A few things that made me think today:
1. Reading an article on “Natural Beef” which came out in the Oregonian Food Day section yesterday.
This article takes for granted the fact that if cows are raised being fed grass, they’re happy to die for humans to eat them. A cow does not WANT to die, even if eating grass all the way to your mouth. A living animal that is sent unwilling to its death does not make for a guilt-free ingredient or snack, no matter what she is fed while she is alive.
This article seems like an unfortunate sham to me. The title reads, “Grass-fed? Grain-finished? Organic? Free-range? How do you know, and what does it mean?” I got excited for a minute. Will this article address the fact that it doesn’t matter whether it’s grass- or grain-fed; there is no “humane” treatment of an animal born to be slaughtered? I’d like to see an article starting with this premise that concludes it doesn’t matter what a cow is fed while alive on a “feedlot;” cows and other living and feeling creatures shouldn’t be sent to a lot to be “finished” at all. I use quotes around “feedlot” and “finished” because I find these terms to be intentionally vague. A feedlot is a type of confined pen where cows are sent to be overfed in order to gain enough weight to be slaughtered. “Finished” simply means these cows have their lives taken away before nature would do so, and they go to their death unwillingly. (I have to say, of course. What sane creature would go happily to have their throats slit, even if they were fed a delicious diet beforehand?)
As my sous chef told me today, “Rats are stupid. Why else would they eat each other when caught in a trap? Why else would they dart in front of us when we’re right here?” I really really like this guy. He’s a super person. I really like my job. It’s fantastic in all ways. All ways except one. You’ve heard of the “cognitive dissonance” that some people struggle with? Cognitive Dissonance is “an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. (Wikepedia)” This happens most often in peoples’ work lives versus personal lives. I love what I do and that I’m paid to do it. It’d be hard to ask for a better job more suited for my skills and talents. I won’t say what I do, only that I mostly love it, and the people I work with. The hard part? The dead chicken’s bodies I see in the walk-in freezer every day. The smell of dead pig when I arrive in the morning. The turkey mounds, or “meatloaf,” on trays I see at lunchtime. The pieces of cow I see in bloody bags, kept cold until ready to be cut up. And the rats darting out from their homes after we close. I work in a century-old building. Our city is centralized around a river; of course there are rats most places one goes. The rats at my place stay mostly to themselves, trying to find water, or something to eat. They don’t usually succeed since we keep our kitchen in the basement very clean. The Chef, Sous Chef, and General Manager have no problem with viewing these cute, intuitive, and loyal creatures as pests to be removed. There are traps set every night.
Sticky tape is one such trap–if a rat runs over a certain part of the floor, their feet are permanently stuck. Starving to death, confused, they try to gnaw at their own limbs in an effort to free themselves. I’m not an expert in rats, but I’m fairly certain that the one incident in which my co-worker mentioned one rat trying to eat another was just one trying to save another the only way they knew how. Rats are highly intelligent and friendly animals that don’t deserve to be tricked and trapped and killed for living where they do.
To be honest, I’ve cried at my job, a few times, to hear these people, my friends, my otherwise sensitive and wonderful friends, discussing the eradication and torture of these fellow creatures with a laugh, a giggle, and a shrug.
3. Revolutionary Road. A touching movie. Thought-provoking and amazing. The actors were well cast, and the plot… oh, the plot. As the author of the novel says, “If my work has a theme, I suspect it is a simple one: that most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy. (Wikipedia)” To me, the tragedy lies in the fact that some human beings see themselves as being inescapable alone, whereas others do not. Mrs. Wheeler sought a way out, any way out, because to her happiness and freedom meant escaping the rut, the race for money and promotions and a bigger house. It meant reaching their potential as human beings. To Mr Wheeler, he saw happiness as being with his beloved wife, his children, and eeking out a substantial way of life, even it wasn’t the life he vaguely imagined for himself while a naive and bullheaded youth. When the realtor’s husband toward the end of the movie slowly turns down his hearing aid to escape his wife’s hypocritical explanations, I can see what Richard Yates, the novel’s author, means when he says that most human beings are inescapably alone. Is this the fate Frank and April would have had in store in for them if she had not died a lonesome, tragic, and irrelevant death? Who’s to say? This movie, to me, spoke to the urges of humans, the drives, and the occasional futility of simply trying.
4. Squirrel meat. A article in the same section of the same paper I read this morning.
I thought this article was a joke. Here are a few choice pieces from this article:
How to Cook a Squirrel
“….Looking at the carcasses I wished that they had been cut into serving pieces; if there is a next time, I’ll request that. I did try cutting them up, but the bones were sturdy and I didn’t want to mangle my meal….”
“…I had planned to hunt my own squirrel….. but never having killed an animal before, I was hugely relieved when the weather turned miserable and I had to place an order…..”
“….Instead of serving it in its sauce straight from the oven, you need to cook it first, then cool it enough to pry, slice and pull the meat from the carcass…”
“…though I thought I tasted a faint whiff of furry slipper along with an echo of hazelnut….”
And here’s some from the article itself:
“….Enter the ‘Save our Squirrels’ campaign begun in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for the marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of ‘Save a red, eat a gray!,’ the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat…”
Fergus Henderson, the chef and co-owner of St. John restaurant in London, cooks with “…both poetry and passion, and sometimes prepares his squirrels to ‘re-create the bosky woods they come from’ braising them with bacon….”
“If you want to grab your shotgun, make sure you have very good aim–squirrels must be shot in the head; a body shot renders them impossible to skin or eat. (You want to get rid of the head in any event, as squirrel brains have been linked to a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease…”
“…Skinning a squirrel is ‘difficult and unpleasant,’ food write Leslie Mackley said, adding, ‘You have to fight to rip the skin from the flesh….”
And now some thoughts on this:
I never want to eat a food that I have to ask be cut into serving pieces before preparing because I don’t want to look at the original “product,” or let’s be real, animal.
I never want to be thankful that my food comes prepackaged to my door, rather than me going out to kill it. (It’s much better to go pick a big bunch of kale and prepare it than shoot a squirrel in the heart.)
I never want to eat a food that I have to cook, pry, slice, and rip the meat from in order to eat it.
I never want to eat an animal to “save” another animal.
I never want to cook with “poetry and passion” if it means killing and cooking fellow creatures.
I never want to grab a shotgun and aim away from the head, in case I get a nasty deadly disease while eating my dinner.
And finally, I never want to prepare a meal that is supposed to nurture me by fighting to rip skin from flesh.
Frankly, I never want to eat a squirrel. Then again, I never want to eat any meal where I have to have a difficult and unpleasant time, where I have to be glad I didn’t have to source it, and where I have to put out of mind the fact that I am eating something that fervently would choose NOT to be eaten.