Friday, September 14, 2012

Food is Life

When I was young, I lived with my grandparents out in the Gobi. When my grandpa was sick, grandma and I would trap an old hen she had raised to cook because the Chinese believe chicken soup can cure all diseases. When we would trap our hen for these occasions, I would be in charge of holding the wings and its head back, so the neck would be bent and exposed. My grandma would cut open the hen’s throat like a professional assassin. Dark red blood would gush and the hen would struggle a few times and limp to its death. The very first time I saw what had happened holding on to the poor thing, I was immobilized with fear. I almost let go, but because my grandmother had put her hands firmly over mine to hold on to the hen, I had no other choice but stare in the eyes of that poor bird and watch her struggle and die. Her blood slowly drained into a rice-bowl my grandmother had placed underneath. She would catch all of the blood and add a bit of salt and steam it to gelatinize for soups later.

“You’ll get to eat the bird brain so you can get smarter.” She would always say nonchalantly.

It wasn’t until later in life I would realize her lack of interest in the bird’s life was not void of emotion. She approached her killer instincts with something more important in mind: feeding her children so they would survive, keeping the family healthy so we could prosper. But she never wasted any part of the bird after its timely death. She would boil the bones twice to get out all of the nutrients and sure enough I would always get the chicken brain along with all the other edible parts: gizzard, liver, heart. Grandma would always say that if I had wasted any part of the hen, then she would've killed the bird for nothing. I had to face reality: the bird was dead and I could not let it die for no reason. I began to associate guilt with food; so began the wonderful relationship.

But it wasn't until later in life I would realize: Food is life; and there is more wisdom to eating it than just guilt.

These days, you can't find old hen like my grandma would raise them. The US supermarkets of today are full of young, plump and juicy chickens that probably never left the confines of a small cage, fed with an accelerated diet not meant for them along with a host of antibiotics to keep problems at a minimum. These birds were probably put into their packaging by machines without some horrified kid to witness the slaughtering. 

Who am I kidding, the chicken we find these days doesn't even taste like the old hen my grandma would cook then; and I think it's all because of a dark hidden conspiracy . . .

Déjà vu is a system glitch trying to tell us something. 

These days, we seem to live,and are happy with our alternate reality; where we are far removed from the emotions of connecting with our food. We are happy not knowing that fish have eyes, or chicken have feet, or that baby cows are slaughtered mercilessly for our enjoyment. These days, everything taste like everything else and nothing taste like anything--not even food taste like food anymore.

Life these days, as it turns out, does not live much like life I remember from my days in the Gobi, holding on to a dead bird suddenly realizing food is more than just something edible in a plate.

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