Discerning vs. Snobbish

A week or so ago, an interaction I had with a friend got me to thinking about the important difference between being discerning and being a snob. And there is a difference.

Here’s how the basic interaction went down:

Me (responding to a different friend who was making communal pots of tea, who asked what kind of tea I like to drink): Well, I drink mostly green tea, but no need to make any just for me, I brought my own.

Friend (standing nearby in ear shot): You brought you own huh?

Me: Yeah, I found this great loose leaf green tea online that I order from Ten Tea and I really like it. So I decided to bring it along with me today.

Friend (playfully stated): Oh, so you’re a tea snob?

Me: Well, no. I would say that I am discerning.

Friend (again, playfully stated): Oh, is that how you rationalize it?

Me: Well, no. I don’t think being discerning and being a snob are the same thing.

Words matter. And the words ‘discerning’ and ‘snob’ are not synonymous or interchangeable. It’s not the action that matters nearly as much as the motivation and energy behind it. It’s not the what, it’s the why.

On dictionary.com, it defines the word ‘discerning’ as: showing good or outstanding judgment and understanding. And it defines the word ‘snob’ as: a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.

Nope. Definitely not the same thing.

Let’s unpack this a little bit more.

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Vegan vs Vegetarian

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As a point of clarity: a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat or seafood and a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat, seafood, or animal byproducts of any kind: dairy, eggs, honey. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old. It was a decision I made one day, after finding out that my cousin had decided to be a vegetarian. It was something I thought sounded cool, so I did it and it stuck – pretty fancy reason, eh?!

I’ve never been personally drawn to going the one step further into vegan territory, but over the past few months it’s been a percolating thought. The sole motivating factor has to do with my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), encouraging his ordained students to take up a vegan diet. His teachings and suggestions hold a great deal of sway for me, given my love, respect, and confidence in his practice and what he has to say.

I don’t consume very much dairy naturally. I haven’t been a cow’s milk drinker since I was young and my food tastes ere on the side of quite simple and basic, and what many would consider bland, so cheeses, butter and cream toppings have never been a big draw for me in general. A few years ago I gave up dessert sugars, so ice cream, pastries, cakes, cookies, and other similar foods are out for me as well. But I do really enjoy pizza, which we typically have for dinner once a week in our household. And on occasion I make lasagna or stuffed shells. My biggest form of non-vegan consumption is eggs, which I eat every morning for breakfast, and up until recently came from my own backyard chickens.

In an effort to hear a little more from Thay on the subject of veganism, I found a youtube video of him addressing this very matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gwOzzGibsg&t=252s 

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To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat

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Lately there has been some discussion (and some elevated emotions) over the OI (Order of Interbeing) listserve about vegetarianism, veganism, and the impacts of eating meat on the environment.  While it’s true that Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) has asked his students to reduce their meat consumption by half and to consider cutting out meat entirely because of the damaging effects the livestock industry has on global warming and it’s also true that our tradition’s monasteries have switched to a vegan diet I’m not so sure the most pressing question involved here is whether or not to eat meat or to become vegan.  For me, the question here is what can I do to potentially help support an environmentally sustainable food system?

For those of us not who are not familiar with the terms: A vegetarian is someone who does not eat beef, chicken, seafood or fish and a vegan is someone who, in addition to not eating meat, also does not eat dairy, eggs, or other animal byproducts, such as honey.

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