Monday, August 1, 2011

Meat and Greet

Sure, I have my faults. Aside from the big-ticket items, and just off the top of my head, I’d say -- big feet, bad temper, atrocious spelling, and the inability to ever return a library book on time.

And there’s that little problem about finishing things I start.

I’ve started as a vegetarian, over and over again. And confronted many a failure with some A1 sauce.

This summer, I joined a group of environmentally concerned carnivores and bought a portion of a a schoolgirl’s 4-H project. Mary had a little lamb, and I’ve got the leg in my freezer to prove it.

My thought was, if I must eat meat, at least let it have been humanely raised and respectfully treated. In other words, happy meat.

Apparently, there's a growing movement promoting spiritual carnivorousness that goes way way beyond my modest attempt at compassionate consumption. This conclusion is based on the emails from the group, emails asking the organizer if they could know the lamb’s name, post a photo, visit the lamb while she was still, uhm, with us. Someone suggested a field trip.

Suddenly it seemed like some kind of virgin sacrifice. And I started feeling pretty darned sad as doomsday approached.

I don’t ever want to meet my meat. I don't want to know the color of its eyes or that it liked to be scratched behind the left ear. I want some distance between us, a cushion of time and space.

All this to say, while shanks and chops and other significant lamb bits cool their heels in my freezer, I’ve once again gone vegetarian.

Which of course means there will be no barbecue. If history repeats itself and memory serves, not for at least another two or three weeks.


  1. lol. I tried going vegetarian once. When I got down to the brass about *why* I was trying to not eat meat---that it had a face, a mother, feelings---the engineer side of me was reminded that plants have families too and feelings and well, then I was left with eating dirt and well, except when I was teething and used dirt clods to quell the pain, I'm not much good at eating dirt.

    So, back to it has been for me ever since. I try to eat consciously, I try to add more veggies in (whenever someone points out my meat had feelings, all I can think about is hearing lettuce SCREAM as it is cut off the stalk;-) and to treat all living things as respectfully as I can.

    There is no law saying you can't BBQ veggies---we do asparagus on the grill, I just read a recipe for grilled lettuce (yes, really) and have seen a host of recipes for grilled veggies of any kind. Fire it up K!

  2. Awwwww, doesn't that face say, "
    BEEF IS THE REAL MEAT." When we lived in Switzerland (20 yrs ago), we passed by a farmers field every day, and little lambs frolicked there in the spring...swore off lamb forever.
    Do vegetarians eat bugs? Nice fried scorpions or roaches?

  3. I admire y'all. Can't do the vegetarian thing (and please, really? Name of lamb and visit the soon-to-be-deceased? WHO is capable of an appetite after that?) My household already contains more food fusses than a halal/kosher deli.

  4. Ha!

    When the kid raising the lamb told me the lamb's name, my jaw dropped. When I was growing up raising sheep and cattle to eat (because my parents have animal husbandry in their blood), we named our animals after dishes made of their meat. It is very different to yell at Pot Roast for running you over on the way to her food than to yell at Bluebell or some other charming name.

  5. Humanely raised, humanely killed, yada, yada,

    I haven't eaten meat for a dozen years or more. if I have to explain my choice, and I rarely have to, my answer is something along the lines of, 'if the rest of the world demanded or could afford to eat the way we do in the west our eco-system would collapse' There are other reasons to eat less meat or no meat but 'the end of the world as we know it' seems to trump most of them.

    To meet the demand for meat animals have to be raised in factory conditions. Even so it's an insanely inefficient use of land, crops, water, etc.

    I rarely rant publicly but this topic pushes my buttons.

    Disclaimer: I will eat fish and feel less comfortable about that all the time.

  6. Trish, visit Desiree, one post previous, and she has an alternative to dirt.

    Tash, once I made friends with a duck and could never eat duck again. Maybe that's the secret to successful vegetarianism. I need to make friends with a pig.

    Christina, I knew a family that bought a live turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. The turkey bonded with their little boy, and I think the turkey is 10 or 12 years old now.

    Wayne, all true.

  7. I think you're onto something. I decided to eat mostly non-gluten bread because of its scarcity. This means I eat less bread/pasta to which I was clearly addicted. If you eat meat from pastured (the new free-range) critters, well, you're eating less and relying more on plants for sustenance which is better for the environment. I read up on how chickens are slaughtered on farms and it's very peaceful, very humanely done, and I think I could do it. I don't know about Lambkins or anything larger, that would require more reading and thinking.

  8. My dentist says he's going bow hunting in my yard in November, because there's a whole herd of deer there. Myself, I can't wait until the fool critters stop eating my shrubs and trees. They are destructive SOBs. Enjoy your BBQ whenever you get to it. BTW, I don't want to meet my meat, either. We all have a purpose, and ours is to eat meat.

