I think I am in the process of redefining comfort food.
Gradually I am beginning to think of comfort food as food I feel comfortable eating, and right now, that means I’d have to define it as vegetables, tofu, and fish.
There are already a host of consumer items that no respectful person would purchase, because no one wishes to support corporations or products that harm the environment or victimize the helpless.
After the recent salmonella outbreak, it was “discovered” that the chickens had been warehoused in odious conditions. Anyone keeping a pet in similar circumstances would instantly have landed in court on animal cruelty charges.
As it so happens, I have a very soft place in my heart for chickens. When I was a child, living in the country, my daddy and I went into town to the feed and seed store and bought 50 chicks. They were very noisy, and we had to build them a special little nursery–I think it was called a brooder, with light bulbs to keep them cozy.
The chicks required a great deal of care and attention, and it was with some degree of pride we saw them grow up to become healthy chickens leading productive chicken lives. Chickens are purposeful creatures, clucking amongst themselves, pecking and scratching (the ground, not themselves), and preening throughout the day. Then, they sensibly call it a night and go up to roost so that they can crow and cackle and do it all over again the next day. Left to their own devices, there is a definite order to their lives.
When finally the big day arrived and they had reached critical mass, it was time for the chickens to go to chicken heaven. The next day, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins assembled for a Sunday dinner of fried chicken at my grandmother’s house. Long tables covered with table cloths were set up under the trees end-to-end. I must have been about six, when I asked my Uncle Olen to “please pass George”.
Now to me, George, who had lived a noble and bucolic life in happy dignity, was better served, so to speak, than the anonymous chicken available by the pound at the supermarket who spent its woeful life in an over-crowded chicken ghetto.
All this to say, that our society may be beginning to see a nexus that will give us all pause as to how much meat–how much chicken–even how much fish– we all consume. Science is telling us that just as what we pay at the pump is a trivial amount compared to the general and overall effect emissions have on the planet, so we will begin to ponder the price of meat farming and its effect on our general health and to the environment.
I have a vivid memory of the mornings when I would slip my small hand under the warm feathered body of a hen to collect her egg. And I have spent many a summer afternoon with the three hens that furnished our family with eggs. Their names were Fluffy, Scrawny, and Little Red Hen, who was my beloved favorite, following me around like a puppy.
The American obsession with pets paired with its odd disregard for the life of the animals they eat is a paradox. But as the planet and our country and our resources become more limited, it seems to me we had better begin to think more carefully about how what we eat impacts the world that our children, and our children’s children, will have to survive in.
To that end, I give a tremendous Green Giant thumbs up to Mr. Wu, who has a way with tofu and vegetables that demonstrates how satisfying and delicious a meal can be with or without meat. Tonight’s meal of tofu and mixed vegetables was sensational.
The Wu Food Project continues to lead me in a new and exciting direction.
Life is for learning.