Faces

Somewhere, I can't remember where, I heard some famous person talking about why we omnivorous humans feel differently about eating animals like mollusks and shellfish than we do about eating beef and pork and other animals with faces. It seems like the "cuter" the animal, the more difficult it is to eat it, and "ugly" animals may hardly even cause a hesitation. No one ever said, "Awww! Look at that oyster!"

I touched on it briefly in a previous post, but let's explore it just a little more: eating an animal "with a face" is one thing when you buy your meat at the grocery store and it arrives to you in a neat and anonymous little styro tray. It is so easy to pick up that ribeye and not even make a mental picture of a beef steer. Maybe this is one reason why people like me, who grab a package of meat out of our freezers and are choosing a cut of a single, identifiable animal, tend to look at our food a little differently. It doesn't really matter if it is an animal we raised or one we harvested, there is nothing anonymous about it. That beautiful, marbled steak in the butcher case is a sterilized way to look at meat.

The notion of being that connected to our food goes much further than just my freezer full of neatly marked packages. A friend mentioned her son's contentment at sitting down to a meal of food he had grown: the meat, the potatoes, the veggies... it all came from his patch of ground. It is very satisfying to feel personally responsible for your own food.

That responsibility comes with a thorn, of course. It isn't always easy to pull the trigger on a deer some 300 yards away. It wasn't easy to swing that hatchet to put a turkey on our Thanksgiving table, or to dispatch an animal whose personality you know. That we can do this at all seems to me to underscore our human position in the food chain and our biology as omnivores. It is also hard work to get meat into the freezer, but it is worth that work when you know what you're eating and when you can have a truly full appreciation for it.