Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Death, lies and dinner

When I was small, my parents lied to me all the time. "It's beef," they'd say, and drop a plate on the table. Sometimes, I'd refuse to eat, convinced I'd heard them slip a barely audible "just like" between the "it's" and "beef". It was inhumane, I thought, to hunt wild game and (at that age) equally inhumane to force me to eat vegetables as the alternative. My parents were cruel, and I was right not to trust them.

Several incarnations of Bambi's mother and his philandering father have joined us for dinner, as have Thumper, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh, Jaws and various anonymous guests, sometimes in a medley of murder my mother liked to call 'stew'. Children's stories, cartoons, movies and Teddy bears did not serve me well in a family of naturalists, hunters and fisherfolk.

Not until I fully understood the horrors of industrial farming, and tired of my diet of pasta and frozen chicken nuggets while studying at an out-of-province university, did my views on my parents' eating habits begin to soften. By then, I cared more about what food wasn't (pasta or mechanically separated meat), than what it was.

Not until I'd travelled throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America did I begin to actually appreciate my parents' choices. As it turns out, a lot more can be considered food than I'd initially thought, and the horrors of my mother's cooking weren't, comparatively, so terrifying. Travelling, I learned to find my happy place, which allowed me to politely choke down whatever lovingly slaughtered, hacked and salted ungodly creatures I'd been served. They won't eat me from the inside out, I consoled myself. Even if the heads are still on? asked my little voice.

While I maintain my belief that food should not be able to look back at you, I've learned to appreciate dead, cooked versions of creatures, so long as I have nothing to do with their death or any stage postmortem/pre-meal.

Among life's greatest motivators, however, (pain, necessity, a full bladder) is the desire to look tough in front of one's peers, and this is what got me to both kill and cook one of Earth's most hideous, head and all: a lobster.

I watch my parents do it every year on Christmas Eve, and, with the help of my happy place, I was pretty sure I could pull it off for my mostly urban, English, fruit-and-salad-loving boyfriend. On this, his first visit to Canada, my family had already introduced him to bear stew, moose sirloin, vampire-repelling dill and garlic pickles, pierogi and three batches of Mom's cookies, and it seemed a shame to have him leave Nova Scotia without eating something from the sea, especially since he'd never tried lobster.

My greatest realization, in cooking the beast, was that I truly am becoming more like my parents. Here I am, carrying on the tradition of lying to people who are reluctant to kill for dinner, while my boyfriend screams, "It's ALIVE! It's ALIVE! OH, EFF! It's still ALIVE!":


pistols at dawn said...

I like anyone who says "Oh, eff!" even while facing death - or its close cousin, pinched toes - so closely.

wyliekat said...

Me, I'd have been salivating, regardless of twitches or various states of mostly deadness.

UnBob said...

"We're gonna need a bigger ... pot."

Kate Savage said...

Pistols - Hey, I'm the murderess! Doesn't that get ME some cool points here?

Wyliekat - I agree. A high level of deliciousness cancels out most everything else. Meat is murder. Delicious, delicious murder.

Unbob - Meh. I won that battle.

i am playing outside said...

my friend, you are adorable. i look forward to reading more!

Kate Savage said...

Hey thanks! Nice to meet you!

Ace C said...

Good stuff cracking up. Glad to see I'm not the only person who eats still eats chicken nuggets.