Last Thursday I had to face one of the challenges I knew, entering the culinary field, would present itself sooner or later. We had a two day Valentine’s Day dinner event. The menu? Some of our Valentine’s Day favorites.
Course 1 included a Chef’s Garden Salad with crouton, parmesan, shaved ham, carrot, cucumber, nasturtium and dijon emulsion.
Course 2 was a creamy bisque with lobster, carrot, celery, chive, chervil and tarragon.
Course 3 was prime beef new york strip steak with an accompanying veggie plate that consisted of sunchoke purée, carrot, confit potato, brussel sprout, beet, root spinach and amaranth.
Course 4 was called Textures of Chocolate and included a delicious dessert showcase created by visiting Pastry Chef, Melania Castegnaro. Pliable ganache, pistachio mousse, warm chocolate cake, aerated chocolate and chocolate tart made up this final course.
The problem, for me, was the lobster. Forty of them.
If you’ve ever bought live lobster you know what I’m talking about. As a highly empathetic person and an animal lover to boot, I have a hard time killing anything. Let alone a rather large, squirming crustacean. Times forty. I learned that the boiling water method is one way to go about it but it’s arguably more inhumane and drawn out than simply swiftly putting a knife through the creature and carrying on from there. Either way, I struggled with the task but I did it. And I learned how to properly clean and utilize the entire lobster from there. That’s quite a lesson and one I’m grateful for.
Honestly, the entire process really made me think. I’ll be completely transparent, I stuck with rice and veggies for dinner that night. I couldn’t stomach anything more with the knowledge that it only gets harder from here. And we go about it in the most humane, non-wasteful way possible (if you haven’t heard me say that I LOVE my new job, you’ve had your head buried in the sand).
I love how conscious and appreciative the chefs I get to learn from are for the ingredients we use to create our dishes, from the most common ingredients to the most underrated ones. They really care and I think due in part to their awareness, are more grateful for the sacrifice that’s made and more cautious about accruing waste than anyone I’ve ever known. It’s definitely made me more mindful as well.
This, however, leads into a subject that I want to delve into a little deeper.
What about the rest of the meat we as a population eat? The meat we are not humanely raising and killing ourselves, which is, like, all of it. So many people want to indulge with blind eyes. And for a long time, I’ve been one of them.
I’m not saying you need to be able to slaughter your own animals to partake guilt free in tonight’s dinner. Not by a long shot. All I’m asking is that you eat with awareness. Eat with the awareness of the sacrifice that was made so that you can have that 12oz steak and with the awareness that there are humane ways to go about it and there are very inhumane ways. Which are you supporting? Consciously or not. Every time you purchase. These are questions I’m now asking myself.
Over the coming months I’m planning to take the plunge and educate myself on the process that is carried out prior to meat being delivered nicely packaged into our grocery stores. Factory farming is something I’ve been wanting to dig into but it’s been something I’ve been putting off learning more about because I know that once I do, I can’t un-do. I feel like a hypocrite.
I do make an effort to buy meat that is organic, grass fed and if possible free range. It doesn’t always happen, it’s not always available, but I’ve been buying organic whenever possible for a while now. Now that I think about it, I’d like to actually learn more about what “organic” “grass fed” and “free range” really mean. It sounds pretty self explanatory but what are the requirements that have to be met in order to be able to label something “grass fed” or “free range”? I’m curious.
I don’t have a problem with eating meat that was humanely raised and euthanized. I do have a problem with supporting an industry that does not abide by those standards. I would never quiz anyone on the sourcing of the meat they’re serving, I’m not that person and as I already said, I don’t always abide by the standards I strive to live by myself. My goal isn’t one of judgement, but rather one of expanding an awareness.
This summer I’m also going to be looking into partaking in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically, you purchase a “share” from a local farm and get a varying weekly bounty of fruits, vegetables, meat and more directly from the farm you’ve chosen. I’ve done some research already and there are tons of family owned, organic farms near me to choose from. I bet there are some near you as well. You support the local farmer and in return, you get fresh, seasonal, sustainably harvested food. It’s a win/win! If you’re interested in learning more, this article breaks it down nicely.
The Chef’s Garden also offers home delivery with an insanely large supply of fresh vegetables to choose from year round. These are the very same vegetables we use at the Culinary Vegetable Institute and that are used in fine dining establishments around the world. I highly encourage you to check them out. I have never seen or tasted more beautifully delicious vegetables. Their quality is of the very highest. And that’s the truth.
The point of this blog post is not to upset or start controversy but to simply make people think. It took killing nearly forty lobsters to push me to finally acknowledge something that I’ve been avoiding for a long time. To make the decision I need to learn more about an industry that I’ve been pretending doesn’t exist. An industry that makes it so convenient to forget where the food you’re eating even comes from. We can all do our part, as large or small as that is, to make the world a better place to live in. Step one, I believe, is the awareness that we have the power to do so.