In which I wonder: are you kidding me?

In which I wonder: are you kidding me?

From all over the place and Snopes.com. Originally posted in the Daily Journal, Kankakee, Michigan.

 Can this be? Is somebody somewhere having a huge laugh watching this thing go viral? Or is this truly possible in our alternate American universe?

I would never believe that this was anything but a joke except for one thing. I actually know people struggling to maintain this kind of convoluted relationship between their brain, reality and food. Most of them would never go this far  but they can get pretty riled up in their heated rants against hunting.

Of course, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t understand that somehow the package of plastic wrapped meat they found at the grocery store was at one time a living, breathing animal. They just choose to press that bit of fact out of their rational everyday thoughts.

For a long time, one of my pet peeves has been misleading marketing. As I’ve grown older and hopefully matured, I find my understanding and beliefs about marketing have deepened and evolved. Having spent much of my adult life working in sales and marketing, boy do I understand the spinning of a message. And the power of an image.

Today, I’m reading Kitchen Literacy by Ann Vileisis. While I’m not finished yet and have much more to say about the book, I couldn’t wait to mention it in relation to this classified ad (hoax or not) because it does much to explain how such ignorance could actually exist in our “smart” modern society.

Successful marketing consists of things like appealing display cases, helpful FAQS, buying guides, recipes and romanticized stories. Since the eating of animals is something we feel squeamish about, marketers know that we will grasp at the flimsiest evidence to either push the whole idea out of our heads completely or to support our belief that what we are doing is OK.

And they are more than happy to make full use of our desire to not know.

Marketers know that a pretty description including very little factual information, or an invented certification seal is usually all it takes to get us to turn a blind eye (whew!) to industry practices that no one would ever feel comfortable performing in their own home.

Marketers also know we no longer have any deep food knowledge with which to judge their products. We have no memory of what makes one cut of beef better than another. We are more than willing to be herded towards the most convenient solution offering the “best” of limited choices, mainly due to our preference to not know the back story.

Meat made at the store, where no animals were harmed…

Friends, pleaseBy far, the unkindest cut of all is willful ignorance.  It’s not cute when you giggle, “Don’t tell me, or I won’t be able to eat it” about your meat and dairy. If you can’t stand the knowledge, then you shouldn’t buy it or eat it. Delegating the dirty work isn’t innocence, and it’s not funny or charming.

I have to quote my meat hero, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of The River Cottage Meat Book fame; no thinking carnivore should be without this Bible in the kitchen.  Hugh says:

“The cruel practices I have mentioned have been increasingly publicized and clearly do not have popular support. Numerous polls and surveys indicate that the vast majority of the public objects to them and would like to see them banned. So surely they soon will be. Won’t they?

____________________________________

Not just yet, it seems. Because the same moral majority of the pollster’s main street becomes the immoral majority, once they get behind the wheels of a shopping cart. They continue to buy the products they are so quick to condemn. So these appalling, abusive practices, it turns out, do have popular support – albeit that the supporters are in denial (it seems that nothing suppresses the exercise of conscience as effectively as the words ‘Buy one, get one free’). But there’s no getting away from it: if you buy something, you support the system that produces it.”

____________________________________

I’m sorry,  I haven’t been much fun lately, but back to the original point. Is it a hoax, or is it genuine? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It, and the scorn and ridicule it has attracted on the internet has reminded me of our complicated relationship with our food and the natural world.

Looks like a long, hard road ahead Ladies…..

This post is part of Fresh Foods Wednesday, a lively blog hop hosted by our friends at Gastronomical Sovereignty. If you’re looking for tips, recipes, projects and ideas about real food and farming, you need to get over there.

_________________________________________________________________________

In which we are still under the spell

In which we are still under the spell

A door to another world....

I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. As a kid, our library trip was the highlight each and every week. I would take out as many books as I was allowed, I think 12, and couldn’t wait to get home to review, stack and prioritize. Which should I read first? Such abundance and possibilities….

