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Poetry Friday -- Donald Hall and Dinnertime
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I was thinking this morning about food.
What we eat, where we get it,  how it's produced.

Jonathon Safran Foer has a new book out called Eating Animals.
In which he apparently takes factory farming to the mat.

And he's not alone, of course.

We've got everyone from Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) to Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions) to Barbara Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) suggesting that we be more thoughtful in the way we talk about, grow or shop for, prepare and eat our food.

I grew up eating fresh fish and game -- lots of it -- and the only growth hormones in my body were my own. I've been a pesco-vegetarian for more than twenty years now, but when I quit eating meat, it wasn't a radical decision. It was more that I was grossed out by McDonalds, I'd never ordered a steak in my life and I still loved sushi. Clear as glass. Over time, I've become much more attuned to the subtleties of this decision and the others regarding food. I carry a little card instructing me on which fish purchases are healthiest and most sustainable. I subscribe to a C.S.A. farm basket service. I try hard feed my family of omnivores fresh food full of the good stuff and free of the bad.

Still, gardens and grocery stores are evolving, the planet's food sources are in flux, and I'm a long way from really learning to cook. It's an ongoing education. And this morning's lesson comes from poet Donald Hall. I think I ought to caution you that this is truly graphic but also strangely beautiful -- exquisite, even -- in its detail. And, it makes me think...

Eating the Pig

by Donald Hall

Twelve people, most of us strangers, stand in a room
in Ann Arbor, drinking Cribari from jars.
Then two young men, who cooked him,
carry him to the table
on a large square of plywood: his body
striped, like a tiger cat’s, from the basting,
his legs long, much longer than a cat’s,
and the striped hide as shiny as vinyl.

Now I see his head, as he takes his place
at the center of the table,
his wide pig’s head; and he looks like the javelina
that ran in front of the car, in the desert outside Tucson,
and I am drawn to him, my brother the pig,
with his large ears cocked forward,
with his tight snout, with his small ferocious teeth
in a jaw propped open
by an apple. How bizarre, this raw apple clenched
in a cooked face! Then I see his eyes,
his eyes cramped shut, his no-eyes, his eyes like X’s
in a comic strip, when the character gets knocked out.

(Do go read the rest here... )

And namaste.

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What a poem, making me think a lot! You're right about the exquisiteness of the detail. I like the primal tone, the group preparation and feast.

Though we still have a long way to go, I think how much more conscious and knowledgeable we are about food sources and nutrition than our parents' generation was. And especially good is Michelle Obama's farming initiatives. Love how she's getting kids involved in producing vegetable gardens, etc.

Yes, Jama. There has been tremendous progress. I was thinking of you as I wrote this post. Anyone who speaks about food with your kind of reverance is doing us all a service in this regard...

I agree that it's important to make the best choices we each can about the foods we choose to eat. And a reverence for each interrupted life, whether plant or animal, that we add to our lives is also vitally important.

Yes, and maybe not as hard as we've made it out to be. I think we may need to just rewind a bit...

Tanita Says :)

Whoo. Detail. I had to stop reading when we got to his "tiny ribs, delicate as bird's feet." Yeesh.

Our Latin American neighbors knew their food sources as well. Often, silken rabbits with round brown eyes would escape under the fence to our property. We got to feed them and pet them before we returned them to where they inevitably ended up on the the bbq spit. Somehow, we were more curious about them raising goats and rabbits and the odd Spring lamb and then slaughtering them; it was just how they ate. We picked the slugs off the tomato plants and did otherwise. I think we each thought the other a little odd, but the best thing was that we shared what we could. They made us tamales with raisins, and we were happy.

Deliberate eating + Mindful Sharing = Happiness.

I know, Tanita. I told you. It gets a little crazy.

I LOVE your story of multicultural eating and yes yes yes to:

Deliberate eating + Mindful sharing = Happiness

My vegetarianism began with a Wendy's hamburger! There were times in my life when I returned to meat because my body craved more protein, but meat is always easy to give up (sugar, not so much).

I sometimes go mainline a can of tuna if I'm really freaking for protein, but I've figured out ways to feel more balanced all the time. Sugar? Yeah. I'm with you. Sigh...

I'm with Tanita: "Deliberate eating + Mindful Sharing = Happiness."

Yes! I know. I LOVE that equation...

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