Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Murder and mayhem in the kitchen!

Now, those of you who worry about the turkeys that have been slaughtered for Christmas, or the pig whose ham many people will be dining on, give a thought to what those turkeys are being stuff with or those hams being eaten with: the poor, unsung vegetables.

If you think that the yam you pop in the oven to roast or the potatoes you boil only to mash, or the carrots and onions you dice up to cram into the turkey, love to be roasted, boiled, mashed, diced and crammed, then think again.

As a story in the New York Times today describes in nice detail, plants want to live life to the full just as much as you do! A tomato is filled with seeds, live little babies, and they don't want you crushing them with your teeth any more than you want your neighbor's dog to crush your leg with his! Natalie Angier points out in her story that plants have many defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten, and they often work well against caterpillars and insects -- but most plants have developed no defense against humans.

Well, from an evolutionary point of view, that's totally untrue, you might say! Nothing has been so good for cowdom or tomatodom than humans. We've given them huge selective advantages over their scrubby wild competitors. Corn and soya rejoice! Of course, unlike the holiday spirit, evolution works by differential survival, not by euphoria. So the price the agricultural species pay for their incredible success is that they live short lives, ending in capital punishment--often of cruel and inhuman (and hence thoroughly unconstitutional) means. A lot of people against the aborting of human fetuses, don't give a lick of a thought about aborting the lives of thousands of tomato fetuses in every bite of their lasagne. Except the lick of their chops. So unfair and inconsistent are we!

Our food decisions are thus already a bit of a negative capability dilemma for many of us, as we decide to eat fish but not mammals, or anything without a face, or free-range chicken but not factory raised. But, extending our sympathy to vegetables makes it a bigger dilemma yet, as we have to eat something. It forces us all to recognize that, no matter how we manage the ethics of our food decisions, we all kill to eat.

We have no answer for this dilemma, but as we said above, at least include the innocent victims in the thanks you give to Whomever you give them to for the blessings of your holiday meal.

16 comments:

Francesc said...

Yes, we've given cultivated vegetables a huge fitness... as long as we tend for them. I read somewhere that only cultivated pumpkins and other cucurbits can escape succesfully to the wild.

Ken Weiss said...

Nice to hear from you, Fracesc! Have a great Christmas and new year!


We humans have domesticated ourselves, too, since it is only by taking care of ourselves via culture that we survive.

One of the reasons Wallace came to his conclusions about evolution was the idea that domesticated species would revert to type if they were put out in the wild. At least, the idea was they would lose their valued domesticated traits if we stopped maintaining them by selection.

In Barcelona, delicious food is king. But our daughter (who just loves living there!) says that it's tough to be a vegetarian. So maybe Catalunians are more humane, at least to plants?

Francesc said...

Fewer vegetarians here, often hard to find vegetarian options in restaurants. But this week the Catalan Parliament has accepted, by a close vote, that a citizen's law proposal on banning bullfighting can at least be discussed
(www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/12/18/world/AP-EU-Spain-Bullfighting-Ban.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=bullfight%20Catalonia&st=cse).

Nice to hear that your daughther is adapting well.

And for Christmas in Catalonia, here's Stephen Fry explaining some of our traditions. It's all true! (www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJxHHP-aTOc)

So Merry Christmas to Anne and you!

Ken Weiss said...

Very funny video! No wonder Amie loves it so much there!

However, I am very surprised to learn that in Catalonia bulls are being given some consideration. That's good, because they probably don't want to be sworded for sport anymore than lobsters or carrots want to be boiled alive, or bullfighters want to be gored alive.

Speaking of being alive, our view is that nobody should allow their lives to end without first seeing Barcelona....and that's no bull!

Anne Buchanan said...

Francesc, so, first, bullfighting will be banned, then, vegetable eating? Indeed, Catalunya is a very progressive place!

Thanks for the Fry link -- it's good to have these cultural insights into Amie's new home!

Merry Christmas to you and your family, as well --

Francesc said...

Yes, it's a nice place, though turning quickly into a theme park. As for the bull ban, it will be a matter of framing. The right-wing centralist party is framing is as Catalonia vs. the rest, which will probably drag the Socialist party and part of the milder Catalan nationalists. But most Catalan nationalists insist on framing it strictly in animal welfare terms. Dog- and cock-fighting are illegal, so the bullfighting exception is bizarre.

Speaking of bizarre, tomorrow night my sons, along with their cousins (the oldest of the whole cousinship is 6), as many other children in Catalonia, will hit a blanket-covered log with sticks while they sing a song asking the log to, literally, shit gifts. Then they will take the blanket out and presto! marzipan, chocolates and other sweets will appear.

Ken Weiss said...

Are you sure you actually want to _eat_ that 'marzipan'??

Even if Barcelona is turning into a theme part, at least part of the theme is the Barca football club, which is genuine entertainment. And although there are Fantasyland things there like Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia, which hardly seem possibly to be real, at least there's no Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse running around patting everyone on the head.

Anne Buchanan said...

It sounds like the politics of the bullfighting ban are passionate, and way beyond bullfighting. Though, framing it in animal welfare terms sounds completely sensible, in and of itself.

But then we move on to logs shitting gifts.....!

Jennifer said...

along those lines, I was wondering last night as I was (finally) decorating the same Norfolk pine tree that I have every year. Does the tree look forward to Christmastime when it gets the extra attention and all the little (very lightweight) ornaments, or does it dread it?

Anne Buchanan said...

Jennifer, I was afraid you were going to say something scatalogical about your Norfolk pine -- not being from Catalonia, _that_ it wouldn't like. As to whether it likes ornaments or not, I'm thinking that probably trees are a whole lot more tolerant than, say, people when it comes to changes in their lives.

Ken Weiss said...

Let your imagine run wild here. We know that trees sense heat, humidity, and even (according to many reports--I know not how rigorously scientific) music and soothing words.

Plants may or may not recognize situations of benign attention. But if Christmas time means lights and warmth,but not so much as to screw up their annual cycle (which obviously isn't a problem here), then why should trees not be able to enjoy a bit of good cheer?

amie said...

Happy Holidays i Bones Festes a tots!! Qué bonica la ciuta de Barcelona ara!!
It's quite true, everything Francesc said--I've just seen it myself! :-)
I would also like to venture to say that I think most people who restrict their diet do not presume they've eradicated all suffering caused by their actions, but rather, hope to lessen it.

Holly Dunsworth said...

Very late, I know, but I wanted to say, LOVE LIVE MARZIPAN!

Holly Dunsworth said...

That should have said "long" instead of love... complete Freudian typo.

Anne Buchanan said...

Ha, Holly, I was trying very hard to make something scatalogical of live marzipan, but I could not figure it out. But now that I know it was Freudian, it's clearer, and I completely agree with you: LONG LIVE LIVE MARZIPAN!! Wish I could say that in Catalan.

Ken Weiss said...

The key question here, besides the Freudian slip, is whether marzipan is made from little live almondettes, tiny embryos striving to breathe free and become adults. If so, how can 'long live' marzipan be a sincere wish? What other kinds of predation are covered by similar nice-sounding phrases??