Friday, July 20, 2007

Political Comment on Hunting Endangered Species

For some reason, while just sitting here at the desk after getting dinner on the stove (a nice pork roast, saurkraut, good barbequed beans cooked in beer, a warm spinach and fresh corn salad with balsamic vinegar, and roasted new potatoes) a television special I saw a couple of months back popped into my head. It dealt with some secretive chef who bases out of Los Angeles. He doesn't run restaurants; rather he does private parties for wealthy folks at which he specializes in serving several courses that include endangered plants/animals/seafood. He also appears to have his own large walk-in-refrigerator where he has several beef carcases ageing nicely and a quite lavish lifestyle.
Most of the program centered on his illegal hunting/acquiring of endangered organisms. There were shots of him and Ted Nugent, the most atrocious, soulless (but fantastic technical) guitarist who ever lived, going out to shoot baby seals and other animals, and all the boastive camaraderie that goes with a good hunt.
It bothered me. And I'm not that sensitive: I was a chef in New York City--in some pretty good joints--for 18 years, and during that time I killed countless potatoes, carrots and onions, boiled living lobsters, shucked fresh clams and oysters, served living mice covered in chocolate sauce and must have sliced and diced a million pounds of formerly living cattle. I once cooked a party for the New York Explorer's Club at which I served Mastadon Marrow, Lion Steaks and Human Blood Pudding (everyone had to eat their own blood pudding as this occurred during the early rage days of AIDS when every restaurant in town lost a waiter a week to pneumonia or cancer or some other atrocious disease--a truly sad sad time that I'll write about another day). The Mastadon Marrow came from Siberia: An earthquake had ripped a chasm in frozen tundra, exposing an area where more than a dozen mastadon had died, and the freezing cold of probably the last ice age had quick frozen the meat and bones. Some crooked zoologist had made the marrow-filled bones availiable to a number of people, including my contact at the NY Explorer's Club, which is how I got my hands on some of them.
I also work in the jungle of Peru and in the course of that work over the last 25 years I have eaten dozens of monkeys, armadillos, macaws, parrots, sloths, caiman, paiche, manta rays, wild boar, mule deer, tapirs, rodents, slugs, termites and so forth. So I'm not clean on this count.
But I will say that I've never eaten those animals when there was something else available. I learned--was taught--early on that in jungle heat and humidity a person needs genuine protein. Fish is good when you're on a river. But when you are walking across a jungle, you take what you can get. Electric eels and manta rays are not tasty but you'ld be surprised in just how shallow a little rivulet you are libel to find them. Bugs stink of course, but nothing beats the available protein of of slugs and grubworms. But three days without protein and maybe every day losing a pint of blood to insect bites, many of which are infected, and you'd better believe that a Trumpetero--a gorgeous jungle turkey--or a howler monkey, despite how fantastic they are--is what's needed by your body to keep going. Bee pollen and canned sardines simply won't do it if you need to keep walking for another several days.
Now given that, I still resent and dislike that chef, who goes out of his way to discover what animals and plants are considered especially endangered, then hires jets and helicopters to take him to those places where those plants and animals are so that he can hack them down with a machete or kill them with high powered rifles to bring their carcasses back to people who have a yen for the exotic, money to burn, and no consciences (no consciousness). And that he does this and brags about it on television irks me. And that he's got Ted Nugent hunting with him--not skilleting roadkill but killing things that have already been rendered nearly extinct, mostly by man's cruel hand--irks me also.
I think they're cowards. I'd like them to show up at my door tonight; me with my stinking surgery and I'll still bet I'd make them cow.
I hope they're they're reading this.
I mean, evolution already eliminates the weak. Who ever said Darwin's theory needed freaking help, eh?
And I don't mind that the Aluetions eat baby seal or whale. I think that's okay. I think it's okay that I have a pork roast and potatoes in the oven and on the stove. I know that living involves relentless killing. I accept that.
But I don't think you ought to inflict yourself on other species--or even your own--for the fuck of it.
Just my opinion, but I am ashamed that I'm part of the same species as those people with so much money that they get off on that type of thing. And I'm glad I never bought a Ted Nugent record.

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