Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Too Many Animals, Not Enough Vegetables

Fig.1. Three thin slices of meat, one large garden salad.

“How many animals have you killed today?” A homeless man said to me as I descended to the Guy/Concordia metro station. I had just finished a class at Concordia and was heading home. The man, standing at the base of the escalators, had his hand out looking for some form of security. His belligerent rumblings were heard by all who flowed up and down the electronic steps, and with my shield up, I walked past him rather than give him the spare change he needed to save up enough for a trip to the SAQ. 
He asked me how many animals I killed because, at the time this occurred, I was considerably larger than I am today, larger by 150lbs, give or take a few.  This comment, apart from make me feel bad, made me think.  I wondered what the answer to his question was: how many chickens, cows, pigs and rabbits had I killed? How many ducks by way of chewing had died as a result of my appetite? Far more than if I ate solely for survival it would seem. While I didn’t do the math, I reckon I had killed far too many animals by way of decadent suppers and larger than necessary portions. And all this exacerbated by my ridiculous desire to chronicle my life as I lived to eat rather than humbly eating to live, and writing stories about that.  I thought about my family in Ripi, Italy, living off the farm. If the belligerent homeless man took a trip to Ripi and asked my uncle how many animals he had killed he would be fully capable of answering him: Two pigs, I veal and four sheep a year, two to three chickens and rabbits a week, and all this to feed a family of 5 adults. (as well as extended family on special occasions) I can tell you that the pigs are transformed into various cured salumi, as well as sausages and some chops. The veal is butchered and the meat vacuumed packed and frozen, as for the sheep, one on Easter and one at Christmas, another 2 vacuumed packed and frozen.
While we cannot all be humble farmers who live off the land, we can be more mindful of our animal consumption, not just as individuals but also as city dwellers, country dwellers, and inhabitants of North America as a whole.  New York Times food writer Mark Bittman holds that North Americans consume 10 billion cows a year. This is a staggering number for 25 percent of the world’s population to be consuming, most of the cows puréed and molded into processed foods and sold to fast food restaurants.  North American chicken consumption is in the 100’s of billions.
I’m not turning into a vegetarian any time soon, but frozen processed foods for me have been a thing of the past for quite a while now, and fast food visits are few and very far between.  As for how many animals I kill daily, I still don’t keep count but there are many days I don’t kill any.

Fig.2. Dry lettuce makes for a great salad.

Garden Salad with cheese and eggs

This lettuce is from my grandfather's garden, the cherry tomatoes are from Birri in the Jean Talon Market. The taste of something so fresh takes offence with each ingredient you add to it. If it’s fresh, keep it simple. The cheese and egg are there for protein’s sake. The key to a great salad is dry lettuce, so take the time to dry it properly. Once your lettuce is thoroughly dry, mix all of your ingredients together and eat. Perfect on hot, summer days.