Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kerry Greenwood's latest book 'Forbidden Fruit' - thoughts and an invitation, or: an open letter

Dear Kerry,

I write as a long time fan of both the Phryne Fisher and Corinna Chapman books. One thing that I have always admired about both series, particularly Earthly Delights, is the sensible and inclusive way that you handle people and groups who are often misunderstood by society - Wiccans, S&M, recovering addicts, goths and the homeless for example.

I was surprised to read the portrayal of vegans and animals rights groups in Forbidden Fruit. While I understand that artistic licence can be invoked for literary means, I found the portrayal of the motivations, philosophies and people confusing and disappointing.

I am vegan and focus very heavily on making sure that my decisions and ethical positions are reasonable, rational and accessible to others. Even the most 'extreme' liberationists I know, of which there are very few compared to the mainstream midground, fall well short of the characters in the book. I am concerned that these characters, untempered by some exposition on what most vegans are really like, perpetuate the myth that we are all foaming-at-the-mouth fanatics about to launch ourselves over the dinner table to wrestle the steak from your fork. We really do cop a lot of criticism from the uninformed and the belligerent, and we work very hard to engage and explain to the interested.

I was surprised that there was no point at which any reasons for veganism were put forward even in explanation, even though these reasons range from animal liberation to welfare to environmentalism to health. There are as many reasons to be vegan as there are vegans, but I didn't read anything that might imply that these reasons might be valid and rational. Vegans do not eat, wear or consume animal products not because we are slightly unhinged and extremists, but because we care deeply about animals, the environment and our health, and because we have thought deeply and carefully about our decision. I would have loved to have seen some acknowledgement of this in the book, even in a small way to counteract the perception that we are all Sarahs and hopeful cannibals, or Janeens who secretly crave and sneak dairy.

And we love food! I am yet to meet a vegan who is not obsessed with food and, particularly, baking. We have regular potlucks and most of us blog about food too. I would love to suggest a few blogs that you might consider reading, if you might be interested in reading a little of what we do (and cook)? I attach a list below, as well as some sites which try to explain why we feel that eggs and dairy are just as objectionable as meat, which seemed to be a sticking point in the book.

I would also like to extend an open, and very warm, invitation to you to attend one of our potlucks. I promise that the food will be delicious, and the company unextreme! We love to share our food and cooking with one another and recent triumphs include tiramisu, sausage rolls, tequila cupcakes, savoury watermelon salad and (my own) peanut butter ice cream. We would love for you to come along; we have a great community and appreciate the opportunity to share it. You would be most welcome at any time.

With thanks for two wonderful series of books, and in hope that you will have a read of our blogs and perhaps admire the baking,

Warm regards,


PS: I am writing this as an open letter and publishing it on my blog in the interests of my own transparency. Please feel free to respond publicly too.

Blog roll: (my own blog) (Kristy) (Mandee) (Lisa) (Pip) (Steph) (USA - Lolo) (Cindy and Michael) (USA: website of vegan chefs with massive baking component)

Other sites:


BrisVegan said...

I love Kerry Greenwood's books too. I had even noticed her mentions of vegetarians in earlier books (eg Murder in the Dark, which mentions lunch boxes made for vegetarians, just reading it again at the moment). I think that in some of the earlier Earthly Delights series, it was mentioned that Meroe was a vegetarian and she seemed to love her food. So I don't think that Kerry is anti-veg*n. However, reading her books, I think that she is an omni who loves good food and may not have been exposed to the full glory of good vegan food.

I was disappointed when I read Forbidden Fruit, as the vegan group was so very joyless and uninterested in good food. I read this as a literary device. I was a bit dissapointed that an otherwise very inclusive writer had repeated a sad stereotype about my social group.

I know that is a common stereotype. However, as you said, many vegans are complete foodies!

Thank you for writing this letter, Rachel. It was warm, fair and kind.

Miss T said...

Hi BrisV, thanks for your comment; you summed up what I was trying to say! I certainly don't think Kerry is anti-veg; the vegetarian characters in FF are sensible and sympathetic (although I wondered about using them as 'the voice of reason' as opposed to the militant vegans ...).

However the portrayal of vegans, even though used as a literary device, is coupled with some confusing inaccuracies (a vegan character asking if muffins have no animal products and eating them once told they have Brie in them; a plate of vegan snacks including tzatziki; the vegan group being referred to as 'vego'; the focus on pets by a group that is meant to be hardcore liberationist) which makes me wonder if there are some basic misunderstandings or editing/research gaps.
Anyway, I would still love for Kerry to come to a potluck!

BrisVegan said...

How cool would it be if Kerry went to a potluck! I would be even more jealous of all you lucky Melbournians.

Liz said...

Hello! I'm not a vegan, but I was directed here by a friend who knows of my longstanding Issues with Ms Greenwood's writing. Earlier in the Chapman series, she's taken similar potshots at people restricted to gluten-free diets, because obviously you would only remove gluten from your diet because you are a joyless food-hater, not for any valid reasons.

Sorry, sometimes I am still compelled to rant about that...

Miss T said...

Hi Liz,
I love issues with a Capital I! Someone else has also mentioned the GF potshots to me as well. Did you see her response too?