Getting To The Meat Of The Matter
Wednesday - December 21, 2005
(This column is being written between my Internet recipe searches for broiled salmon, cider-brined-and-barbecued turkey and cranberry roast beef for Christmas.)
Most of you see a bunny rabbit hopping across a field and say “oh, how cute” or “I wish I could pet it.” I see lapin a la moutarde with buttered noodles and braised red cabbage.
I have that same reaction - minus the mustard, of course - to squirrel, pheasant, deer and wild duck. They go best with a reduced Calvados sauce and peppercorns.
What wiring makes us have these different perceptions of animals?
About 25 million Americans consider themselves to be hunters. I grew up in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, where boys were always excused from school the first day of hunting season, and I got my 410 shotgun on my 12th birthday. So did my brothers on theirs. Not so for my sister, nor was she excused from school.
Very few of the 25 million hunters hunt in order to survive. It’s a sport and generally they consider having to clean the dead animal to take it home a rather unpleasant task. So some go to private game preserves that will dress their kills and FedEx it to their houses in a cold-pack box.
Most of us don’t see a cow or a pig when we go to the meat section of the supermarket to get a New York steak or a center-cut pork chop. I sometimes suspect our youngest kids think a steak originates in a styrofoam tray with a clear plastic cover. It comes from the steak factory.
I’d probably never have become a carnivore if I’d ever gone to a poultry processing plant or those places where they kill the cattle before processing them for meat cuts.
But I am an enthusiastic eater of flesh, both the farmed and the wild kind. I don’t care if it’s free range or caged, and I don’t ask the butchers for the provenance.
I’m pleased to hear that animal rights activists have forced the processors to give the animals happier deaths. But a death is a death - by a head shot or a throat cut doesn’t seem to matter, does it? Sometimes it sneaks up on me when I’m driving and some story comes on Hawaii Public Radio. I feel guilty and make vegetable lasagna that night.
Luckily for rabbits and squirrels, we don’t have any where I live in Zip Code 96816, so my hunting days are over.
My yearning for medium-rare steak and barbecued-until-black-skinned chicken hasn’t dimmed a bit. My wife has turned mostly vegetarian and I look forward to the few nights she isn’t home for dinner. Those become veal or blackened chicken nights.
So what is it that makes some of us want to put buckshot into a rabbit on the run, or pick off a squirrel with a well-aimed .22 bullet? And eat them. Could we all be programmed to live on grain, nuts and fruits?
Am I cruel when I order the venison or the wild boar by the crackling fireplace at the Kilauea Lodge?
And what about Jews, Hindus and Muslims who will eat one kind of meat but not another? Does God have meat preferences?
My wife eats fish and shell-fish without giving it a second thought.
That opens a whole new avenue of discussion, doesn’t it?
I have to go now. I just found a recipe for a beef loin with cranberry sauce.
Merry Christmas (no, not Merry Holidays, it’s Christmas) to all.
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