  9. PS Wayne, there are new, more humane regulations on the kinds of cages factory chickens can be kept in. You can thank the ASPCA for their tireless work in making that happen.

  10. AH, once again humorously provocative. You've almost said this already, esp. in "virgin sacrifice"-- when I eat meat (which is often), aren't I pretty close to cannibalism? How much difference is there? Side of beef, side of neighbor Ted, what's the diff? Watching CSI etc. and the movies' ongoing gore competition adds to my impression that flesh is there to be eaten, so why fuss over the brand?

    But I've also been on Tash's team in wondering why we don't speak of broccoli's soul (hadn't thought of broccoli's aunts, uncles, orphaned brocco-tikes. Thanks, Tash).

    Now I feel properly elevated.

  11. A hot button topic.

    I won't mention my careless eating habits, but for a coincidence of posting my friend John's notice of his marathon stand-up paddle around the circumference of Lake Tahoe for the benefit of farm animals this September.

    Not does John only amaze me with his renku verse when we write together, but he leads an amazing life. A simple craftsman in the warm months, he spends winters surfing and communing with whales and nature in the Baja pennisula. Always is he an advocate for distressed creatures, as well as for us human beings. I suppose his opposite might be, umm, Ted Nugent, maybe, if not only for commitment to a cause.

    I won't hold anyone in contempt for their choices, but certainly, this is food for thought.

  12. I hear cuz of govt budget crisis, late library book lawbreakers are now, in addition to paying fines, gonna be facing some serious time. I think it's also part of the plan agreed to in DC this weekend to delay dealing with the debt crisis for a few more mths.

    And I woodn't skip the barbecue. Continue with the A1.

  13. Try having a look at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage for raising and slaughtering his own livestock.

  14. You'll be back. Mwahahahha

  15. I have my medium rare with no bad conscience ... and it tastes good.

  16. I like octopuses. They're very intelligent. So I won't eat calamari, even though it's tasty. But I still eat beef and chickens. Illogical. The day we find out that plants have feelings will be a difficult day for me. They may well feel horrible pain, and the worst cruelty would be to have one of those rooted lettuces in your kitchen and pluck the leaves one by one as needed.

  17. Paula, you're in charge of my rat traps.

    Marjie, we're going to disagree on this, but I'd allow the deer to eat anything they want. When it comes to beauty, it's hard to trump deer. Peacocks, maybe. And I've allowed peacocks to feast on my crops.

    Banjo, Side of beef, neighbor Ted. That's filed in the classics.

    CP, I think I've bought the library by this time. And, you're a bad influence.

    Tony, maybe I'll just have to trust you on that.

    Bellis, you were about to give me a nightmare, but no. If it grows back, I don't think it hurts.

  18. We had a movie here in Japan about a teacher who taught his grade school class about life through raising a pig...and eventually eating it. Or something like that. I'm actually not the greatest animal lover around but for some reason am a vegetarian.

  19. Humorously provocative - Banjo got it in two. I'm mostly a vegetarian as I'm too lazy to cook meat, but I do eat it on occasion. Can't say I've eaten lamb in a long time though. Such a cute little lamb. Is that why snails are never the poster animals for the anti-meat crowd? I guess no one says, "Aww, such a cute little snail. How could you possibly smother it in garlic butter and eat it?"

  20. Oh, man. My aunt and uncle in Indiana used to meet their meat (cow) and introduce it to their kids and then serve "Bessie burgers" (or whatever name that year's cow had) to their kids all summer. I always thought there was something messed up about that. Staying with them and hearing about Bessie was the closest I ever came to being a vegetarian.

  21. I was a vegetarian for 8 years (quasi veggie - I always ate seafood), until I went to my boyfriend's mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner. After a taste of turkey, it was a slow slide to hell, or heaven, depending on your perspective. As an animal lover I don't like that I eat meat. As someone concerned about the planet, I feel worse about eating seafood, which I've almost entirely cut out. And I do eat mostly "happy meat." But naming and meeting my meat? No thanks.

  22. You've pretty much got my own feelings on the matter down pat, Hiker. The best I seem to manage at this time is to eat organic meat in hopes that the sweet animal had quality of life, but even so, I couldn't cope with meeting it first.

  23. I haven't eaten meat for about eleven years. I only eat chicken and fish. But if I will eat red meat, I also don’t ever want to meet my meat either.

  24. I classify myself as a quasi-vegetarian. I like bacon, what can I say? I admit a little 'eeew' escaped my lips at the mention of a leg in your freezer. My guess is, the little lamb isn't happy any more. You'll get no judgements from me though. I'm not gonna pass myself off as superior, for me, it comes down to preference. I simply don't like the taste of red meat. Never have.

