The truth is hard to stomach, especially when it comes to our food. The simple fact is, we have become disassociated with what we are eating. How many of us know the journey of our food? Where it comes from? What’s its story?
Perhaps we just don’t want to know. Like Marian in the previous post, you would think twice about tucking into that steak if it suddenly became gristle and sinew. Despite this, a number of chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, believe knowing the truth is an important part of appreciating your food and have slaughtered animals on air in order to provide an insight into the world of meat manufacturing. Surprisingly it was vegetarians and vegans who praised this the most, because they believe in the necessity of educating people about where meat comes from, whereas meat eaters everywhere were outraged by what they were watching. However, exposing the truth behind our food isn’t a modern phenomenon and we have seen examples of it on this course, especially in Alice B Toklas’s food memoir Murder in the Kitchen.
In the following extract she talks about killing a carp:
“The first victim was a lively carp...I carefully, deliberately found the base of its vertebral column and plunged the knife in. I let go my grasp and looked to see what had happened. Horror of horrors. The carp was dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second and third degree. Limp, I fell into a chair, with my hands still unwashed reached for a cigarette, lighted it, and waited for the police to come and take me into custody.'
The description is reminiscent of crime literature. The animal is a “victim” and Alice is the murderer, given the task of its assassination. To distract the audience from the gruesome task in hand, she adopts a comedic tone. She lights a cigarette after the deed, much like a hardy and satisfied criminal, then awaits her arrest.
Despite the humour, she draws attention to our discomfort around the killing of our food. We laugh while inwardly cringing, wondering whether we could stomach the process itself.