Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cooking and Killing

Talking about food. I do a lot of that. And I do it in a world that is filled with anger, hatred, selfishness, fear, cruelty, pain, anguish, and every other word you can use to describe people being hopeless and helpless against marching armies, over-armed police forces, entrenched enemies, insane ideologies, natural disasters, and a host of other pests and biblical pestilence.
Why do I talk about cooking dead animals and dead vegetables and tearing fruits apart in the midst of all that tragedy? I ask myself that. It's a recurring theme in my life. How can I take such joy in inflicting pain on animals, fruits, vegetables while railing against the pain inflicted on humans. I don't know if I have a good answer. I'm 66. Maybe I will have one when I'm 70, or 75, if I last that long. What I do know is that I love the food I cook. I know I'm responsible for it's death, whether it's a cow or a goat or a carrot or a cucumber. None of those wanted to be grown to die for me. And so I know to try to honor them as best I can: To use sparingly, to sing, to apologize because I don't know how to live, how to stay alive, without killing those things. I do not know how to keep my friends and family from starvation without feeding them, yet I know that every thing I cook is sentient, has a soul, has a personality, has desires, has fears, just like we humans do. No carrot ever jumped onto my table and asked me to cut them. But I know that every cut hurt. So I try, and have always tried, to cut swiftly and with assurance, so that the pain did not last too long, nor linger, nor was scoffed at.
Idiotic as it is, cooking, killing, is a meditation for me. It starts with getting into the car to go to the store. What will make my family and friends healthy? What should I prepare? I might run through 20 things in the 20 minutes it takes to get to the store. And once there, I might go through 20 other meals based on what is available and what I can afford.
Tonight I planned on making shrimp and salmon, because I had both. I thought I'd make them simply, with a Chinese bent, and bought bok choy, scallions, red pepper, some hot peppers, green beans, broccoli, daikon radish. I already have cilantro and a organic zucchini and yellow squash and spinach and garlic and ginger and the right spices. So I thought I'd make the fish and shrimp I had killed at my behest and put them on a bed of vegetables I'd killed. I would sing to them while I worked. I would thank them, not for the sacrifice they never volunteered for but for the pain they endured at my hand, and still ask them to make me and my family strong--if that would be possible, because it would demand a lot of forgiveness on their part.
And I bought those things, then got home and discovered that Madeleina would not be here for dinner because she has a class 60 miles away that won't end till 10 PM, and so I veered off course and decided to make hot sausages in a tomato sauce and serve a couple of them simply, over sauted spinach with a side salad. The other veggies were happy, the salad was not. So I've sung to try to ameliorate the pain, but I know I can never really do that. Nobody, nothing wants to suffer.
I will enjoy a couple of hot sausages that were once fantastic pigs with bright eyes and wonderful smiles and who trusted humans till we killed them. I will enjoy sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, oregano, majoram, vegetable stock, and a bit of cow milk parmesan cheese. I will keep singing and try to make that simple dish the best it can be so that I will be able to sleep despite the killing I caused and did.
I will try not to make it needless death and pain. And that is the difference between cooking and war: In war, the aggressors kill and do not have to care. I am sure that some do and I'm pretty sure--though I never had the courage to go to war so I cannot say for certain--that a lot of people who have killed in war have suffered for that later. But there is a difference, somehow, though it's pretty subtle, in killing to stay alive and killing to kill because someone said those people are your enemies. At the time, there cannot be much thought: You either kill or die. But the puppet masters are the ones deciding the fates of millions, whether it be the civil war, ww1, ww2, vietnam, syria, iraq, the upcoming war with Iran or North Korea or both.
I don't know if I'm making any sense here. I hate that we need to kill to stay alive. At the same time I hate it more that we live in a world where people kill and hurt other humans not to stay alive, but for selfish reasons. Somewhere in there there is a difference. I think, anyway.
PS: For those who want to know: I get really good hot and mild sausages. I poke about 10 holes with a sharp knife in each sausage, both sides, then put in water and boil to eliminate a lot of fat, which comes out as thick white scum. Then I drain and put them in the oven in a heavy skillet at low temp to brown. While I do that I make my tomato sauce: Fresh garlic, onions, scallions, tomatoes in olive oil. To that I add, when ready, a 32 ounce jar of organic tomato sauce--Just a marinara--then add my salt/pep/spices and cook. When the sausage is done in the oven--45 minutes at 250, very low, the tomato sauce is coming together (sorry to all the Italian grandmas out there who slaved for 5 hours!!!!! I've done that too but I'm just cooking for myself here!!!!), and I put the sausages in the tomato sauce. I add good quality parmesan cheese, and let it simmer half-an-hour. Then I will pull it off the fire, saute spinach in garlic and olive oil (just a touch), put that like a bed on the plate, pull two sausages and put them on that spinach, then put a couple of good spoonfuls of tomato sauce on that. Top with more parm and serve with a salad with simple lime juice--fresh--and I think you're done!
It's still killing things, no matter how good I make it sound and taste. Damnit!


Bill Freimuth said...

Well said, Peter. I've often thought about/grappled with the same. I always feel that vegetarians who choose to be so because they don't want to kill/cause pain to animals aren't being very mindful of what they do to plants.

Of course, as one who believes in the consciousness of everything, I see even an all-mineral diet causing a kind of death and pain. I've come to terms with the horror of our necessity to eat. I try to be mindfully thankful. I'll remember to do some singing.

Unknown said...

I figured you just liked to cook... and eat... and write about it. Hadn't thought about the death part of it. Most of us are so disconnected from the actual killing part cooking and eating. We go the the store, buy stuff that's all neatly wrapped up, prep a meal in some way and either cook it up and eat it or eat it raw. Not eating isn't a good alternative if you want to stick around on the planet for more than a short while. Me, I choose sticking around. And it's good to be mindful and thankful. I wonder, is a lion thankful after a kill? Or to put it another way, is mindfulness a human trait... or is it universal?