Friday, July 11, 2008

Priced out

Reading the letters on an article at Salon about pork, I came across this:

It's easy to talk about "meat should cost more money", when you are like Rebecca Traister and you can afford to live in an airy apartment in an elite neighborhood and order boutique meats to share with your chef boyfriend. It's easy when you are a singleton or a DINK, and you have six figure incomes and trust funds, and you eat at 4-star restaurants, and put tiny portions of expensive foods in your Sub-Zero refrigerator.

It's not so easy when you are a single mom with three kids, or elderly and living on a fixed income. When you have to feed four or five hungry people, and the "precious pork bellies" from Niman Ranch costs $12.99 a pound, and basically it comes down to this: you can't afford meat at all. And look around people (especially if you live near a Whole Foods): it's not just chi-chi meat....once you get started on that, then it's precious heirloom vegetables and precious artisan cheese from heirloom goats and precious stoneground heirloom wheat bread baked in a special heirloom hearth oven...

Pretty soon, there is nothing out there that is less than $22 a pound, and there is almost nothing that a family could cook and cheap inexpensively. Oh right -- except for lentils. As we all know, the poor should be eating lentil soup, every single solitary day of the week. It's so nourishing and cheap, and why, isn't that what the poor people ate in Dickensian England? Who wouldn't want to return to that scenario?

The anti-"elitist" sentiment like the letter above and the vegans were all abuzz. This time I found myself siding with the vegans. The idea that not eating meat means eating crappy lentil soup is ridiculous.

The truth is that recently I've been priced out of meat. I'm between jobs and I figure that if I can't afford good meat, I'm not going to buy it at all.

And guess what? I haven't died of malnutrition, nor have I gained any weight. My food expenses have been halved even though I'm still buying at the farmer's market.

Really though, my diet is far from Dickensian. Vegetarian fare has come a long way in the past decade, so instead of eating bland stew, you can eat a savory dal or spicy curry.

Here is a better letter:

Maybe the key to enjoying humane pork is to cut back on how often you eat it so you can afford to buy it. Like a treat rather than a staple. You don't have to eat meat for every meal or heck, every day, or heck every other day.

I was a vegetarian for years, and even though I eat meat now and have no quibble with those who abstain or who gorge on it, I can't help but think that though human beings were made to eat meat, we weren't made to eat so much of it. (Of course, there are exceptions based on geography, so I'll say Americans weren't made to eat meat every day.)

When my mom was growing up in the South, they used smoked hamhocks, bacon, fatback, etc. to season all of their greens, turnips, etc. They'd cook some cornbread and that was all they had for dinner; no seperate steak or pork chop. For lunch it was biscuits and drippings (don't ask.) And those hearty breakfasts you hear so much about? Well, they certainly didn't have bacon, eggs, sausauge, biscuits, gravy, grits, etc., every day of the week.

And they weren't weak or protein starved, even though they didn't get to actually eat a pork chop or rack of ribs or a steak every day. They ate, if lucky, one serving of meat a day, more like flavoring, and they were thankful for it because if they didn't slaughter the animal outright, they had to butcher and clean it. Ham and pork belly and pigs feet were treats, not daily staples. (mmm, pigs feet. I don't know why I love them so much, but I do.)

Unfortunately, nowadays, factory farming has made meat so cheap you can afford to eat those huge down home Southern meals everyday. And its killing us. There's this great Boondocks episode about this.