Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

Is it Ethical to Eat Meat?

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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Have you heard? The New York Times is calling all carnivores to tell them why we believe it is ethical to eat meat.

Since this is a topic front and center in my mind nearly every day and I planned to discuss it with you anyway,  how about right now?

The stingy 600 word limit was a real hardship for a chatty girl like myself; hopefully Word’s word count tool is accurate!   I sent my blood, sweat and tears off into the electronic sunset, and from there, who knows?

Weigh in with your opinions in the comments below, but do play nice. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

So, here it is; my big New York Times minute:

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This question of whether it is ethical to eat meat cannot be deeply understood by anyone with clean hands.

My point?  A formal decree from above is not coming. Fancy panel of judges or no, there isn’t a single right answer to this dilemma.  Like death itself, we each have to wrestle this contradiction alone. The real ethical question?

Will we humble ourselves by taking a ruthlessly honest look at the toll our lives extract from others? My guess is we’d rather shield ourselves from introspection with dueling data, finger-pointing and clever bumper-sticker retorts.

Nature has an uncomplicated relationship with death. Nobody, two-legged or four is spared. We try hard to find a loophole, and Nature humors us. But she never lets us hide from her truth for long.

To Nature, death is just part of life. Creatures are born, creatures die.  The dead feed the living and the living eventually become the dead. Nature builds in harsh but perfect circles, not the logjams and cul-de-sacs we construct to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Remember the scene in the movie Cold Mountain where the old lady kills the goat?  The loving kindness the Goat-lady gave that trusting goat as she pierced its heart is a stunning moment.  Is it cruel betrayal or the heartfelt kindness of a true shepherd?  That goat didn’t suffer one bit, but sweetly laid down its head in eternal sleep, feeling safe in the trusted shelter of the Goat-lady’s lap.

Somehow, the intentionality of the Goat-Lady’s act really jams our brains. The abrupt killing contradicts the peaceful mercy of that death. The dichotomy rocks our certainty. We’d rather cover our eyes.

I raise cattle with love and tenderness, and I admit I cry every time I deliver one to slaughter. I don’t like slick words like “harvested” or “processed”. I prefer the unvarnished facts. A cow was killed because I decided it would be so. I won’t shirk my sadness or culpability with a perky elevator speech selling the rightness of my decision.

My beautiful, one-and-a-half-inch thick piece of well-raised beef is carefully cooked: rare with a perfectly browned crust.  I eat my steak mindfully with gratitude and pleasure. That steak is meaningful to me. I appreciate its full, bittersweet cost and I don’t waste a single scrap.  It’s delicious.

Recently, I plowed a field so I could plant some Monsanto-free organic vegetables.  A commendable act most Vegans would agree.  In doing so, I disturbed nests of bunnies and a home some peace-loving groundhogs have enjoyed for some time.  It was traumatic for those little creatures, and the hawks that trawl my pastures were elated. Thanks to my vegetables, there was a new all you can eat buffet in town. I didn’t kill anything myself, but I knew creatures would be living there. They live everywhere. Ethical?

We need to step away from our computers, books and chattering brains and deepen our understanding of Nature’s ways.  Only by maintaining a distant, academic understanding of Nature can you believe in the moral superiority of tofu.

When someone comes up with a real, actionable plan to free the animals, not rely on industrial foods and feed the soil in a sustainable way, my mind is open. Today, the most ethical thing I can do is provide a joyful, carefree life for my meat.

In this way, and only this way, I say yes.  It is ethical to eat meat. Life is grand, messy, confusing business.  I accept my assignment of hands-on, eyes-open, deliberate participation.

That’s as ethical as it gets.

Is There Anything Nicer Than a Sleepy Sunday Morning?

Is There Anything Nicer Than a Sleepy Sunday Morning?

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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If there is, I sure haven’t found it yet.  And nobody knows how to enjoy a beautiful day more than cows. If you’ve never seen pure contentment before, go find a herd of cows outside in a grassy field on a cool, dry, sunny day. Settle in and watch quietly. Cows have a lot to teach us all about pleasure and mindfulness.

Here’s how we spent our beautiful weekend:

the Herd Hard at work. It’s a Rough job, I honestly don’t know how they do it.

Bling needs a nap after a tough morning of stuffing herself.

