Sunday, March 14, 2010

Food Musings

A topic of conversation that seems to come up a lot lately is whether or not one could kill an animal in order to eat it. Last summer, I lived with these guys. The turkeys wandered around camp, eating little bugs and pecking at anything shiny. When they were still babies, they would hop in my lap and I thoroughly enjoyed petting their feathers. This spunky guy tried to get into my tent.

But I had no amount of disconnect about the reality of the situation. Turkeys are food. When they wandered close to the fire pit, I would joke, "Yes, make yourself ready!" Why can't you play with your food and eat it too? Let the turkey live a nice happy spring and summer and come late autumn, he becomes dinner. But the question always is: could I kill the animal? Could I make dinner out of a living creature instead of a sterilized package?

Two years ago, I would have said certainly not. I also had trouble, for a while, cooking with raw eggs because they gave me the willies. But the more I learn about food, the more comfortable I am with the process by which it has come to me. I remember when I cooked a roaster one night in college and I spent so much time trying not to think about the weight of the animal in my hands or the feeling of its skin. But now, I can look at meat and imagine where on the animal it came from, what the animal must have looked like. I try to thank it for playing a role in the continuation of my life. So, I believe, with gratitude in my heart, I could turn one of my pets into my dinner. I've never had this opportunity, though I haven't sought it out either. Maybe that's a goal for next fall.

But this feeling of connectedness with my food is what makes me a comfortable omnivore. I am content to eat meat with the knowledge that it was at one point an animal. But what about the rest of my food? What WAS all of this at one point? I find myself, after having read so much about the American food industry, sticking to the outside of supermarkets--even here in the Czech Republic where the food industry is starting to follow the American standard. I get fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, meat, and dive into the aisles only for grains and spices. Yesterday, however, I needed to make a banoffee pie. It was an urge I could not control. I had to find condensed milk and digestives. I knew that the can in my had contained milk that had been cooked down, I think, to be thicker. Okay, I can handle that. The digestives were the next step. More appropriately than in American supermarkets, the cookie aisle was one with the candy aisle. I scoured the shelves for something not made by Opavia, a Czech company owned by the one and only Kraft Foods. I pretty much came up empty on that front. So, I headed over to the natural foods section of DM where I was able to find cookies not made by Opavia and with a fairly short list of ingredients.

When I got home, I put away my groceries. I wondered why every week I suddenly felt by Friday like I had no food left. I made two piles of food as I unpacked my groceries: fridge and counter. That's why. Almost none of my food goes into a cabinet to store for later. I buy very few things with any sort of shelf life or which I don't intend to use within a few days. And while it's frustrating because it's not how I've been taught by society to shop, it's actually the most natural way to do it.

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