Saturday, June 28, 2008
Get That Delicious Meaty Monkey Off Your Back
Last night I received this text message:
"What the fuck kind of vegan bullshit are you getting yourself into?"
I responded with a disparaging comment about the sender's meat consumption, to which she replied:
"Red meat makes me happy. Blood red."
End of conversation. Now, I'm not a vegan. I'm not even a vegetarian. Shortly before last Christmas I made a vow to stop eating factory raised meat. I've maintained that vow except for two occasions. Once at my company's annual benefit at Tavern on the Green. No filling baskets of bread laid helpfully across the table to soak up all the alcohol from the open bar. No, you get one roll the size of a chihuahua's head (I like to measure things in chihuahua units) and you have to make the best of it. When the main coarse arrived the green beans were already soaked in the juice of their chicken breast counterpart. It was eat or drink more, and I ate. In retrospect that sounds like a stupid choice but it seemed like the right thing then.
The second time I broke my new rule was also at a benefit, for a public elementary school at a Chinese restaurant downtown. This wasn't intentional, I thought the little cube of something I popped into my mouth would be tofu. It wasn't. I'm not sure how it could be classified but it tasted like something suffered to make it.
Meat is a touchy subject for a lot of people. It has been fairly easy for me to stay away from factory farmed animal products mainly because I wasn't raised eating one of the most seductive and destructive-red meat. Blood red. I say destructive because CAFOs, the places where thousands of heads of steer are crammed shoulder to shoulder in their own filth, eating by-products of their predecessors (Helloooo mad cow disease), have changed the face of agriculture in America. No more small family owned farms growing a diversity of plants in a delicate ecosystem of crop rotation and animal grazing. Now it's acre after acre after acre of corn owned by large agribusinesses. To feed cattle, who aren't really built for eating corn anyway and have to be injected with all sorts of antibiotics to be kept from keeling over dead from ulcerated stomachs before they get to the slaughterhouse.
And I say seductive because red meat is tasty. I have eaten it and it tastes like blood and to carnivorous animals like humans, blood taste is the taste of protein and life and macho chest beating. All fun things. I could probably list a lot more reasons why steak is awesome if I were a connoisseur of that particular dish and had eaten more than a few experimental bites from a friend's plate. What I can say is that steak if heavy. If you don't eat it much a few bites will knock you out. So, is beef like crack and my friend craves it because she constantly eats it? Probably more like nicotine since I hear crack is instantly lovely that very first time while my memories of my first smoke all involved severe nausea and regret. Until it gets into your system.
There are options. There are free range chickens and grass-grazed beef. There's also this really interesting article I read a few weeks ago in the New York Times about how to start eating less meat:
Not NO meat, just less. I think it puts a few things in perspective about how much meat we really need to eat. No one likes to be told what to put in their body but I do think its important to experiment and consider why we eat how we do. If nothing else you may find a recipe you really like.