Garrett (garote) wrote,

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This book is incredibly interesting. I had no idea that the story it tells would be so full of surprising facts, impressive statistics, and totally bizarre situations. I think this is the most important book I've read in years, and it should be mandatory reading for anyone who has ever been even a little curious about where their food comes from. I've always wondered what the great industrial apparatus between our farmlands and our dinner table looks like on the inside. As this mystery is revealed to me, I want to laugh and cry at the same time.

When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes drive the family up to Oakland to visit my grandmother in her big, sprawling victorian house. One time we had chicken for dinner, around a parcel of the huge wooden table. This was a whole chicken, cooked in one piece and carved up on the dinner table. We each called for our favorite parts and gnawed industriously at them between mouthfuls of salad and mashed potatoes. The memory of those meals is ancient, barely a flicker in the back of my mind. I haven't thought about them for a long time.

But now I remember something my grandmother liked to do. She would eat every scrap of meat off every bone of her chicken piece, and then once the bones were totally barren, she would snap them in half with both hands, and suck the marrow from the center of each bone. The final waste from her meal, this scant heap of broken bones, was tiny compared to the sloppy piles remaining at the edge of everyone else's plate.

During a chapter stop in this book, the Omnivore's Dilemma, something startling occurred to me. The kids of the last ten years have probably been raised on chicken in the various forms of a "chicken nugget". They have probably never touched the bones of a chicken, and likely never will. Yet they will eat it, and in quantities much greater than I ever did when I was young. I'm vegan now so the memory of sucking the marrow from a chicken bone has died with my grandmother. But I just realized - it has also died for everyone else. That makes me feel sad for the people younger than I, in a way I don't think I've ever felt before.

No wonder people are so unconcerned with the difference between eating a plant, and eating an animal. They have no idea what that difference is. Hell, people mostly don't eat plants OR animals any more, they eat nuggets. The very idea that their sustenance comes from something as filthy as dirt is upsetting. Dirt is what you find under the lawn, and you wash it off when you come inside!

I'm "supposed" to be against the consumption of meat on any grounds in order to qualify for this heavy, pretentious term "vegan". But honestly, I think everyone at least once in their lives should carve a piece off a whole chicken, and nibble it down to the bone, so they can ruminate on what kind of exchange they are actually making. ...The novelty and gravity of eating other things that lived, in order to stay alive. Not as a lesson that it is repugnant in some way (I don't think it is), but that it is an activity with consequences, more than just throwing away the cardboard box and the ketchup packets when you're done, and waiting for the big machine to squirt more nuggets out.

Anyway, I'll get off my little soapbox here. But I really must emphasize that The Omnivore's Dilemma is a fantastic read, different and better than I anticipated. I'm going to have to read it twice just to soak it all in.
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