Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not For Vegetarians, Or The Squeamish

I have several vegetarian friends who say they "would never eat anything that has a face." Well, I'm not a vegetarian, not even close. I eat fish, fowl, meat ... anything. The only thing I don't eat is squid and octupus, but they don't really have faces. Do they? Today the Cafeteria Nazi very nice lady who runs our cafeteria hosted a luncheon for everyone, because she is retiring at the end of this year. The food was wonderful, but I must admit I stopped dead in my tracks ... no pun intended ... when I came across pork with the face still on it. In fact, the whole head was there. If you look closely, you can see the little ears sticking up, and one eye looking at us accusingly.

Well, I warned you, this post is not for the squeamish.

I remember when I was a little girl, quite a few of my friends lived on small farms in the Alberni Valley. Their parents grew their own produce and raised their own livestock for food. I can remember watching their parents selecting the chicken they were going to have for their meal that evening, and dispatching it on the chopping block they kept behind the house. And yes, it is true what they say about headless chickens. I have seen it.

Our family, however, did not have a farm and my mother bought her meat and poultry from the butcher shop, Beggs Meat Market. It was a real butcher shop and my mother could ask for particular cuts of meat, and they would be cut for her right there. Poultry, however, often still had the feathers on, particularly the Christmas turkey or the New Year's goose, and my job was to pluck the feathers out.

Often my father and my brothers would go duck hunting and bring home a brace of ducks or perhaps geese, and nothing was wasted. My mother cured the down from the ducks and geese, and made each of us our own eiderdowns. We chose our own fabrics, and mine was paisley, exactly like the eiderdown in this picture. There was nothing more wonderful on a chilly night, or when I was not feeling well, than to climb under my eider down. I can still hear my mother saying, "Are you not feeling well? Why don't you put your eiderdown over you," and I can still feel her tucking my feet in. Today, instead, we buy our eiderdowns or feather duvets from Daniadown, and in Canada they cost as much as $8,000.

I was in Kin's fruit and vegetable market this evening after work, and I was amazed at all the wonderful exotic fruits and vegetables there. Persimmons! We don't grow persimmons here. They are delivered here - fresh - on an airplane.

All of this was brought back to me today when I saw the pork with the face still on it. We live such sanitized lives today. Everything is wrapped in cellophane. We don't have to think too much about the process that brings our food to the market and to our table. We certainly don't have to think about whether or not it had a face.

27 comments:

Bobbie said...

It looks kind of gross but I bet it tasted delicious. I was at a party once where they had a whole roasted suckling pig and I was kind of taken by surprise when I saw the little pig on the platter, but after one taste, I soon forgot the piggy's cute little face and savored the taste.

How would you have liked to be the one to hold the chicken while they cut off the head...that was me some fifty years ago on my aunt's farm. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of that.

Hope you're enjoying the sunshine!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I sure wish I could bring a camera to work; I could show you some really gross faces--one that talk back.

Firefly said...

How I wish I had a down duvet. I have slept under some on some of my travels and there is nothing like it on a cold night.
The pork does look good, but I agree, I wouldn't want to look in his eyes while cutting off a piece.
I also vowed never to eat squid, but now I do love my crumbed calamari rings.

mrsnesbitt said...

I fully understand this. We have kept chickens, ducks and geese, but as pets/for eggs. I shall never forget one christmas when we had a turkey (not our own) and as Jon calved the bird our goose Jo was looking through the window.

KathyB. said...

My daughters' in-laws provided the feast for the wedding of our daughter to their son and they served 2 suckling pigs. Quite a sight, and quite delectable ! You're right about how we get our food from the market and don't see the real side of our food source.

We have raised our own chickens and turkeys and lamb, for consumption. The kids used to help with the butchering. Now they butcher their deer and pheasant. It is too bad most people do not realize the supermarket meats are not brought to us via the meat fairy, plastic wrapped and bloodless. Our family also knows the animals were fed well and treated humanely , but were always intended to eat. So...we are not vegetarians, but we do eat healthy. Nothing is wasted..and our farm animals are often the beneficiaries of our protein abundance too !

the walking man said...

