Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Haunted by a Chicken

I wrote in another blog that I had gone to a small coastal city in Korea on a day trip with a friend over the weekend and ate at a small restaurant located on the beach that was separated by a strand of trees. We were the first customers of the day and the owner and cook said that we had time to walk to the beach and walkway while she prepared our feast. Just as we entered the trees on the pathway, we turned for a moment and saw a chicken running for its life. It was our lunch. The meal was excellent, but I had a terrible time looking at the cooked chicken and knowing we had seen its last few moments of life.

That had never happened to me before. I was blissfully unaware of the connection between the meal and the real cost of what it took for me to have that meal. Please don't laugh at me, Reader. I just never gave it a thought. I have lived in the city all of my life. Milk comes in bottles or cartons. Eggs comes in cartons. Chickens, well they come in plastic bags. I don't eat in fast food restaurants, so I don't know how they get those chickens in KFC restaurants or I didn't know until now.

In Korea, all of the eggs I buy are brown. I don't think they have factory egg farms which is great. Some of my students tell me that they all had to kill chickens at one time or another because there were always some chickens in the back yard if their grandparents lived in the country in a house. Most people live in apartments so no one has to kill chickens in the city anymore.

I did go visit my aunt in Oregon in my childhood and knew that one dug up potatoes, onions and carrots but they don't scream at you when you shovel them up. I picked apples, peaches and plums but no one slaps your hand as the apple tree did to Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz".

I told one of my students today that I think the chicken is haunting me, following me. In reality I don't mean it, but I don't like the reality of some living creature having to die because I was hungry. I also would rather eat a bowl of rice and some cucumbers than eat meat right now which is what I had for lunch. Rice has plenty of protein and I don't need to buy meat anyhow. Tofu is just dandy for a meal anyhow.

Maybe, eating was fun for me because the real cost of it was not evident to me. I did not live around farms or orchards. I did not live around ranches. Veal was veal and not baby beef and I did not have to look into the eyes of a baby calf as it was put to death just to be on my dinner table. And lamb? I did not have to remember that lamb was a baby sheep. And I don't have to remember that there are a lot of people who are going hungry today. I sound morbid, but I think we need to remember this reality.

I don't live in the USA right now. There were times in my life that I did not have enough to eat and times were hard when I first came here. Maybe I am trying to put eating in the right context in my life. The more I think about it, the more I think that is what I am trying to do.

Bear with me as I try to remember why I eat and that is not to make me feel good and secure but to keep my body going and to keep it healthy. That is why I am on this quest in the first place.

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