So, I’ve been buying raw milk from a local rancher since last fall — she shows up every Tuesday with a glass gallon pickle jar full of milk, with a nice layer of cream on the top. The cream has been getting thicker the past couple of weeks — I used to skim about a pint of cream and now I’m well up to nearly a quart.
My milk lady left me a note this week stating that she’s going to have to suspend delivery after the 28th until sometime in April after the cows calve. It’s been a hard winter, her note said. They need a nice long rest.
Not to sound too fey about it all, but I found it charming to learn that the cows need some time off. Talk about seasonality. Late winter and early spring is, in traditional cultures, a time of fasting — largely because food gets scarce. While I’m not taking on a draconian Lenten fast, there’s something interesting about knowing that the cows need a break.
The New York Times had an odd article in the food section yesterday, Chefs’ New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye. While the article ostensibly covered the movement among chefs to know not only the source of their meat, but to re-examine and in some cases, participate in the slaughter of the animals — there was a snarkiness to the tone that implied that all the interest is merely a stunt.
Now, granted, there is a shock factor to Jamie Oliver gassing male chicks on television, but is that shock greater than learning that this is how chicken farmers cope with excess male chicks? Seems to me the movement, as such, stems from the effort by industrial agriculture and the corporate grocery industry to distance ordinary people from any knowledge that their food comes from actual plants and animals. The boneless skinless chicken breast (symbol of all that is evil with modern meat) did not, no matter how they try to convince you otherwise, spring fully formed into existence in that styrofoam tray. It did actually grow on a chicken, probably a chicken raised in very unpleasant conditions, by farmers who are being squeezed by corporate interests, and then slaughtered and packaged by illegal immigrants working under inhumane conditions against which they cannot complain for fear of deportation. Yum.
So if chefs, and ordinary eaters like me, would rather buy raw milk from an actual person, or buy a whole animal to put up for winter, can you blame us? If we want to actually see what’s happening with our food, perhaps it’s not a stunt, perhaps its a protest against an industrial system that devalues all life — human and animal alike.