UMMMMMMMMMMMMMM Pork. face or no face best tasting meat on the planet.

Got to love JR! ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

When nobody else would publish my book, some Ugandans took the chance.
The mighty presses were rumbling and I would come by quite often to check on the progress of the printing.
I was so happy. Nights would give me dreams of Ugandans carrying packs of my books and singing songs that I swear, sounded for all the world like "Show me the way to go home."
I had been around to the print shop quite a bit, and they invited me for lunch one afternoon.
The food has the appearance of French fries, but as I picked at my plate, something in it seemed to stare back at me.
Shades of Jacques Custeau.
Octopus, octopus!
The next day they had little french-fried squid, but for some reason, I declined.

RiverPoet said...

Truly, we do eat food that is very far from its origins. I have often said that I would be a strict vegetarian if I had to kill my own meat. I read Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" in which she and her family lived off their own livestock, produce, or farmer's market seasonal/local buys for a year. It was very interesting, but not something I could do myself.

I think I would have freaked out to have the boar staring up at me.

Peace - D

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't mind knowing where the meat on my table is coming from, but I personally would prefer not to look into its empty eyes.

Carla said...

I have mixed feelings about eating animals. And that face business does bother me. I really don't think it's wrong to eat animals...because after all, animals eat animals. But there is often so much cruelty in the way farm animals are raised and slaughtered. And in my opinion, that IS wrong and it does bother me. A lot!! For now, I don't eat cows or pigs. And I might eventually quit eating birds. I'll never quit eating fish...so I would only be a semi-vegetarian and never a vegan. I tried this years ago, but didn't do my homework and messed up my health. This time, I AM doing my homework and I hope I can actually improve my health.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I used to cook Malaysian food for my Canadian flatmates. One of them loved my culinary offerings until I made the mistake of cooking a dish which she said,"had eyes looking back at her".

willow said...

Yes, we are quite the cellophane society today. I posted a recipe for sauted chicken livers some time back. Part of the intructions were to remove the membranes. That is when I lost everyone. Heaven forbid if they actually had to touch a raw one! ;^)

meggie said...

I remember seeing tears in my uncle's eyes after he killed a chook for my grandmother. I once saw my other uncle kill a sheep, & it was too awful.
I hate to think of the pig face, but I do love to eat pork & bacon.

Dr.John said...

I watched while my dad killed a cow and butchered it. I chopped the head off a chicken for grandma and left it in the kitchen where it got up and got blood all over everything.
Your post brought back all those memories. Now I will go and try to forget.

VioletSky said...

I remember being young at a very fancy restaurant and looking at my plate in horror at the complete fish (head, eyes and tail) lying on it. I thought I was being daring with my order, never expecting something so far removed from 'fish 'n chips fish'!

Russell said...

Not sure what to say about the pork other than out here in Iowa we produce more pork than any other place in the world. Guess it is all that corn we raise...!

I am much, much, much more interested in that eiderdown comforter!! Now THAT looks as good and inviting as that poor pig does not! The idea of laying under that eiderdown on a cold winter night is, well, most intoxicating!

I have an idea. Why don't you, uh, bring it over and let me see how it feels....! I know it would feel great!!!

(I will now crawl back under my rock!!)

Leslie: said...

I love crackling roast pork but prefer not to see any face or hooves on the plate! lol

Donnetta Lee said...

Hey, I work with a lot of porkers! Pun intended.

I've learned much about processed food in the last two years. None of it good. Fresher is better.

But it is a thousand wonders we didn't get food poisoning the way we used to handle food and not keep it cool enough or heat it hot enough.

Granny used to wring the necks of the chickens. Mama tells me. I missed out on it, thank goodness!