How cute is this?? They’re even snoring…

What do cows dream about? I had to poke this one just to be sure

Awwww – he was just getting to the good part.  Sorry little Fritz, Go back to sleep…

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Hope you all enjoyed a lovely and blessed Easter Sunday.

Better Than Nature, With String Lights & Inflatables

Better Than Nature, With String Lights & Inflatables

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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Hey there!  Another Holiday steps to the plate…Are you Excited?

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When I was a kid, we had a few rituals that added freshness and magic to the relentless succession of days and nights. Since we were suburban folk, and apartment dwellers at that, putting away the shorts and breaking out the sweaters was our only nature-driven seasonal chore.

Each year before Christmas we would do what we called Christmas cleaning, which I hated, dreaded and avoided. But, when we were finished, it was the nicest feeling ever. Christmas cleaning was more rigorous than everyday cleaning because you washed down walls & baseboards, emptied cabinets and wiped them clean and tossed lots of unwanted clutter away.

Then I’d rearrange my bedroom furniture and swap the comforter and sheets for the winter ones.  And, when the cleaning was done, we put up the holiday decorations.  We decorated for other holidays, but nothing was close to the once-a-year splendor of Christmas.  Add some crunchy, sparkly snow and it was pure magic.

Marking time with rituals is something people have done for a long, long time and is shared by many  cultures. But over time, even within the same culture, the meaning evolves from generation to generation.  Back when America was more anchored by farm life, we didn’t need to buy artificial decorations to celebrate a holiday or season. Nature provided all that and more.

I especially enjoy Edna Lewis’ description of  seasonal markers in her book The Taste of Country Cooking.  One of my favorite books, her descriptions of the festivals and seasonal events in her small, turn of the century rural Virginia town are vivid.

Especially this one following hog killing day which would take place in December:

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 “My father would remove the liver and the bladder, which he would present to us [kids]. We would blow the bladders up with straws cut from reeds and hang them in the house to dry.  By Christmas they would have turned transparent like beautiful balloons.  We always handled them with care and made them part of our Christmas decorations.”

And:

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“Just before Christmas a green lacy vine called running cedar appeared in the woods around Freetown and we would gather yards and yards of it.  We draped everything in the house with it: windows, doors, even the large gilded frames that held the pictures of each of my aunts and uncles.”

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Can I entertain myself for one minute by imagining the joy on their faces when you hand your loved ones a fresh pig’s bladder? Got those reed straws ready?

As we become more distant from Nature, does the scope of our holiday decorating seem to grow?   Is there an inverse connection?  Christmas is no longer so special;  there’s an inflatable lawn ornament or string of lights to mark every Hallmark holiday now. 

American life rolls from New Year’s confetti through the red hearts of Valentine’s Day, the shiny green of St. Patrick’s Day, and the pastels of Easter.  Then we get a break because apparently summer requires enough purchases that it doesn’t really need another holiday consumer stimulus package. Whoops – did I just forget the 4th of July??

Then it’s back to school followed by the black and orange of Halloween, the painted hand turkeys and pilgrim hats and horns-of-richly-colored plenty for Thanksgiving, and wrapping up the year with the spruce and holly filled reds and greens of Christmas / blue and silver filled Hanukkah/richly multi-hued Kwanza. Rinse, lather, repeat.

What should we think of this? Charming or depressing or maybe a bit of both?  Are we savoring the sacred unique quality of each holiday and welcoming a new season, or mindlessly obeying the call to buy a bunch of plastic crap?  Have Nature’s seasonal joys and our spiritual observances been shoved aside by the retail display season?

Remember: the candy’s half off the day after ….

Honestly, I can’t think of a single decoration to top the excitement I feel at the sight of the first Robin and the early crocuses pushing through the slushy spring snow. Easter eggs are nice, a ham and a baking ritual something to enjoy, but do we need to rob Christmas of it’s extra-special once a year only sparkle?

I’m content to watch the rhubarb unfold, smell the spring earth, meet new babies, harvest dandelions and watch the seedlings for Summer’s garden push their tiny green heads towards the sun (OK, grow light, but STILL).

Each season has its projects,  cooking rituals, clothing, joys and hardships. Who needs a yard inflatable when real live trees are in bloom? 

Don’t mind my crotchety self if you live for a good American consumer holiday.  I have no desire to dampen your joy if you truly love that stuff.  But I have a suspicion that many of us don’t really love it or hate it, but do it because that’s just what we’re taught to do.

