The most or least guilt-ridden animal eating experience?

I’m sorry my posts haven’t been as frequent this week, and they probably won’t be for another week or so. I’m heading back to school next Sunday, so it’s been a very busy time getting ready. But I really wanted to post about this trip my family and I took this past weekend, because it’s prompted some contradictions for me in relation to how I feel about food, and it’s sort of appropriate for this Meatless Monday. We took a road trip to National Harbor, MD for its annual Crab and Beer festival.

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You see, my dad’s favorite food is hardshell crabs. They are quite delicious when they are good, but he (and I) really likes it for the experience, I think. When you eat crabs, you sit there with the whole crab, in its shell, and crack it open with your little mallet and have to dig the meat out with your fingers. It’s thus different from other eating experiences because it takes so much longer and involves working for your food. It leaves a lot of time for talking while your hands are working as well, so it’s a very communal activity, no question about it. It’s also very messy, as you can imagine. I think I still have Old Bay under my fingernails.

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(In case you were confused, I have still been including some fish in my diet, so I refer to myself as a pescatarian (vegetarian+fish). I think when I go back to school I will lay off the fish, though, because the dining hall’s fish is nothing to write home about. )

I’ve always liked the taste of crabmeat, but actually didn’t warm up to the whole hardshell experience until recently. I was pretty averse to the mess before, but for some reason now I don’t mind. Anyway, so we got to our tent at the festival, and our platinum VIP tickets (thanks Dad) got us unlimited crabs. However, they served them 6 at a time, so I got my tray. They were really good crabs–not as large as advertised, but what can ya do?

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That’s my brother and me enjoying our crabbies. I only got through one tray before feeling satisfied. I think my dad had 3 or 4! It took us all probably an hour and a half to eat, just to give you an idea of the length of this process. Anyway, the whole thing was really fun–there was live music and lots of cool vendors selling clothes, jewelry, and souvenirs. If you’re into crabs, I’d recommend it. I’d love to do something like that again with friends.

So what does this have to do with food movement issues? Well, as you might imagine, this experience brought up a question of animal rights for me–that is, whether animals have the right to life. When eating crabs whole, as opposed to in the form of a crab cake, for instance, it is impossible to separate yourself from the notion that this was once a living creature. When I bring up the subject of eating hard shells to other people, some say they don’t like it for just this reason, even though they will eat crab meat other ways. It reminds me how far away we have been removed from the food system. Whether or not you believe that animals may be morally hunted or bred to be eaten, most people don’t like to think about the death of the animal on their plate. If the system were more transparent, perhaps this consciousness would occur more frequently, and perhaps people would be less inclined to eat meat, which would be a welcome change, in my opinion. Please know this: whether you crack the crab open yourself or eat a crab cake, a crab (or more) has died to be your food. 

Now, for some twisted reason, I actually feel better about eating crabs whole than eating crab meat, or any meat, that has been processed so as to be unrecognizable from its live origins. I think it’s because it feels more honest to me, while so much about animal agriculture is hidden from consumers. That sounds really weird, I know. But think about it–if you always had to pluck your chicken before eating it, wouldn’t you eat chicken less often? Is that even an appropriate analogy? How can we make people more conscious of the consequences of their food choices?

 

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