Coincidentally, I just mentioned a warm blanket on my blog--mine was old, but warm. D

Adventure girl wanna be said...

EWWWWWWWWWW! Ickers! ;)

Jo said...

Bobbie, oh, gosh, that's terrible! I don't think I could have done that. What a brave little girl you were!

JR, *heh* Yes, I work with some of those too. :-)

Firefly, I love calamari too, if it's cooked right. If it isn't cooked right, it can taste just like rubber, with little tentacles and suckers.

Denise, LOL. Gosh, that sounds like a scene from a Walt Disney movie. Oh, goodness, I wonder if Jo knew what was going on!

Kathy, you know, I was thinking about you when I did this post, and how you raise livestock and produce, and use it, and the wool too. I think it's incredible!

Mark, I think pork is one of my favorites too. Especially with apple sauce. Yum!

Ivan, you were eating calamari! There are some very strange foods all over the world, aren't there? Oh, goodness!

RiverPoet, that book sounds very interesting. I might like to check it out. And yes, I felt rather guilty when I saw his accusing little eye staring at me.

Charles, I must admit, it was a first for me!

Carla, yes, that is one thing that does bother me, is the way some of these animals are raised. I only buy free-range eggs now, for that very reason.

LGS, I love Malaysian food. There is a wonderful Malaysian restaurant here in Vancouver. I think I will try to avoid the eyes staring back at me, though. :-)

Willow, oh, goodness. :-) I love chicken livers and I cook them occasionally with onion, garlic, lemons and green and red peppers, in a little olive oil. Yum! I like fresh, whole food.

Meggie, I once had a friend who raised a cow, and she named her Daisy. And then Daisy had to be butchered. My friend was traumatized. So I can undersand how you must have felt.

Dr. John, oh, goodness. But those things were normal things at one time, weren't they? Now we don't like to think of them.

VioletSky, I had that happen to me once, when I ordered trout. It's quite usual to keep the head on. I don't order trout anymore. :-)

Russell, LOL. Yes, those eiderdowns are very warm and cozy on a cold winter night. Um, is it getting warm in here? Now I'm blushing. :-)

Leslie, oh, no! No hooves! Oh, please, no hooves! *heh*

Donnetta, I think a lot of people did get food poisoning. That's why there are certain standards now. Cellophane and freezers are our friends. :-)

AdventureGirl. *heh* The pork was actually very, very (!!!) tasty. And yes, I did have some, I confess.

VioletSky said...

Yes, it was trout - I've avoided it ever since. I stick with salmon now (BC of course!)

Country Girl said...

It's funny how one little thing can trigger a stream of memories, isn't it? I'm glad they were good ones, like this eiderdown blanket. My in-laws always call them eiderdowns (they're from GB) and I can't believe how expensive they are now. My husband still likes to curl up on the couch with his down sleeping bag and we're keeping the heat down low in the LR so we need to!

Jo said...

VioletSky, I don't understand why they can't just take the head off when they serve trout. *shudder*

CountryGirl, I have a DaniaDown duvet, and it's very cozy, but not nearly as light and cozy and beautiful as the eiderdown my Mom made for me. :-)

Janna said...

$8000.00?
Really???
Wow.

I'm almost positive that the pizza rolls I just ate did not have a face.

In retrospect, I wish I'd looked more closely.

DeeDee said...

i had a boyfriend at one time, we had loads of fun. ha had lived on a farm (in Idaho) and almost everything there was made from scratch. they had pretty much ate this way too. a whole hog (head and all) i did eat, but only little parts of it. i was raised to eat what you have been given. the golden rule in grandma's house (and now in mine) "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." don't squirm, or wrinkle your nose either. ;)

Casia said...

i remember something like this when my dad adopted a local recipe of a province which was stewing a cow's eyes...I didnt expect him to cook it that day and while i was looking around the kitchen for breakfast, I really screamed in terror when i saw an eyeball staring up at me from a cauldron XD

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