Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thankful?

MDM (me darlin' Mrs) and I went to her folks' house for Thanksgiving and this is something I typically dread. MDM's mom isn't a good cook, she doesn't really enjoy preparing the meal and it shows. The most frustrating thing about this situation is the fact that Mrs Yam and I love cooking and entertaining. We volunteer to host or cook, but to no avail -- her lot is to have Thanksgiving and, like Sisyphus, she's going to do it every year. Grocery store turkey, boxed mashed potatoes, dressing made in a crock pot from a box, anything to ease the tedium of cooking.

[A little history of Brother Yam here; before my current career, I was a cook and a bartender for about a dozen years so I know my way around a kitchen. I love cooking and eating which puts us back to the present and the reason for the name of this pathetic little narrative called a blog...]

I don't care that she doesn't like cooking -- hell, most people don't -- and so I understand the reason for the ingredients. But that's the frustrating thing, I absolutely loathe convenience foods. Processed foods are the windmill I tilt against and I am glad to see the re-awakening of the real food, or slow food movements. Tasteless food is an oxymoron, and I'm thankful I don't eat it often.

The turkey that comes from the store -- 89 cents a pound or so -- is a loss leader for the supermarket. That's to get you to come in and buy the rest of the crud that they sell, the boxed mashed potatoes, the bagged stuffing, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes in syrup. That turkey isn't a product of farming, not anymore. That turkey is a genetically-engineered product of agricultural manufacturing. The exact amount of feed at the exact time mixed with enough antibiotics and vitamins to keep it on schedule and to prevent the loss of too much inventory due to the environment in which it is created. The product reaches a deliverable mass and then is trucked off for processing.

There's nothing sentimental in the raising and slaughter of that store turkey. This is assembly line production and the goal is to get you a semblance of what you are looking for in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest cost (financially). Processed and packed and shipped to a consumer that is so conditioned that a turkey is breast meat with enough structure around it to hold it upright so that it can get food down its gullet. A "basted" or "butterball" turkey that has been injected full of water and oil and salt. You're probably paying for ten percent water on that turkey, you can see by how much "broth" is left over in the pan after roasting it.

Mrs Yam and I don't eat that way because we love animals both on the hoof and in the pan. A turkey was once a wily target but is now reduced to gibbering idiot status in overcrowded, filthy and disease-ridden houses. This is no way for something to live, at least something that will end up on a table. Remember, you are what you eat and what you eat is what it eats too, so if you are eating something that lives in shit...

Factory farming has taken the variety and flavor and delicacy out of our food and gives us nothing in return but ease of acquisition. They get machine-harvestable and uniform sizes for picking and shipping and control over the genetics. I suppose that's a bit unfair as we get fresh vegetables all year round, but they're so tasteless, I'd prefer to eat the frozen stuff that was harvested fresh and then preserved or just go without. We're seasonal eaters here in the Yam household because I'd rather eat corn on the cob fresh for three months it's local than try to choke down some frozen cobs in March. Eat it when it's the freshest and the cheapest.

So we have traded taste and nutrition for convenience, and it's not a fair trade. There was nothing fresh on the table save what Mrs Yam and I brought: Brussel Sprouts cooked in sage butter and baked squash and parsnips with maple syrup. Nobody at the table had had sprouts before, but I was happy to see that they enjoyed them. The squash was pretty much finished also (mostly by the Mrs and me). The pies were good and the company was good. I don't want anyone to think I don't care for my inlaws, I do. I love them dearly -- that's why I want to cook for them. That's how I show my love, I feed you. I toast to your health with the best I've got.

And I toast to you all. Despite the rant, I'm thankful for my family and the food and everything. And that next year, we will be hosting again and the menu will be rich and weird and really, really healthy.

I expect that I'll be writing more about food in the coming months as I'm inside more and cooking more. And hey, winter biking takes energy, no?

[This was rolling around in my head for a while and it is now complete. Sorry for the late post]

1 comment:

The donut guy said...

Amen.

I am a professional pastry chef and while most of the stuff I make isn't good for you in large quantities.....it sure is fun making it:-)