Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving memories from four and a half decades ago

Our local newspaper recently ran an article about how being a vegetarian has become a very "in" thing with teens. It took me back, way back to a long-ago Thanksgiving when I was about 12 years old.

Back in those olden days, we lived in the hills of eastern Tennessee which was (and likely still is) a national center for chicken raising and processing. Shortly before that fateful Thanksgiving, my nurse mother had recently taken advantage of an opportunity to tour one of the chicken processing plants. She came away absolutely appalled by the conditions--both the unsanitary, inhumane and unhealthful* way in which the chickens were "processed" and by the way in which the employees were treated.

Thanksgiving day rolled around and she dutifully baked our family's Thanksgiving Chicken (chickens were cheap, turkeys were expensive and we were poor) but then, when carving time came, announced that, while she'd cook it, she'd decided that she wasn't going to eat meat anymore (not that we could afford to have it very often, anyway). Well, I'd been listening to her tales of that eye-opening tour so I piped up with, "I'm not eating any more meat, either."

And that was that. No more meat for me. Well, no more meat except for a couple of lapses along the way (one on purpose a couple of years later because I thought I missed tuna and one very sill accidental one decades later because I simply didn't recognize a cold lamb chop).

A funny thing happens after going most of one's life without eating meat--the very idea of eating something dead becomes repugnant. It's probably kind of like most folks would probably feel about the idea of killing, cooking and eating their pet dog.

In a way, I kind of envy all the kids who are becoming vegetarians these days because not only are there lots of vegetarian meat alternatives in regular grocery stores but now there are even vegetarian fast food options. Plus, of course, they get to be "cool" instead of weird, which is always a major plus when you're a teenager. I certainly wish the very best for them all!

By the way, if you know a teen who's recently become a vegetarian, don't assume it's necessarily just a phase that they'll grow out of it. This may well be a life-long change! The OC stopped eating meat at about the same age as I did after his pet steer ended up on the dinner table, but that's his story to tell.

On the off chance that you were wondering, yes, we had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner with all the usual trappings--a groaning table with an astonishing number of people crowded around it, cranberry sauce, stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes, pecan-topped sweet potato souffle, rolls, squash, peas, a fresh vegetable platter complete with olives, cider, pumpkin and apple pie plus two other desserts including an absolutely delectable orange cranberry trifle. Oh, okay, yes, there was a mock chicken loaf, of course. It was made from things like cottage cheese and eggs and onions and seasonings and, while nothing like chicken in texture was still quite tasty and no animals were harmed in its filming, er, preparation.

*For example, cancerous chickens had the most obvious parts of their tumors quickly sliced out and then were processed along with the apparently healthy chickens.


Blogger Sunny said...

Well, technically what they do to laying hens and milk cattle is not all that humane either (unless you get from free-range chickens or some kind of organic cow farm). But, we pick and choose our battles.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Sunny said...

I had forgotten the part about mom touring a chicken plant. But, it must have stuck in my sub-conscious, because, years later, when we lived in the hill country of north Georgia, the school had a field trip to a chicken plant and I positively REFUSED to go inside. Got away with it too because dad was one of the field trip parents for the event. Everyone else came out about to barf afterwards.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Mama Bird said...

I didn't remember that. I was probably away at school by then.

Yeah, we get free range eggs. Haven't yetfound a milk source that I'm 100% comfortable with. I buy liquid milk for Beth from a company whose sanitation I trust (toured their facility) but haven't inspected the farms of their suppliers.

I personally mostly use soy, anyway, and use powdered milk for the OC's yogurt and I haven't yet found a source for powdered milk from humanely-treated cows.

Suggestions? We each do what we can, one step at a time.

10:46 PM  
Blogger mamadulce said...

I toured a chicken plant when I was little. I remember them being hung up by thier feet upside down and going conveyor style through a steam machine and coming out without feathers. MB, could it have been the same trip you went to? Do you remember me there? I would have been only 7 or 8 at the time.

9:08 PM  

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