Once I tore into the stack, I was relentless until I had finished them all. I was a re-reader too and some would be read again and again. Today, years and years later, I can still get lost in favorites like Charlotte’s Web, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harriet the Spy.

It’s sad that as grown-ups we have to leave behind that kid-on-summer-break abundance of time.  As kids, we struggled to fill that time up, staving off what was, after all, boredom really. But just on the other side of that boredom lies magic if we can just stick with it a bit longer. True creativity takes plenty of aimless meandering through tedium, boredom and solitude before it decides to kick in. I wish I could have a do-over so I can appreciate the lazy slowness of it more this time around.

Don’t you hate it when you’re wrapped up in a good book and see the pages coming to an end?  I know I’m about to be ejected back into my real world where the light is too bright, the noise is super loud and I have a clock to race. But it is nice to savor the feeling of being lost in the world of my book as I go about my day; a kind of country cousin to that delicious tweener place between being awake and asleep.

Anyway, I wander. This summer, I made it a point to read more. Not cookbooks or raising cows books or improving the pasture books but fiction. Or, if not fiction, at least books with a little enchantment and expanding vistas.

The Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman

This week, I read a book that at first glance would seem to belong in the doesn’t-count category (it’s about organic farming) but in reality belongs in the counts-for-sure pile. I finished it day before yesterday and it’s with me still.

I learned plenty about the typical workday on an organic vegetable farm. Somehow, even without any farming experience, everyone knows it’s hard work; multiply that by ten and you’re getting warmer. Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it. Loading up that truck so many days each week with freshly picked and washed veggies of an impressive array feels overwhelming from the comfort of my living room. Could I manage to pull it off for real? Do I have the right stuff?

But that’s really just one element of the book. I never knew it before, but burdock roots are enthralling; I have a new crush on apples and a bruise on a peach is an incredible badge of honor. After reading this, who would want a whiny perfect one? Truly.

There’s magic in these pages – the kind of magic known by ancient Druids and fairies that’s only understood while lying on one’s back alone in the middle of a wintry field looking up at the nighttime sky. There’s also lots and lots of love. Love for the land, love of literature, the love of family, the love of good food and simple pleasures; it’s all there. A rich and rewarding read indeed. I recommend it highly.

As we find ourselves pinching pennies as individuals, families and a nation, it is so important to remember how important things like public libraries are. Many of us are a little spoiled by the ease of Amazon(dot)com – please take a moment to remember your local library. You may not be a user yourself, but the programs and access to hope, tools and possibility for those who can’t afford a bookstore habit is invaluable. Many people will never have the freedom to see places like Henry’s farm in person, but if they have a library, they too can know more about the choices and possibilities this great world has to offer.

Libraries are in need of your attention, time and donations; it’s one of the best ways we have to help others help themselves.

What are you reading these days?

Show some love for your local library!

in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

Molly (left front) & Bess

Molly,  front & center of course, & her Best Friend Bess

 

I read this post on a favorite blog of mine, Throwback at Trapper Creek. I enjoyed the post as usual, but I really didn’t think much more of it.  However, it must have been infectious somehow because this morning, as I went about my chores, I found myself thinking hard about bellwether ( a bellwether is a lead animal) cows.

Our first cows were Bess and Molly with their two heifers, Basil and Merry.  When they came to our farm,  we had never known a cow.  Molly was all blustery, showy and beautiful.  She was bossy, loud, photogenic and pretty entertaining most of the time.  Sometimes she was pretty scary too – she has fancy horns and some powerful body language.  We assumed Molly was the Boss cow.

But, as I came to know them better, I realized that it was actually quiet Bess who figured everything out first. Bess didn’t make a big fuss; she just went about her business.  Bess was the one who would watch for me to call for dinner.  Bess always came right away, and when everyone saw her come, they would come too.  That is, once Molly had decided to quit jamming up the works and allow it.

