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The Meat I Won’t Eat

February 23, 2016

Rules. I’ve got a lot of rules. To an outsider, they may seem entirely arbitrary. But I can’t even begin to tell you how much thought has gone into them. Let’s not confuse thought with research or careful scientific study. I’ve done pretty much none of those things. So I’m not recommending you follow my advice. Frankly I don’t even see it as advice.

Sometimes I just want to get these thoughts out of my head, and having a blog is a good way to do that. And sometimes these ideas are so far fetched, I just need to share them as a means of penance. Of course, occasionally my radical notions turn out to be correct.

A lot of my rules around food have to do with material science. For example, I won’t microwave anything on plastic. For that matter, I only put hot food in glass or ceramic containers. I don’t cook on synthetic non-stick surfaces, because the environmental impact of their production would seem to be playing out in Hoosick Falls. Plus, they always seem to end up flaking, and I really don’t want to eat bits of teflon.

But on this trip down to Manhattan last weekend, I realized the I have some guidelines about eating meat out in restaurants that I’ve never quite articulated. Even to myself. So, let’s see how this goes.

First, I should say this. I don’t refuse people’s hospitality based on any of my crazy nonsense. If someone ever invites me into their home, and offers to cook for me, the last thing on my mind is judging that person’s food choices. And eating an occasional meal made out of entirely processed foods isn’t going to give you an instant case of cancer or diabetes.

I’m not entirely without grounding in society.

In some ways what I’m about to confess may seem counterintuitive. But I won’t eat conventionally produced meat in fancier restaurants. I just don’t do it. In places that present themselves as having better food, but the meat doesn’t seem to have any special pedigree beyond what I can buy at the supermarket, I’m going vegetarian.

Perhaps there may be an exception, when I forget myself or there are no other good choices. It’s hard to keep track of all these rules, you know. But I’m not crazy about the treatment of animals in large livestock operations. It doesn’t sit well with me. So if I’m paying for a nice meal out, that meat better be part of a kinder, gentler food system.

The corollary of this is where it gets interesting.

Cheap, hole in the wall, and most ethnic joints get a free pass. They aren’t putting on any airs about the food they are cranking out. In fact, the quality of the meat at these places might even be worse. I don’t even know what kind of meat I had on that breakfast street-crepe in Beijing. Probably I should have opted for the vegetarian version. But I lived to tell the tale.

I suppose part of that is that fancier places these days are more inclined to have something delicious and vegetarian on the menu. But I just can’t bring myself to spend over $15 on a supermarket quality chicken breast.

Maybe this makes me a bad foodie, but I don’t care how delicious a chef can make conventional ground beef taste in some gourmet version of meatloaf or some phantasmagorical burger. I don’t care if it’s a blend of brisket, chuck, and short rib. If those cuts came from an animal that never saw the light of day, I won’t pay over $10 for that.

But you know what? But if it’s under $10 and it’s superdelicious? I’m tempted to overlook the ethics.

What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not really about the ethics at all. It can’t be. Because if it were, I’d never be able to enjoy the carnitas at La Mexicana. What it points to is an overriding concern with integrity. One expects higher prices to result in a certain standard of food. And far too often, it just doesn’t deliver. So I just opt out.

And it usually works. That’s how I landed on the vegetarian flatbread at the MoMA, and that looked like the most delicious thing on the table.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2016 1:00 pm

    I literally feel the EXACT same way about meat… from hole in the wall places, to friend’s homes, to restaurants. It doesn’t really make logical sense when I verbalize it, but in my head it TOTALLY does.

  2. Grrrr permalink
    February 24, 2016 11:55 am

    I buy whatever meat is on sale for less then $1.50 lb because I’m on a budget. That usually entails chicken legs and pork butt. Sometimes I buy it as inexpensive as .79 to .99 a pound. I’d love to eat ethically pasture raised meat all the time but I can’t afford it and I’m not willing to eat beans and rice every day as a sacrifice. I’d be willing to pay extra for good meat but the markups are so high that they push me out of the organic purchasing realm. I’m awaiting the day when real food becomes affordable.

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