Thursday, 26 February 2015

Bacon doesn't grow on trees

The other evening we sat down to watch an episode of the BBC's series 'A Cook Abroad', where some celebrity chef effectively gets an all-expenses-paid holiday somewhere interesting where they get to indulge in and talk about the local food and drink. Not that I'm in any way jealous of course....
Having spotted the programme on the TV guide, I was a little puzzled by the big warning at the end of the description which went something like 'Warning - this programme contains scenes some may find upsetting', which intrigued me just enough to swing the decision whether to actually watch the programme or just have another session on the Playstation. I must admit, telling me something contains strong violence, sexual scenes, or graphic surgery is a surefire way to catch my interest....
In this episode Monica Galetti travelled to the Jura mountains in France, and sitting in front of it wasn't a bad way to spend an hour.
It turned out that the 'upsetting scenes' involved the hunting and killing of a wild boar, where dogs were used to chase down and catch the animal before a bloke dispatched it quickly with a large hunting knife through the heart.
So where's the problem with that? How else are you supposed to hunt boar in a densely vegetated environment? There's no line of sight for a rifle or a bow, but for some even that would still be an issue. Why?

The real issue here is that in our world of pre-packaged supermarket meat, people have lost touch with where meat comes from. The nicely presented packaging that lines the shelves of the local Tesco puts a firm barrier between the consumer and the process that put it there.
People like meat, but as soon as they're confronted with the reality that it once had a face they go all funny about it. Do they feel guilty about the connection between the cute little lambs bouncing around the field in Springtime and the delicious Sunday roast with a dash of mint sauce? If that's such an issue why not just be a vegetarian rather than hypocrite.
There's plenty of delicious vegetarian food out there, so it's really not a problem.
There does however seem to be an increasing percentage of the population that have little or no idea of how the meat gets into the packaging. Indeed, for some there appears to be no concept of meat having anything to do with animals at all - as if it's just another product like bread or Doritos.
An example of this detachment was shown on TV a few years ago on one of those 'Help I'm A Washed-up Celebrity, Give Me A Job' programmes where a bunch of D-listers had to survive on an island with whatever they could scavenge. Desperately hungry, they asked for some meat to be provided, which duly arrived in the form of a crate of live chickens. Some of them refused to eat them or be involved in the process whatsoever, preferring to sit in the corner and cry instead.
Present me with a live chicken for dinner and I'd be over the moon - it doesn't get much fresher than that after all. I have no problem killing an animal for food, skinning and cleaning it, and preparing it for consumption. I also love animals as living creatures (despite certain reservations about cats) and so have no desire to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering, so a quick clean kill is always preferable.
I almost wonder if it should be part of the school curriculum - "OK kids, today we're going to make chicken chasseur, so grasp your chicken's head and give it a sharp twist while pulling firmly......".
Can you imagine the uproar from all the liberal yummy mummies who're bringing up their kids to believe that bacon grows on trees and the cows in the field are just the farmer's pets?
Maybe it's time to let the kids watch 'Bambi' before serving up a plate of venison.

It's funny how attitudes to meat have changed over the last few decades. During the war families would keep animals specifically for food because meat rations were so small, and picking out a chicken or rabbit for Sunday dinner was a normal thing to do. People had no problem eating rabbits, pigeons, crows - whatever was available. I've shot and eaten a crow that was stupid enough to come into the garden, and very tasty it was too - a bit like a cross between pork and duck. Pigeons regularly get converted from irritating little bastards into tasty snacks, with the added benefit of knowing I'm doing my bit to cut down the local agricultural pests.
Let's face it, anything that has a heartbeat is a potential source of food, and being involved with (or at least acknowledging the existence of) the process of making it into a piece of meat for dinner is important for ensuring a level of respect for the animal that relinquished its life so you can enjoy a nice casserole.

'Bambi' and 'Thumper' - AKA 'Peppered loin of venison with red wine sauce' and 'Rabbit and pearl barley stew'