It seems in the world of cows, “Boss” is often just a good show.  While Molly was busy spending her time hogging up the water trough (she’s not even thirsty – geez), bullying and blocking the lower ranking cows and keeping everyone from doing things she was afraid to do,  Bess was spending her time enjoying the summer grass, being a good mother and a good friend.  And let’s not forget the ever-important always being first in line (I’ve never understood the importance of this one, but ask any grade school kid or cow and they’ll tell you – it’s critical). Unlike Molly, Bess wastes no time minding anyone else’s business so she is almost always first for everything important. Know any Mollys?

Since Bess just saw what needed done and did it without any posturing, she was always the first to eat, drink, come in from the rain and to get her choice of bed.  Let’s face it; Bellwethers simply get stuff done. While the rest of us are strutting about looking to be praised for something we did a few days ago, Bellwethers are already finishing up something more.

It was Bess who helped the other cows learn our routine and Bess was the reason Molly would eventually decide to go along with the program.  Amazingly enough, for all her bluster, Molly followed Bess too!  Just don’t ask her to admit it.

Looking around our classrooms and/or places of work, I’m sure we can all spot the “Boss Cow”.   What I was slow to learn is that the Boss Cow isn’t helping anybody get anywhere. She’s a distraction, an obstacle keeping everyone from being simply satisfied and content.  And for some reason, lots of other people believe she’s Boss too.  But the Bellwether isn’t fooled.

I’d love to say I’m a Bellwether, but I fear I’ve actually more often been a Boss Cow.  I really don’t know what pleasure a Boss Cow gets from being one; Bellwethers are happier.

So, I propose three things:

  1. Figure out who’s who: Boss Cow or Bellwether? You might be surprised when you really think about it….
  2. Don’t let the Boss Cow get you off track.  You know what a Boss Cow can’t handle? When you don’t pay them any mind. Give it a try.
  3. Show some appreciation for the Bellwethers you know.  They aren’t the fancy, flashy ones, but they are the ones who make it all happen.  If you’re going to follow someone, follow a Bellwether.

So, if you really want to be the change you’d like to see in the world, be a Bellwether.

Our sweet bellwether leads in the gang. No surprise here: her name is really Success!

In Which We Share A Great Find

In Which We Share A Great Find

As I learn more about farming, it seems all roads lead eventually back to WWII.  I have to confess some sheepish remorse for not caring more about American history when I was in school. Especially now, since the lessons (apparently not learned) of that era seem to be coming right back at us.

Trolling the internet one day, I stumbled upon this amazing online exhibit created by Corey Bernat; Beans are Bullets & Of Course I Can: A Collection of War-Era Food Posters from the Collection of the National Agricultural Library.

Advertisers are plundering these again timely and appealing images to sell us new books and products. We scan them in a quick way and are attracted to their nostalgic wholesome and honest feel, but did we take time to really examine the message?

Can you believe it? America Wastes 40% of All Food Produced Each Year

This skillful and entertaining exhibit identifies the root of our present alignment of government, deceptive advertising practices, industrial food production and farming methods.  That’s the dark part.

There is also an uplifting part where citizens join forces and engage in efforts greater than themselves for the betterment of the nation.

A secret invasion is going on every minute of every day, staged behind every computer and television screen, cell phone, street corner and magazine and we seem determined to avoid knowing about it. The war for our brainspace is 24/7 and we couldn’t seem to care less.

Pitch In And Help

If you don’t think there’s a warfare mentality to American style advertising, search Amazon to see just how many times a military word, strategy or reference is made in the titles of books on marketing and advertising.

There’s no doubt that advertisers have invaded our brain space; but, since we invited them in, we can ask them to leave. The real question is, “ Will we?”

Now, don’t let me finish on a negative note – I’m not really  a conspiracy theory sort of girl.  Rather,  I’m a “Let’s get out there and do something to make things better” one.

What better place to start than planting a garden & putting up some of your own food this summer? You might find you enjoy your quiet evenings in the garden and/or kitchen much more than the ones you spend watching TV.

Give it a try….