SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Food and Killing in American Culture

I've said some of this before, but I need to again. I think we're in trouble, deep trouble, and it doesn't have to do with vegetarianism versus carnivorism, and this isn't just a complaint.

Let me start with Anthony Bourdain's cold-blooded "capping" of a pig, two quick shots to the head, on camera during his recent New Orleans episode, an episode that not only featured the brutal killing of this poor pig, but its evisceration, while it was still alive.

Bourdain has said more than once he is proud to be part of The Travel Channel, which also features a couple of other winners. Adam Richman, for example. A big boy getting bigger all the time and there is no need to wonder why, as, on his show, Man v. Food Nation, he goes around the country on an eating spree while diners cheer him on and applaud his gluttony. When I say Richman eats a ton, I am talking pounds and pounds of beef, potatoes, and sometimes ice cream in a single sitting, sometimes within a required time frame of say, 20 minutes to half an hour. The point of the show is that he is competing with food -- Huh? Exactly. Also on this channel is Bizarre Foods, with Andrew Zimmerman, who goes around the world tasting weird creatures and things that generally would make anyone go, "ugh!"

Then there is the new show on the Food Network Channel, Sugar High, which features a bald, pasty-faced chef -- looking blanched no doubt from all the sugar he has consumed -- going around the country 'getting high' off pies, cakes and other rich desserts. The logo for the show is sugar strewn across a road. Who needs sugar after all?

Another new show on this network has a Mexican chef I had previously respected and his buddy going from locale to locale, sampling ridiculously, dangerously hot and spicy foods. I'd like to see their large intestines in about a year. Competing with these shows on this network are similar shows such as Sugar Rush, Glutton for Punishment, and Extreme Chef.

The Travel Channel was launched in 1987 by Trans World Airlines (TWA), in the hope it would boost business. Maybe the best way to stop supporting the network and its really nasty shows is to stop choosing that airline. The Food Network Channel was bought from A.H. Belo Corporation by E. W. Scripps Company in 1997 and has essentially launched into the stratosphere the careers of chefs Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, among others, while promoting the idea that chefs can be superstars too.

For much of this blog I've been caught up with the idea of the super chef, how this person in the kitchen can make a world so right and good. But I've also seen travesties of this, and the shows I have just listed are chock full of them. They were launched with the intent of appealing to the most stupid and gullible aspect of ourselves, that aspect that agrees with commercials about what is right and best for us to eat. And in the same breath, shows us ads about how to curtail the consequences.

We never do see ads for tofu, or raspberries, or sprouts, do we? Just meat and cheese, because companies think they have the right to own animals and to eviscerate and shell them out to us, packaged nicely of course, because the habit of eating meat is so rife and profitable.

There's a vegan activist named Gary Yourofsky whose been arrested something like 10 times for protesting for animal rights. He has a compelling argument regarding how we are taught to be cruel to one another and to animals, although we start off being loving and protective as children. And he has a powerful argument for choosing to harm less by not supporting the killing of animals -- who, like us, possess a sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing, have eyes, ears, noses, mouths, arms and legs, and, like us, procreate, have families, mothers and fathers -- and therefore, a very good argument for not eating meat, or its products.

But this isn't just about eating meat, and the process involved in getting to that so-called delicious plate of steak that so many would "die for." It's about sheer waste and hubris. How dare we indulge in tossing even sugar across a road when the world is in the state that it is regarding the issue not only of starvation, but our resources. There are millions of human beings dying in Somalia right now for lack of food and water.

I realize Somalia seems far away, and television isn't bringing images of that devastation to our televisions, even those televisions with 1,000 plus channels. It's too busy advertising for meat and its products, too busy showing us brutal reality shows about trapping and killing animals and feeling good about it. 

You know that maxim your mother used to tell you when you were a snotty-nosed kid, "Eat your food, there are hungry people starving in Africa." Well, it's true.

We have so much food compared to the rest of the world. Why can't we respect that, really appreciate it, and start treating food and ourselves and other sentient beings better. We're not even at the point where we can consider having healthy relationships if we are still stuck, dealing properly with the basic ingredients that keep us alive.