparing the duck for a meal. I have memories of my dad cleaning his gun. A lot of people don’t have this experience with such a direct connection to their food source. I have a new appreciation for this part of my childhood, even if now, as an adult, I choose to live differently..
I also love being outside and during this time I became more conscious of my need to be outdoors than I had before. I would walk down to the lake near my home and just be with the ducks. It has expanded into the time I spend with trees and how I am so much more aware of nature all around me.