I think it’s important to have some connection to where our meat comes from. This isn’t to say we should completely avoid Taco Bell, Wendy’s or other supporters of factory farming. But we should at least recognize what our meat goes through before it shows up at the grocery store, restaurant table or drive-through window.
So last night when I did a cooking demo and food writing talk at a small public library just north of here as part of its adult summer reading program, I really pushed it. I read, in quick succession, a few pieces about animal death. Pieces I really love. Perhaps against my better judgment, I shared these, in longer forms, before I cooked and we ate.
First E.B. White’s 1948 essay, written prior to Charlotte’s Web, “Death of a Pig”:
The scheme of buying a spring pig in blossom-time, feeding through summer and fall, and butchering it when the solid cold weather arrives, is a familiar scheme to me and follows an antique pattern. It is a tragedy enacted on most farms with perfect fidelity to the original script. The murder, being premeditated, is in the first degree but is quick and skillful, and the smoked bacon and ham provide a ceremonial ending whose fitness is seldom questioned.
Next came Anthony Bourdain’s chapter “Where Food Comes From” from his book A Cook’s Tour:
They finally managed to wrestle the poor beast back up onto the cart again, the guy with the mustache working the blade back and forth like a toilet plunger. The pig’s movements slowed, but the rasping and wheezing, the loud breathing and gurgling continued… and continued…the animal’s chest rising and falling noisily… continued and continued…for what seemed like a fucking eternity.
And then Michael Ruhlman as the voice of Thomas Keller in “The Importance of Rabbits” from The French Laundry Cookbook:
One day, I asked my rabbit purveyor to show me how to kill, skin and eviscerate a rabbit. (…) He showed up with 12 live rabbits. He hit one over the head with a club, knocked it out, slit its throat, pinned it to a board, and skinned it—the whole bit. Then he left.“I don’t know what else I expected, but there I was out in the grass behind the restaurant, just me and 11 cute bunnies, all of which were on the menu that week and had to find their way into a braising pan. I clutched at the first rabbit. I had a hard time killing it. It screamed. Rabbits scream and this one screamed loudly. Then it broke its leg trying to get away. It was terrible.
Then we cooked pork chops from a farm, Pavelka’s Point, that I’ve been visiting this summer. Everyone one ate them and the chops were fatty, juicy and delicious.