This blog entry was submitted by Joni Kabana to 1859 Magazine in their genome section.
“Do you eat meat?”
My usual reply to this inquiry is “Consciously”. But it was not always that way.
I recall as a child the days when I would chow down any piece of meat where salt could mask the taste. Bologna samiches with pickles, packaged ham chunks in scrambled eggs, raw wieners. Geesch, my father even gave me a whole salami as a Christmas present one year. Imagine my glee when I saw that wrapped package he tenderly placed in my arms. My college days baby!
My tastes have evolved over the years, and now, even though I still have an affinity for all variations and applications of salt, I am a bit more discerning regarding what I eat, especially when it comes to meat. And I do love meat.
I have a friend who went from not caring about being seen eating a turkey leg while strolling the Belmont Street Fair to being a strict vegan. It seemed like her declaration was overnight, but she confessed that she was thinking about it for years. I scratched my head, having had such complete confidence in all of her choices in the past, and wondered: should I look into this?
I read up on it, studied the environmental effects of meat production, looked at studies regarding the health of vegans, pressed every nook and corner I could find to convince me this was the correct thing to do. Meanwhile, my taste-buds were screaming every time I smelled bacon cooking or got a whiff of garlic dancing in the pan with someone’s pot roast.
My head then turned to thoughts of character development, and how it would be good for me to give up something I love so much. Would I be a better person? I forced myself to kill a chicken with my own hands so I could see what it was like to have an animal die by my decision.
Still, I love meat.
I finally rested on the fact that we are carnivores. We instinctively respond to meat, and must train our minds to “give it up”. I tried going for a long period of time without eating meat, making a commitment of being a vegetarian for a while, hoping I would get over the hump of my desires.
Still again, I love meat.
I spend a lot of time in developing countries, Madagascar in particular. My good friend Josh who has lived there for many years tells me about how the Malagasy don’t just kill an animal, they celebrate the death as a sacrifice. My soul jumped at this idea! When, when, when did we become so accustomed to meat being so readily available to us? Every time I visit a developing country, our excessive Western ways are magnified. I long for the day when we can celebrate an animal’s life and the purpose it serves.
Last week I traveled to Eastern Oregon on a press tour. While there, I heard that a butchering demonstration and a beef taste test with grass fed cows from Carman Ranch was planned for over the weekend. Chefs from Portland were traveling there to help decide which attributes led to better tasting beef. Even though I had an event in my studio on Thursday and needed to return to Portland, I decided to drive all the way back out to Joseph the next morning to be able to attend this event.
I am happy I did. When viewing the carcass hung by a hook in Kevin Silveira’s butcher shop with various Portland-famous chefs adoring its qualities, I did not see greed and opportunists. I saw a deep devotion to the animal, with a high appreciation for the fact that during this cow’s life, it lazily grazed in sweet grass fields, feeling the sun in cool weather and breezes on a hot day. And when it comes time to order a cow, the killing is done humanely, with a tender and worshiping hand.
Carman Ranch gives me hope that we can all become more in awe of any beef that we consume. Consciously and sparingly.
(In photo: Cathy Whims, chef at Nostrana in Portland, OR, examines a cut of grass fed beef as Carmen Ranch owner Cory Carmen explains how marbling occurs.)