Sprite wants me to tell you to have a great holiday.  Slow it down and enjoy the sunshine. Make sure to chew your cud thoroughly and mindfully.  She says your holiday will be more fun if you don’t run to Target ten times. Sprite thinks you should spend an afternoon laying on a sunny spot of grass, closing your eyes and turning your face to the sun for a few hours.  I’m not kidding. That’s exactly what Sprite said.  She said that always makes her feel better… and Target will still be there tomorrow.

That Sprite’s wiser than she looks.  Easter Blessings Everyone…

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

State of the Freezer: Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

State of the Freezer: Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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Can’t imagine a prettier color filling…

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I must say I’m a teeny bit disappointed.  Disappointed because not a single one of you asked about my rhubarb beet tart from St. Patrick’s Day.

Now I really, really need to know; did you not ask because you didn’t notice, or because it didn’t sound like anything you’d want to make?

In case your head has been under a rock, guess what? It’s spring.  Ready or not here it comes it seems. Grass is growing, trees are blooming, and new rhubarb is pushing its way up. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but I’m not being ungrateful or anything.

The fruit is macerated, the juice is strained, reduced & added to filling after baking

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Obviously I’d better get a move on and empty the freezer of the remains of last summer’s stash so I’ll be ready for the new stuff soon to come. Some of my stash?

One pound of rhubarb nicely chopped & ready to go.  My plan was to make my favorite rhubarb tarts, but I find I’m 8 ounces short of rhubarb.  Conveniently, I have exactly 8 ounces of grated beets. Coincidence? I think not.

While the pies bake, the strained liquid is reduced to a thickened sauce

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I followed the rhubarb tart recipe exactly except for the substitution of 8 ounces of beets for 8 ounces of rhubarb.  Then, instead of the vanilla, I used the zest from one orange.  The cinnamon I could go either way on – I added it this time, next time I think I’ll pass. But the orange was perfect.

the open crust allows the thickened sauce to be easily spooned in & i like the rustic look

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It was a unique and serendipitous hit if I do say so myself; I highly recommend pie as a way to clean out that freezer. I have high hopes about this years’ garden… and the squash and pumpkin still waiting in the freezer.  With a little luck that freezer will be emptied & restocked in no time…

Are you getting excited for summer food projects?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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It’s time. Time for the springtime rituals of Easter baskets & hard-boiled eggs. Like chocolate bunnies, those eggs are everywhere and you can only eat so many egg-y things before either they or you go bad.

So, rather than avoiding waste by being stingy with the single healthy, natural thing in the standard-issue Easter basket, after the day is over, pickle the excess. Pickled eggs will keep for months, make sure none go to waste and add a powerful new culinary staple to your pantry.

I’ve gone through plenty of recipes seeking the perfect blend of simplicity and yumminess and what follows is my favorite. For now.  It’s a forgiving recipe though, so feel free to nip and tuck to suit yourself.

Like all simple recipes, the deliciousness is proportionate to the quality of the ingredients.  The number one most important step is this: start with great eggs. 

I am a believer in the power of the farm fresh, pastured egg. Of course, I’m lucky because my neighbor keeps a big flock of free ranging hens and is a generous sharer. Kind of like healthy mother culture, he gives me three dozen eggs, I return a pint of pickled eggs and my emptied egg cartons and the circle of life continues.  Don’t have a chicken-farming friend? You can find one here.

Since your whole reason for this glut of hard-boiled eggs is probably for the fun of dying the eggs with your kids, you should know it is not necessary to buy white eggs to make pretty dyed eggs. The brown shells will dye to softer shades, although yellows may be a little disappointing. Since most farm-fresh eggs are brown, this is a public service announcement designed to save you from the white battery hen eggs in the supermarket.

Once you have your awesome eggs, please pay extra special attention to the process of hard boiling the eggs. With a little extra care, your pickled eggs will be radiantly beautiful. Like pure sunshine, really.

Neglecting your eggs will create that icky green ring around the outside of the yolk which is a real downer for me.   Of course it makes no difference in the taste, and I’ll still gobble them up, but a beautiful ring-free yolk makes me really happy.

The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs:

You may or may not know that freshly laid hard-boiled eggs are difficult to peel. They are – I kid you not. Try to store the eggs in the refrigerator for at least a week before boiling.  If you find that eggs you have already boiled just won’t peel nicely, store the cooked eggs in the refrigerator for a few days and they should become easier to peel.

