Thursday, January 25, 2007

We are what we eat...

The first thing you'll want to forget about when eating elk is venison. "But isn't an elk just a big deer?" you ask. Technically, yes Cervus canadensis is the largest member of the deer family, but it's a bit like asking, "Isn't a turkey just a big chicken?" There is no comparison. (Elk technically falls under the generic "venison" rubric too, but what we generally mean when we say venison is deer.)

Venison is a gamey and tough meat that borders on the revolting. I might describe elk as filet mignon without the greasiness of beef. The tenderloin is a smoothly dense but delicate meat filled with astoundingly rich (but never overboard) flavors. Elk has less fat and more protein than beef or chicken and is often served with extra thin slices of bacon in order to add a self-selected morsel of fat to each forkfull. Delicious in the extreme. Thank you elk. You are a part of me now, and for the first time I understand the quality of elkiness.

For any vegetarians out there, I accept that this information is useless and possibly offensive. I've been a vegetarian. It's a drag and (for me) it's dishonest. Nature intended for us to eat one another. Life must consume life in order to live. I believe that upholding this cycle, eating only what is necessary to survive, and honoring the animals who give their lives for us is the system we are part of and should strive to keep in balance. Drawing a line somewhere that delineates what life you will consume (vegetables) and what life you won't (animals) is just a game that threatens the cycle, a hubristic trick of consciousness to assuage your needless guilt. {Then again, maybe I'm full of it. As creatures of free will, drawing lines is what we do and should be doing. PG1/26}

Best place for elk in Los Angeles is, without a doubt, The Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabassas, where Sarah took me for an unforgettable birthday dinner last night. It's a carnivore must.

("Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" by Windsor McCay)


Anonymous JT said...

Hey Pablo,
I'm not a vegetarian, but I do have a question for you.
Exactly what part in the beautiful, natural cycle you describe do giant, corporate megafarm/slaughterhouses play? You know, those places that have a virtual monopoly on meat production?
I think the operative word for most of the vegetarians I know isn't "vegetables," it's "suffering." Most of them live in cities, they don't own cars, they don't have the option of 4 wheeling into the wilderness to bowhunt elk. 99% of the meat that is going to come their way is going to come from a giant factory farm. Maybe I shouldn't assume that we can at least agree on the moral dilemma there. If not, I'd urge you take a tour of such a place.
In a perfect world,like the one it sounds like you're describing,I think most of my vegetarian friends would be out hunting down meat and eating it without a trace of guilt. Unfortunately, that ain't the world we find ourselves in, and while their recognition of that fact might make their lives (and the lives of their boyfriends/girlfriends) a bit of a 'drag,' it sure as hell ain't dishonest.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous mikenesi said...

Paul: I love elk! Makes a great stew and chili but, like you know, the primal cuts are almost sublime. Venison is not that bad... maybe you just had a bad doe, dude?

JT: You make and excellent point about the strangle hold that multi-national corporations have over the food supply and distribution in this Fast Food Nation of ours. It truly is evil and we, as individuals with any sort of intelligence or sense of conscience, should take it upon ourselves to learn as much as we can about the things that we eat. Simply saying “I won’t eat meat because I don’t like the way the animals are treated” is not enough. It doesn’t change anything. Likewise, only eating vegetables that are “organic” is almost meaningless in this day and age where Walmart is poised to sell organic produce alongside all the other crap it already sells.

I love a good Porterhouse, rare with a crust, and I am fully aware that every steak I eat represents a cow that was brutally executed and sawed apart in a room overflowing with blood and feces. Likewise, vegetarians should be aware that every “Soysage” or “Tofurkey” they consume started in a Third World soy bean farm. Places where other homo sapiens are being systematically exploited so that they can have another Fakin’ Bacon BLT. You can’t win.

Unless we have the land it is impossible for any of us to grow our own food or hunt or own meat. So what are we to do? Well, this is where the old hippie saying “Think global, act local” is very appropriate. There are millions of small farms and ranches all over this country that are actively, and quietly, pursuing sustainable methods of production. An excellent place to look for these is this website:
Simply type in your zip code and you’ll be amazed at what’s out there. And, no, I do not work for this organization.

The bottom line is: I love food and I’m not going to settle for the crap that’s being marketed to me by companies that also make alarm clocks and brake pads. Neither will I wave the gastronomically stifling flag of vegetarianism or lacto-ovo or, worse yet, veganism. Life is too short to not eat well or to limit yourself to consuming raw dirt. Good stuff is out there and it’s delicious and all we have to do is look.

I think the dishonesty of Vegetarianism that Paul is referring to is the fact that we as omnivores have the distinct advantage of being able to eat almost everything. So why lie about our biological imperatives? I’ll go even one step further and say that being a vegetarian simply because one feels that meat is cruel and unhealthy is a lazy cop-out. The good food is out there. It’s grown cleanly and killed humanly and it’s done by everyday folks like you and me.

12:24 PM  

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