It has been approximately 4,844 days since I last ingested a hamburger, meatloaf, steak, pork chop or other cow/pig product.
Knock off a few thousand days and that will be the last time I ingested poultry of any kinda.
Subtract 4,830 days and that's the last time I ingested fish.
I am one of those special people that manages to tick off both meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike. I can't call myself a vegetarian- I eat some fish. But I definitely don't want to be boxed in with meat eaters either. I've tried using the "pescetarian" label in the past, but most people have no idea that "pesce" is the root word for fish-based things. "Flexetarian" just sounds pretentious and doesn't really cut it either- I'm not flexible. I won't ever eat cow. Ever. And I'm kind of a bitch about fish too. Was it caught sustainably? Has the Monterey Bay Aquarium given it the green light? Was it shipped all the way from Alaska or did it come off the shores of Nantucket? One wrong answer and I'm ordering the salad. And even if the answers are all "correct" I still feel conflicted about ordering the fried catfish.
I feel horribly, horribly guilty every time I bite into the flesh. I've had to completely stop ordering things like squid and octopus. My brain won't allow me to eat something I view as an intelligent creature. Octopii are smart. Squid are freakin' amazing. I am not worthy enough to eat them.
It's arbitrary. It's nonsensical. And yet, it works for me. And to make matters even more complicated...
I cook meat.
That's me and my organic, free range Guinea Hen, Henrietta. I'm about to chop her head off and break her legs.
Poor, poor Henrietta. So why is the non-poultry eater doing this? Her meat-eating family is too busy ignoring the fact they eat meat. They don't want to face Henrietta's beak. Or hear her bones break. Or feel how much force it takes to remove her head from her body. It's left to me since they were too chicken (no pun intended) to do it.*** My brother-in-law refused to even enter the kitchen until I was done with the deed.
So, I removed the head and feet. Cleaned her inside and out. Stuffed her with some herbs, garlic and half a lemon. Inserted pats of butter underneath her skin. Trussed up her legs and stuffed her in the oven to roast for an hour or two.
Everyone thought she was delicious. I, however, wouldn't know. I didn't partake. Instead I enjoyed an aggregious helping of my version of gratin dauphinois and a slice of butternut squash tart.
This was not the first, nor would it be the last time, I've cooked animals for others. Just last Saturday I hosted 16 people and served slabs of hanger steak I had marinated overnight in an incredible wine/paprika/shallot/garlic/lemon extravaganza. Two weeks ago I had a few people over and grilled up some rabbit. I've done my fair share of turkey cooking at Thanksgiving.
And for all my moralizing and internal strife, cooking meat doesn't bother me. My husband eats meat. A lot of it. I cook it for him and friends. But I make sure I only purchase meat that is ethically raised, with minimal impact on the environment. (I spend entirely too much money on dead animals just to sooth my conscience.) And I do my best to respect and honor the animal.
Of course, I do occasionally get on my high horse, usually after a glass of wine or two or three, and rant about the depravity of meat eaters. Destroying the environment, ignorant of the process of getting that hamburger to the fucking McDonalds, coming up with really bad jokes about PETA, etc... But I try to recognize that this isn't really anyone's fault. It's ingrained in our culture. For chrissake, two of the biggest catch phrases in advertising history are meat related! Where's the beef? Beef: It's what's for dinner. Blech. We are, on whole, a bunch of uneducated fools when it comes to our food sources. We want to cover our eyes and plug our ears and ignore where that slab of meat is coming from.
Sometimes I wish I could ignore it. I never really crave meat- never really cared for it at all, actually. So giving up that hamburger when I was 15 wasn't really very hard. But it would make life so much easier. It's hard being so obnoxious all the damn time. I'm that person at restaurants. But I've accepted that I'll be the person asking the waiter what coast the salmon is from, and then when it's from the Atlantic I scrunch up my nose and say, no thanks, I'll take the Greek salad. I'd rather be obnoxious and pretentious than ignorant and uncaring.
***Full disclosure: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Husband would have gladly chopped poor Henrietta's head off, but he was gathering firewood at the time. He's my go-to butcher normally. And, we currently have a bet going -timely considering Francis Lam's article: we are in search of a farm that will let him kill a chicken. If he can't do it, then he has to adopt my eating habits full force. If he can, then he can continue his meat-eating ways.