Food is the thread that weaves us all together. Everybody eats something, even if your definition of food doesn’t match my own.
I tend to prescribe to the diet that Michael Pollan describes simply as, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Plants are everywhere. And while some of them are “cute”, they don’t have feelings. Plus, they offer some not-so-secret benefits to the planet, like preventing soil erosion, producing oxygen, and if planted with care, help to maintain a healthy soil ecosystem. (Sorry, the teacher in me keeps bubbling to the surface. But I digress…) The point is, when I focus my diet on plants, I don’t have to feel conflicted with every bite.
It’s easy to eat. Just show up at a restaurant and anything your heart desires can be found on the menu. And like magic, it shows up on your plate. No fuss. No muss. Or blood. Or grimy bits. There is little emotion involved, unless you count the bliss that comes from devouring a delicious meal.
Behind the scenes are hard working people devoted to producing the food that we eat. They make it simple for us to survive. We don’t have to till the soil, get up early to feed the herd, or be involved in the messy business of slaughtering the animals that people like to eat so much. Without seeing the entire process, a burger on the plate is simply that. A burger. Not a cow that lived a life.
I have always tried to be a thoughtful eater. As a kid, I was brainwashed at a summer camp offered by our local animal shelter, and gave up red meat on the spot. But it was still easy to take my food for granted.
I decided that if I was to truly appreciate my meal, I would have to kill my supper. And it was hard. I almost didn’t do it. I almost brought these guys to the bay near our house and released them. But I didn’t.
Crab is an institution around here. The season is brief with many restrictions that ensure that they are not overfished into extinction, as has been the fate of so many other critters. We skipped the crab feed for our local school district this year, and I had a craving. And an emotional epiphany. It’s a lot easier to eat food that is simply delivered to the table than it is to sink a living creature into a pot of boiling water.
But I did it. And as much as I wanted to run the other direction while it cooked and avoid the reality of what I had done, I stayed. The biologist in me was curious. The softie in me was sad. The crab didn’t make any noise, and seemed to die instantly.
At least that’s what I told myself to make it easier.
On the bright side, it was delicious. And I appreciated every bite.
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