Return to the Kitchen

I have a pretty vivid childhood memory of the day that I realized that the chicken that I ate had once been a living animal. I was 5 and the discovery involved my Fischer Price farm set and a mother who realized a bit too late that helping me make the connection was only going to result in difficulty at the table later.

I was a tiny, highly principled vegetarian.

Except for pork. Somewhere in the connecting food names to animals process, my mom wised up and refused to tell me what pork was, which meant that I ate it. Which also meant that she simply referred to everything as pork, because moms are sneaky like that.

Since then, I have learned what pork is, and have several times been pretty successfully vegetarian. One quick look at factory farming and it’s pretty easy to construct an argument against meat. And then Sam read Eating Animals over the summer, which only made us want to lean vegetarian more.

My problem with vegetarianism is that I love food. And I pretty much always want to try all of it. So to reconcile my food love with my issues with basically all commercially available meat, I am going in with my friend on a pig.

It’s not just any pig either. It’s a Berkshire ALMOND FINISHED pig. Apparently this pig has been eating roasted almonds since April, which sounds so impossible I almost don’t even believe that it is for real. But Lefty (!) has invited us up to the farm to see for ourselves. And we’re going.

The pig will be delivered to a fellow named Kent who runs a USDA certified slaughterhouse/butchery, and who is the person in Ventura County that you take your elk to after a successful hunting trip or whatever. In other words, we are not Kent’s usual customers. Kent, after meeting with us for over an hour, decided that my friend and I were too high maintenance to take a cut list from, and now we are meeting up with him on a Saturday in September for a custom butchery experience. I’m a little terrified.

My friend is going to be there for the slaughter, which is really really great. Her prize is that she gets the liver. I don’t need to get quite that close to my food source.

So I know that this space has been silent for a while. But suddenly I have a food project again. I hope to chronicle it here.

Meanwhile I will be cooking from my new favorite cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, and I hope to get some posts about that up soon as well.

And if any of you have ultimate pork recipes, please share them with me here.

About christianathomas

I'm a working mother of two trying to make eating well fit into our hectic lives. I also used to own a completely chaotic bakery. Follow me for tips and tricks on how to get more whole foods into your diet.
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5 Responses to Return to the Kitchen

  1. Pork-Tastic says:

    THRILLED to be on this adventure with you! We are going to have an absolute ball.

  2. wlwesq1 says:

    Hi C —
    I think our minds think a little alike on this general topic. As you know, I enjoy a good steak. I eat a good deal of chicken. Pork not so much, seafood rarely if ever. Yet I do have these occasional moral qualms about eating something that came from a live, sentient critter. I try not to think about it much (especially while eating) lest I have incredible guilt. Still, that moral doubt remains an undercurrent. Plus when you consider what CAFOs do to the environment and the energy consumption…

    Of course, besides being a fan of beef, I don’t have a very adventurous palate and thus I wonder how long it would take before I would tire of a vegetarian diet. Still, it might be worth the experiment some time. I’m always on good terms with pasta (whole wheat, please), and spinach salads are a favorite lunch meal.

    Perhaps I’ll put Eating Animals on my list and that will tip me over the edge.

    Glad to see you’re writing again!

    • Honestly, I really struggle with this. My kids are also not super adventurous eaters, and one of the ways that we make sure they get enough calories is by offering them meat. I can make some wonderful vegetarian recipes, but the kids are not going to eat polenta with portobello and taleggio at this stage in their lives, and I abhor having to cook separate meals for them. So in addition to all the moral/ethical concerns, I have the practical one of seriously I have to feed everyone SOMETHING, and sometimes that will include meat.

      Also I feel healthier when my diet includes meat.

      I am really really happy with the choice to go in on an animal. I recognize that not everyone can do this and that it is not necessarily a sustainable model either. My ideal would be about 70% vegetarian and 30% really awesome meat. This will make my pig last through the better part of a year. I hope that is at least approaching sustainability.

      You’ve probably heard of Beyond Meat? Not sure when their products will hit the heartland, but we’re expecting them in SoCal this fall or winter. I’m excited to see if this might be a nice substitute for chicken in our house. Also, I suspect that you could probably get yourself a side of beef from a local farmer, if you wanted to avoid the CAFO issue. (Hint: begin by looking for a butcher that breaks down game, they should have the skinny.) As for the moral dilemma about eating another animal, all I can say is that we seem to be biologically designed to do it, as most animals are.

      Also, pork is awesome! If you ever make it out here, I’ll do my best to convince you with some local meat. 🙂

  3. Tammy says:

    Welcome back. Almond finished sounds very interesting. I agree with you that it’s important to know how the animal was raised and it’s important to consider the effects on the environment.

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