I spent yesterday morning rinsing, drying, salting and peppering two chickens. One was for a friend who has just had a baby girl and one was for my little family of eaters. I handled those chickens with love, patting them sweetly with salt all over my hands while Brooksie napped and August played astronaut nearby. I held the little bird and thanked God for his (or her!) life and the reality that its sacrifice will nourish my family. And then I listened to it crackle in the oven and the scent of roasted chicken filled the house. It was lovely.
It was especially lovely because I have not cooked meat in my home in a long time.
If you know me well, you might gasp at the horror of such a statement. What? Micha stopped eating meat! Hush, hush, little bird, it’s okay. I still eat meat. I grew up in Amarillo, Texas. My childhood staples were barbeque and burritos. I have always loved my meat and eaten heartily.
Two things have changed in me. And they happened around the same time. I began to feel convicted about the treatment of animals. Now, I don’t mean that I don’t think people should eat animals. (I have no problem with the use of animals as a food source.) What I have a problem with is chickens stacked on top of each other in disgusting conditions, never seeing the light of day. I have a problem with chemically zapping cattle into meat monsters and force feeding them corn instead of grass for our own sake, for our wallets. What I’m trying to say is that while I don’t know much about agriculture or ranching whatsoever, I do know about conviction. And there’s something in me that says it’s wrong to mistreat an animal, especially one that is giving its life for my own sustenance.
So, as I began thinking about that and wanting to make a change, I found it was difficult to afford organic grass-fed or free range meat. I was struggling between meeting our budget and adhering to my newly forming conviction.
Around that time, we became friends with a couple in San Francisco who we really admired for their commitment to simplicity. I had been studying St. Benedict for a year or so and had begun to think about what it might look like to simplify our lives for the sake of Jesus: our closets, our use of money, etc. But I had never once considered food consumption as a way to simplify. They were over for dinner one night, eating one of Chris’ perfectly done (crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside…so good) pork loins and it came out that they never eat meat at home. We were perplexed. Oh no! Are you vegetarians and here we are force-feeding you this oh so wonderful pork loin??? No, that wasn’t it. They had stopped eating meat at home as a spiritual practice, a way to live gratefully, a way to appreciate meat when it came their way, but not to demand it or expect it.
I’ve never gotten their commitment out of my mind, mostly because I really respect them. For a short time in my childhood, my mom committed one dinner a week to a simple meal of rice. It was a chance for her to teach us about missions, for us to experience what life is like for a majority of world, for whom food does not come easily, for whom meat is a luxury.
I kept coming back to that childhood experience, thinking about what it means that meat is a luxury for most of the world, that there are other ways to get protein, that I was buying meat I felt uncomfortable with because I couldn’t afford to spend more. After we began to think about what we could do to practice simplicity in our lives, meat seemed like such an obvious choice.
So, we’ve decided to simplify our week day meals (the ones I’m in charge of). We’ve switched to wraps and salads, eggs and tofu and beans. On the weekends, Chris is our chef and he can makes us whatever deliciously meaty thing he wants.
I’m loving it. Here’s why: Yesterday that chicken smelled so wonderful. Yesterday, the flesh in my hands was a real creature I could be grateful for and I actually remembered to be grateful. Yesterday, I was reminded that in a culture that allows me to have anything I think I can afford to own or consume, it’s good for my soul to wait, to live simply most days so I can feast some days.
So I can hear the chicken crackling in the oven. So I can notice.
What does the practice of simplicity look like in your home?