Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Let's talk about something nice for a change. After all, here we are, broadcasting out of Chicagoland, the land of the City that Works, where the big shoulders are, and all that nice meat. Chicago is the home of Meat Club, a few friends of mine who, with me, back in the day, made a few successful forays into the wide world of meat consumption that is one of the tender pastimes of that jungle of cities. Nothing dystopian about that, eh? Or maybe I'm being ironic. After all, you can't spell meat without "meta."
We in Meat Club had some of the best carnitas available from the Michoacan transplants in Pilsen, and a variety of game meats from Casa Samuel in Little Village. The delicious carne en su jugo could not hide from us in its deep beef broth on the southwest side, long before it became trendy and was then forgotten again. On my own I'd been to all the known Jalisco-style birrierias for their sole product, goat, but we never quite made it to such an establishment as the Club. I'd call that "unfinished business."
Meat. Where there is meat, there is hope. Why do I say that? Why do I risk offending so many vegans, vegetarians, and simply sensible people who know meat is killing our planet, particularly industrial meat-raising? Well, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to claim to purchase only sustainable, kosher, organic, or heritage meats. In fact I actively despise organic meats, and only eat kosher when it's appropriate to the cuisine. I look for bargains. I'm a man of the people, because I have to work for a living, and I can't be paying quadruple the price for a chicken thigh that doesn't taste any better than one from Frank Purdue.
That is, I'm not in favor of fashionable sustainability. It oppresses poor people. And by "poor people" I mean anyone who's one extra expense away from not being able to pay for their housing, and everyone even worse off from there.
I love that there are organic farmers, and I support them when I can, and even if you're growing boutique mushrooms, I say more power to you. But I don't have the means to support much of that monetarily. There are farmers' markets, and organic farms themselves, intended to supply poor people, the demographic who have the hardest time eating healthily let alone sustainably. There are some right here in Los Angeles selling organic produce grown by poor people in urban gardens. But I will not pay for anything at Whole Foods I can find somewhere else, and most of the time I avoid it like the plague that it is.
I get good cheap chicken at the Bangladeshi butcher. Chickens that were alive earlier that very day! And they're scrawny little things, but they taste better than whatever's in the meat cooler at Ralph's. And if it doesn't taste better, why should I buy it? For the intangible health benefits? Blow me.
I get goat meat there, too. Goats aren't factory farmed. Not enough people eat them, so they just run around like happy goats in a YouTube. Goat is a red meat that has as little fat as chicken. And you can spice them heavy and cook them long and slow.
I'll pay more for imported salamis and such because I don't eat much of it. And I shouldn't. I've seen too many people hurt by over-indulging in preserved meats. That's tangible. Don't do it.
The thing I feel worst about is pigs. They're intelligent, and they live miserable lives in factory farms. I can't afford to buy heritage pork, though I've been served some that's noticeably good. If pork is on sale it means there's a glut of it. I buy stuff on sale. Not just because I'm cheap, but because I need my money so I can do other time-consuming but non-remunerative activities. Get it?
It's easy to find sustainable fish. A little research each month tells me what's on the no-eat list, and what farmed fish is ruining the environment, and which nations are using slave labor to get their catch. Sardines are reliably cheap and sustainable, as are anchovies.
Somehow farmed salmon is okay these days. Not sure how that happened. I'm not buying it till I do more research. Last I checked, salmon farms were harming wild salmon. But a knowledgeable friend told me recently the farmed salmon have been let out of no-eat jail.
Rodents, as far as I'm concerned, are always on the menu. A rabbit? A guinea pig? A Belizian gibnut? You will not convince me to forgo the eating of these critters. Geese. Pigeons. Lizards. Ostriches. Bees. Don't try to take them out of my mouth unless you want to lose a finger.
I have nothing against hunting. I've never hunted as it wasn't part of my upbringing. I'm against sport-hunting as opposed to food hunting, and endangered animals are off the card, but I've killed a few things, and witnessed the killing of many. I hold up my ethnic heritage, with its roots in the Slavic regions, as a major justification for my eating of meat – it's in my blood! But killing is also part of it. I love death. I want death in my life. Things and people are being killed all over the world this very minute. I want to be a part of that, in my small way. I like that the animal died. I even like that plants are killed for my table. I'm a bloodthirsty omnivorous ape. I've eaten fresh blood from a duck killed by Laotians in my friend's garage. You would've too, if you'd given it a chance.
We've all loved creatures who've died. What a mystery, right? Eating that mystery is part of partaking in it. Death is the god of life's way of telling you she doesn't love you anymore. We have learned to deal with the loss of love and the loss of life. This is just another way into that confrontation with death, loss, and ourselves.
Oh, very profound, you might say sarcastically. Well, first of all, screw your sarcasm. It irks me. But you have a point. I admitted I use my ethic background to justify eating animals. And this is another justification. But neither justification is without merit. And right now it's up to me to decide how much merit it possesses.
Maybe one day we as a species will give up killing animals for food. Or maybe we'll give up killing anything at all and just eat what's made available by accidents of fortune. I won't stand in the way of this movement, should it gain critical momentum in my lifetime. But right now, it's anarchy. It's every mouth for herself. I feel lucky when I have food to eat. And I accept with gratitude the things both life and death put on my plate.
We have a long way to go before there's food justice in the world. That is, justice for the hungry, and justice for the food itself. Food justice, just like other justice, is very personal, even while it's currently embroiled in struggle. I respect everyone struggling for food justice, even if you mostly do it by eating tofurkey and Gardenburgers. Well, maybe I don't respect you if that's all you do. And you will have to impress me mightily before I have respect for you as a barbecuer. I don't ask for your agreement. I don't ask for your acquiescence. I don't ask for your forgiveness or forbearance.
I only ask that you don't bother me while I'm eating. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!