Friday, September 21, 2007

Killing Chickens: Where food comes from

My first editor, Steven, once told me he'd killed a chicken. He said he'd done some soul searching and had decided that if he was going to eat chicken flesh, he should have the huevos to actually kill one. So I guess he went to a farm and killed a chicken. Yeah, Steven has an extreme side to him.

But he also has a point. The first time I went elk hunting with Ed in Jackson I wasn't prepared to actually kill an elk myself, but I knew I liked to eat elk meat and I knew Ed was an ethical hunter. So when Ed shot an elk the next day (I'd opted out of the hunt that day), I decided I'd help him pack it out.

We hiked into the forest, where Ed had field-dressed the beautiful animal. I was afraid to go near it at first; I could smell the blood, see the insides of the elk, and I just really didn't know how to handle it.

I finally walked over to the elk, I bent down, and I pet the soft fur on its cheek. Of course tears ran into my eyes, but I also had an immense feeling of gratitude toward this animal. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I made a promise to myself that I would eat every last piece of meat that the elk provided. I don't think I understood that there's an unspoken agreement between predator and prey until it hit me like a ton of bricks: If you take an animal to eat, you are obligated to waste nothing.

And then I packed an 80lb hind quarter out of the woods, which was hard as all hell.

It sounds like Elise Bauer, the author of my favorite recipe site, Simply Recipes, had a similarly powerful experience recently, when she traveled all the way to Iowa for no other reason than to visit a pig farm. Read about her amazing trip hanging out with the piglets (and seeing what pork looks like before it's bacon) here.


Elise said...

Carrying 80lbs of elk through the woods? Now that's working for your meal. Thanks for the shout out. :-)

Ali Scheff said...

Thanks Elise. During the hike out I actually fell down and was stuck on my back like a turtle! The pack wouldn't budge.

And when I finally took the pack off I felt like I was levitating. What an experience.