Or, you may try steaming instead of boiling – this quickie from the always entertaining and informative Alton Brown brings up a few good pointers.  Note: Alton Brown is referring to store-bought eggs, so his advice about the freshness of the eggs is a little off for laid-today eggs from the farm. His tip about centering the yolks is right-on and one I learned the hard way.

I don’t steam my eggs because I really don’t have a good steamer, and I’m about to do three dozen, not four.  So, this is how I do it:

  1. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator for about an hour before starting.  To center the yolks, secure carton lids (a rubber band works well) and place the cartons on their sides. Otherwise, yolks may be too near the egg wall, causing you to break them when you peel the egg – not so good for pickled eggs, but no problem for egg salad.
  2. Use as many large pots as necessary to place eggs in a single layer and cover by at least an inch or two of cold water. Starting with cold water and bringing the eggs to a boil gently will help avoid shocking the eggs into cracking.
  3. I add a teaspoon of white vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt to each pot.
  4. On high heat, bring to a boil and as soon as your water boils, cover pot and turn off the heat. (I have an electric stove. If you have gas, once the water reaches a boil, remove pot from flame. Turn down to low, return pot to burner and simmer for one minute.
  5. After the minute, remove from burner, cover and let sit for 12 minutes.
  6. While the eggs are resting, prepare an ice water bath large enough to accommodate all your eggs at once. You can use a large bowl, pot or even the sink if necessary.
  7. Remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and submerge in the ice bath to cool.

Peeling your eggs:

  1. Allow your eggs plenty of time to cool.
  2. Set up a bowl of clean, cold water and a container or bowl to store your peeled eggs
  3. I start by gently cracking the egg all over and starting at the wide end. If you’re lucky, the shell will gently peel away from the egg, leaving a smooth shiny surface. Rinse in the water & place in the storage container. Repeat.
  4. If you’re not lucky, the shell will cling to the egg and tear the flesh of the egg leaving a knobby messy looking egg. Still tastes good, but not quite so beautiful. If this is the case, after creating the opening, dip into the water as needed to keep everything moist & slippery. Try sliding a spoon gently under the shell and carefully lifting the shell away from the egg.  Be patient and gentle and you should be successful.
  5. Occasionally, your best efforts will fail. Try tucking the cooked eggs back into the fridge for a few more days and you should have better luck. Or, if you just want to eat the eggs and can live with their funky look, do your best and soldier on.

Pickling your eggs:

I’ve tried lots of different recipes and this is my favorite for both flavor and ease.  I am a huge fan of the pickled vegetables you get in restaurants in Mexico so like to add some carrots, chiles and garlic to my eggs. The pickled carrots are a tender-crisp treat and a colorful addition to whatever I end up making with the pickled eggs.

Click here for a printable recipe

Storing your eggs safely:

I am the first to admit I may be a little too fearless when it comes to food safety. I have been making pickled eggs for some time and had been storing them on a shelf in my basement.   But apparently the National Center for Home Preservation doesn’t share my confidence in non-refrigerated storage. If you’re new to preserving, check out their website and this page on pickled eggs – it’s an invaluable free resource.

Eating your pickled eggs & carrots:

xPickled Egg Sandwichxxxpaired with Green Beansxxand vinaigrette slaw

My favorite ways to eat pickled eggs:

  • Pickled Egg Sandwich: slather a slice of good, toasted white bread with mayonnaise (gold stars for homemade bread AND mayo), slice a pickled egg on top, toss a few of the carrots & chile on top and season with a good grind of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Sliced or crumbled over salads & grains: any green salad can benefit from some nice slices of pickled egg. Or, crumble some pickled egg on top of rice,  pasta or cooked vegetable dishes.
  • Egg salad:  try making your favorite egg salad dish with pickled eggs instead of plain hard-cooked for a zingy change
  • Topper: Chopped pickled egg on top of potato, tuna or chicken salads, veggie dishes and dips
  • Sandwich topper: Slice a pickled egg onto a meat sandwich. Really kick it up a notch and top it all with crunchy vinaigrette slaw.

All Right-ey. Now that you know you can cook your eggs all at once and store them ready to eat for months, there’s no reason to hold back!  Dye all the eggs you want and enjoy this handy way to amp up the flavor and protein content of your meals.

What’s your favorite way to eat pickled eggs?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!