    Bon apetit,


  25. Katie, I think snails are vegetables. That's why I can continue to eat them.

    Bec, Bessie burgers. I lost my first gulp of coffee on that one.

    Susan & Shell, I'm pretty sure that's where I'll end up in two weeks.

    Sonia, fish is very hard for me to give up.

    Bandit, I think I got an email from him but didn't know what it was. Can you resend?

  26. I can eat just about anything but lamb, so Mary 's lamb will live many a day for me. hahahaha

  27. I have tried to be vegetarian, too. My Texas roots are too strong plus I just feel crappy when I don't have animal protein. I also feel weird eating any diet that requires I supplement iron and B12 in pills in order not to get sick. I'm already gluten intolerant so it's difficult to do vegetarian if I can't eat wheat. So, it's a kind of stone-age diet for me, with lots of sad feelings about factory farming.

    I can't change what restaurants buy but I only purchase grass-fed beef which, by definition, has had a better life. Also more Omega 3s than salmon and the farmed salmon is raised under awful conditions, not to mention with unhealthy feed.

    All of this would be out the window if I had to hunt my own dinner. Yikes, I'd starve.

  28. Since I now spend my evenings walking the path of death (Soto) I see Noahs Ark (stuffed with Dollys) make it's way to Farmer's John via rail and Semi. Not to mention the junk yard dogs between litters and feral parking lot cats. Ugh

    off to downtown now

    btw: just finished my County meeting. The tiles were met with applause

  29. Alas I always know my meat but I respect his or her life!

  30. I think he'll resend before the event. But for anyone wanting to see a grown man hugging a cow, here's that link:

  31. That's a great video, Bandit. Wow, fifty percent of ocean life caught goes to farm animals as fish meal? That's staggering.

  32. PETA has a sizeable cash prize for the first people who develop meat grown in a lab. I really want this to happen soon. There's no reason why muscle meat can't be grown in cell culture. But will gourmets and the folks who shop at Wholefoods shun this meat for the real, once-living thing? I'm interested in how this will turn out, which could be as soon as the next 5 years.

    Would you eat cultured meat?

  33. Well.

    Thanks for posting, Bandit. And I'm in agreement with this guy when it comes to factory-raised, inhumane treatment of animals for food.

    One on the reasons (many, many reasons) I love visiting Linda's site, is that the animals live free on the range. I encourage you all to take a visit. It always does my heart good.

    Bellis, you've tugged at my brain, and you know my brain hates that. I'm going to have to think about why this concept bothers me.

  34. really? not even a thumbs up? I'm hurt

  35. Altadena Hiker, I found your blog from Christina's A Thinking Stomach, and I'm glad I did.
    I find it particularly interesting to drop in here when you're contemplating eating animals, and wanting to place a great big wad of distance between you and the live version.
    I hear you. In fact, that distance is what I wrote my phd on. The danger, I think, is that the distance allows us to be complacent about the lives of these animals. If we can overcome that complacency, and take care with our meats' provenance, I don't see why we need to 'know' the animal too.

  36. PA, mea culpa. I honestly missed your comment yesterday. I know that area of town well -- too well. Incredibly depressing. BUT many congratulations on the tiles. You know I always meet your work with a round of applause.

    the good soup: Nice to meet you. You're right, of course. It's easy to disconnect from the animal from the neatly packaged meat in the supermarket.

  37. PA, if you're still reading, congratulations!!!! A round of applause is great praise, especially for artwork that will be in a public place that everyone feels they own and can have an opinion on. I knew it'd be good, though.

    I prefer to buy the packaged meat in a supermarket rather than see bits of animals in a traditional butcher's shop. I stopped going to a butcher in Cambridge because he had a stuffed bull's head on the wall. I could not buy beef while looking into that animal's eyes. Yet he was a butcher who slaughtered the cows himself, humanely and locally, rather than put them through the trauma of a long trip to a slaughterhouse.

    By the way, I think it's awful that here a slaughterhouse is called a meat packing plant. Name it for what it is.

    PA, I am not ever going to go down Soto.

  38. You've timed your latest vegetarian retreat perfectly, I must say. No need to give up barbecuing--my latest post is a vegan grilled meal featuring a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with homemade strawberry jalapeño jam. Even for a carnivore like me (who is secretly lusting after the contents of your freezer as we speak), it was a satisfying meal that didn't leave me wishing for a hot dog.

  39. In her college years, Miss J helped a family whose home she lived in with their chicken slaughter. At the time she was a vegetarian but she felt, Well, she HAD eaten chicken, it was only fair she partake. M

    Miss J isn't fond of the taste of lamb and isn't sure she could eat one even if she were. They are one of Nature's cuties.

  40. 40 comments! 40! What's left to say. How is the raw vegan thing going, anyway?