Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Of the Fallen

[click to enlarge]
abattoir |ˈabəˌtwär|
a slaughterhouse.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from French, from abattre ‘to fell.’

Just over one week ago I stood on a kill floor for the first time. In many ways I've been building up to that moment for a few years now [at least], learning about food systems and production and how the food we eat gets from the farm to the table. In elementary school we were assigned a research paper, and my initial "animal rights" topic quickly changed to a more focused study of slaughterhouses. What I learned turned me off meat for months, as I recall.

But let's face it. I'm like many other red-blooded Americans who love bacon and steak and fried chicken and Thanksgiving turkey. My studies [and interests in life] led me to food, and I changed the way I bought milk, where I shopped, what I shopped for. My internship in Italy got me so close to the food chain as helping raise animals, and seeing their carcasses return in halves, still warm.

But this whole part about death... that part scared me as it does so many people. It's easier to turn away and pretend that pork chops simply come from the grocery store in neat little bloodless, and plastic-wrapped, packages. I've seen film footage, both raw and in documentary form about it, but I wondered how I would feel actually being there for the moment of death. Could I ever, EVER, eat it again?

Friday, November 05, 2010

An Explanation

I suppose at some point I should explain the name change and general overhaul on here.

For the longest time, since this blog's inception, its title was "Waiting for Inspiration to Strike." In a lot of ways that really is what I was doing— throughout my college career I struggled to narrow my interests as directed by various academic advisors. I considered plenty of majors: journalism, political science, agricultural economics, history, sociology... As an incoming freshman I signed up for classes that sounded interesting in hopes of finding that one subject that really sparked my interest. That one career field I could really picture myself in. It had to be out there, right?

Well, as it turns out, I may have been looking for a field all along. I grew up obsessed and consumed by all things horse, as many little girls do. Longing to have been born in the days of the cowboys, I'm still remembered by some of my elementary school peers as "that horse girl." I dreamed about horses for years, and had one to call my own for a time. But the social demands of high school caught up with me, and I made the decision to give it up. My horse retired to a local therapeutic riding center, I sold my tack and hung my helmet up, and considered it in many ways the end of a chapter in my life [decisions made in high school seemed so final!].

One of MSU's requirements for graduation is an Integrative Studies in Biology course, and I think that is likely the origin of "the rest of it." The course I chose, "Insects, Globalization and Sustainability" was taught by a fiery, sarcastic and inspiring professor [hey Dr. Besaw!]. Even though I'd grown up in a fairly "green"-friendly family, his class laid a solid foundation for thinking about the problems of sustainability and the environment in an academic way. From there, I think food was a natural step. Everyone eats. But how do we eat?