Sunday, November 29, 2009

A (Mostly) Organic Thanksgiving

I believe it was President Herbert Hoover who promised America "A chicken in every pot." Figuring turkey was close enough, I named my free-range, locally raised turkey "Hoover" in his honor. And Hoover was mighty tasty this Thanksgiving!

The fact that I named my turkey has weirded out a few people. And frankly, I would have gone to pet him (or at least see him) before his demise if he had lived a bit closer. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (which I am currently reading), has mentioned that consumers are very much removed from the "animality" of our food due to our industrialized food system. Our cellophane-wrapped, styrofoam-packaged meats look very little like the animals from which they originally were carved, and we don't even call our meat the same thing we call the animal itself. Pig becomes pork, cow becomes beef or veal; only chicken and turkey seem to maintain any resemblance in name or look, and even then, they are often lumped together as poultry.

Just as missiles and machines and computers have made war morally easier in some ways (it is easier, for instance to send a missile flying overseas at a target where unnamed, unseen foes lurk rather than to look a foe in the eye while you gut him with a bayonet), our industrialized food system has made it morally easier for us to eat meat; after all, as a rule, consumers don't have to look their Thanksgiving turkey in the eye before slitting his throat.

By naming Hoover, I was trying to get a little closer to my food. Animals give their lives daily to help sustain us, and somehow it just seemed respectful to give him a name. I feel like I owe it to the animal to appreciate its sacrifice, and knowing that Hoover was happy, running around in a grassy area, living a turkey life before becoming my meal makes me feel better about eating him in some bizarre, ironic way.

This summer, I want a chance to at least watch a chicken slaughter, if not actually participate in one. If I can't bring myself to look a chicken--or turkey--in the eye before slaughter, I don't think I have the right to eat it.

In addition to Hoover, most of the rest of the meal was made of organic or pesticide-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free ingredients.

The candied sweet potatoes and garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes were made from farmer's market potatoes. The herbs used in the dishes were insecticide- and pesticide-free herbs from the farmer's market and my own garden, dehydrated and stored in spice jars for use in cooking. The raspberries in the White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding (pictured) were organic, purchased at Meijer. Only the cranberry sauce really wasn't organic-based; I couldn't find organic cranberries anywhere!

More and more, I am moving to organic--or beyond organic--foods. It's easier than people think, and not as expensive as they might expect, particularly if consumers watch stores for organic food sales and then stack coupons.

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