Maybe it’s because I’m left-handed (and left-footed, don’t ask), but I am extremely clumsy. It seems as though I break glasses as often as I use them. Once--actually twice--I broke two glasses in ten minutes. In public. At a bar. In front of parents of some students I taught at the time.
So it’s no surprise that my morning toast inevitably slips from my buttery fingers on to my kitchen floor bi-weekly. I can’t help observe each time it lands jelly side down, though I recognize I may only observe this fact because I tend to fight, rather than embrace, life’s tragedies and comedies.
This is all a roundabout way of beating myself up for launching a food/memoir blog and then subsequently falling down the spiral staircase of factory farming conscientiousness that has spit me out at natural food stores and farmers markets.
Ever the journalist, I pretend to be objective about food ethics, all the while bombarded with information and stimuli. For every billboard with a burger on it, there’s a book or article or documentary about the modern evils of factory farming.
I recently read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” I have seen Foer’s interview with the likes of David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres. I wouldn’t herald Foer as the next Wendell Berry by any means (who was both clairvoyant and humble), but his prose was compelling…to the point where I have yet to eat chicken again in Georgia, the Land of Chick-Fil-A. I sent the company’s media contacts an e-mail inquiring about the origin of their products. The lack of response bothered me, but it didn’t surprise me. I can at least appreciate Foer’s difficulty in researching and executing his book because of the veil of secrecy cloaking the meat industry.
When I hear about people like former President Bill Clinton (Mr. Big Mac) and Alec Baldwin living vegetarian, if not vegan, lifestyles, it makes me wonder if I’ve been playing for the wrong team all these years. I’ve never cared for meat that much to begin with, but I have likened burgers to a legitimate art form and scallops to utter ambrosia.
Like many foodies, I’m a casual fan of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” so naturally I was star-struck when I came across Kevin Gillespie at his Atlanta restaurant Woodfire Grill. His restaurant is founded on the principle of serving local, organic, sustainable food. The meal was profoundly good. I even wrote Kevin a semi X-rated, wine-fueled haiku at the end of the meal as a thank you. Apparently, I wasn't the first to regale the chef with poetry. Here's a snapshot from the ladies restroom at the Woodfire Grill, compliments of a 10-year-old fan:
Kevin worships bacon, but jokes and limericks aside, Foer (among other voices) tell us this: Dress it up however you like, pigs experience tortured lives. This is no Native-American buffalo, dignity in death. And ironically, bacon can entice sometimes even the most loyal of vegetarians to go AWOL: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/02/133304206/why-bacon-is-a-gateway-to-meat-for-vegetarians.
I’m jelly side down right now. My fingers are sticky with food ethics. I can confidently say I oppose factory farming, but who doesn’t when confronted with its reality? Our consciences have the ability to defy our stomachs, but as Foer points out, sometimes eating involves forgetting.
Meanwhile, it’s Oscar night. I am sipping on a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio and am about to bust open a box of vegetarian buffalo wings. God help me.
But when I come across the rare, locally purveyed, cruelty-free, oxymoronic meat, I cross myself, honor the animal and the circle of life, knowing one day I might be that animal’s birthday dinner, too. Or at least fertilizer for those fancy, kidding-yourself, grass-fed steaks. God forgive me.