Friday, 8 May 2020

Meat

It is no doubt that our consumption of it has, and is having, terrible consequences on this sphere we inhabit.
I'm not a vegetarian, but have never eaten much meat seeing it as an occasional treat and more recently an occasional necessity - I have a low lying tendency to Trigeminal Neuralgia (sometimes affectionately (not) referred to as the worst pain known to man) - and feel that a from-time-to-time chunk of meat protein does keep my body stocked with B12 (vital in this case) and other vitamins. Having experienced the real full on TG thing I can honestly say I would eat a whole goat at that point if it would stop the attack, therefore chewing on the odd small steak feels warranted.
Mark (husband) would be totally happy as a vegetarian and often has been throughout his life, although travelling for music research in some countries required him to lapse - tricky to rebuff a host's kindness in refusing a meat dish.
He's now probably 90 percent vegetarian at home but accepts meat or fish if other options are not readily available when eating out - mostly the case in Southern France. My son is a true omnivore but happy to eat a mostly vegetable/pulses diet.
When I do buy meat I choose something locally slaughtered and usually from our town's bio-coop; just a small amount, maybe once a week. It might be a bit of minced beef to add to a pasta dish or a guinea fowl which will do for several meals - roast, curry, soup and two lots of dog meal scraps.
The word omnivore derives from the Latin omnis (all) and vora, from vorare, (to eat or devour), therefore we could conclude this means we eat everything, although many people would argue that we could but should we.

                            

I don't know. Probably no one, as with just about everything else, has a finite answer. We have canine incisor teeth for tearing flesh, big square molars for chewing . . . would seem logical that humans are designed to eat whatever they encounter depending on the situation. We who live in countries where a massive food choice is easily available do have many options but certainly where I live in France meat is top of the shopping list, tofu something alien and mysterious.
Lockdown for us has partly meant going back to shop in town. We'd got lazy, driving to the supermarket to do everything in one go. We did always use the local bio shop for staple goods but now it, the town's veg shop and occasionally one of the butchers has become of prime importance.
A meat-based lunch planned yesterday (Mark the vegetarian makes a mean traditional lasagna) I cycled to town and joined the queue outside 'Jose's'.
We've been being buying occasional bits of meat from this shop for over fifteen years and part of the joy (if there joy involved in peering at animal carcasses) is engaging with the lovely couple who run the place. However overworked they are they always stop and chat, suggest the best way of cooking whatever it is you are purchasing, faces bright with enthusiasm over garlic sauce, accompanying vegetables, secret methods handed down, etc.
It's never a quick shop. All the clients receive the same treatment whether it's, in our case, buying a small packet of fresh steak mince, or two carrier bags bulging with carefully cut and wrapt flesh. I stood and listened to old Madame Whoever ordering an enormous and varied quantity of meats, each one discussed, advice given, choice of cuts offered. She was a small elderly woman who must have had a voracious carnivore appetite, or maybe she was shopping for ten people; I suspect not. Probably just her and Mr Whoever for a few days. But meat was obviously the central dish of every day: lamb cutlets, pork something, various sausages, paté, a chicken and two thick steaks . . . I watched Jose lovingly slice the steaks with a knife so sharp it literally melted through the flesh while they talked about pan heat and garlic.
My eyes wandered up to the old framed photographs that adorn the brown tiled walls and studied them as I have so many times while waiting. They have pride of place here, family members caught in sepia arrest, proudly holding splayed cow/horse? carcasses; the local abattoir, and a particularly fascinating photo which I must ask to look at in detail one day: a group picture, a family or small business perhaps. One man holding a large cut of meat, a dog grinning in the foreground, a man grasping the nose ring of a bull and another man holding - in demonstrative position - a huge lump hammer over the head of the bull, his job, presumably the 'knocker'. I don't know what the equivalent is in French, I just recall the name from reading Upton Sinclair's 1906 book The Jungle, a terrifying portrayal of (mainly) the American meat-packing industry.
Is there a safe point between the barbaric meat industry and no meat? Possibly, but it requires a complete rethink and education about meat generally. We have become used to anything being available whenever we want it; plastic wrapped, no preparation, no thought needed about where a pork chop or chicken leg actually comes from, the conditions the beast lived in before meeting its end.
As with so many other elements of how we live today, (which is being severely questioned at the moment as we attempt to deal with Covid), I think the answer is less. A lot less. Local. Small scale. Better quality. Occasional. Up the vegetable intake drastically, educate about real food, love the lentil, and seriously think about how and why this virus has come about. What nature might be telling us.

I've just found two of the mentioned photos, including the 'knocker'.




  














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