I am a person of many faults, and I’m certainly grateful to Random People I Meet Online for pointing them out to me. For example, up until recently I had no idea that it’s a fault to not be on a first name basis with your “meat guy.” I didn’t even know that people had “meat guys.” Turns out I was living in a fool’s paradise. And I’m thankful to a hipster named Miles for setting me straight.
It all started when my dear friend Rebecca, an eco-gardener locally famous for her hardneck garlic and onions, accidentally exploded a Pyrex in the oven on her birthday. The roast was ruined, but thankfully no one was hurt.
“I guess I’ll need to give my meat guy a ring,” she complained on Facebook.
I made the mistake of butting in. “You have a meat guy?”
This was the wrong response.
“You DONT have a meat guy?” commented a stranger by the name of Miles. I don’t know Miles from Adam, but I suspect that if I ever meet him in person he’ll have a scruffy black Lumberjack beard and smell of Axe body spray. “I’m on a first-name basis with my farmer, fishmonger, and butcher. We buy whole animals (just bought 1/2 a cow yesterday), and know that the animal lived a happy life and will be dispatched quickly and as painlessly as possible. Our butcher offers advice readily and takes great care with our animals so that its life being taken will be as useful as possible. Of course, I am weird about food-especially meat and butchery. I could care less where my tomatoes come from though. (end of elitist foodie lecture.)”
It will come as a surprise to no one that this was actually the beginning of the elitist foodie lecture.
“Does your meat guy take EBT?” I asked. “I am 100% for cultural changes that prevent animal cruelty and increase public health, and 100% against any snobbery on the part of people who chide folks for not having a meat guy in a capitalist system that makes healthy eating a hobby for the rich.”
Miles couldn’t let that one go by. “This is a very interesting discussion to have. For me, good quality food is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Giving my two kids food that is not pumped full of chemicals is a priority that I’m wiling to shell out for. Likewise, I refuse to feel guilt because I can budget and save enough money to buy whole animals. To assume that I should is pretty ass-backwards.”I imagine that Miles’s children are named Nutmeg and Scoby, and that they go to a Montessori school and have scruffy black Lumberjack beards.
“You shouldn’t feel guilty for being able to do it,” I explained gently. “We should all be outraged that the culture makes it something that a poor person cannot budget.”
Others joined the thread, chatting about how expensive it is to buy ethically raised food. One woman who actually works for an organic grocery complained that she can’t afford it even with her employee discount.
I shared a bit more than is considered delicate to share with strangers about my meager means, my job working from home and living on tips, the fact that I’m supporting a homemaker husband who has to be on call to care for me when my chronic illnesses flare up and a daughter far too young to work. I explained that my chronic illnesses are kept in check with expensive vitamins and a strict diet, among other things. I can live on rice and lentils and be sick all the time, or I can eat meat and vegetables two or three times a day, which involves buying meat at Wal Mart and Aldi. I do actually do a bit of eco-gardening myself, when I’m well enough; I even grew organic blue popcorn one year. It was fun to hide behind the cornstalks every time our violent neighbor came out of her house. But there’s no room on my rental property to raise an organic cow.
Usually, folks like Miles jump at the chance to be told they ought to be outraged, but no such luck. “What’s interesting is that the top quality beef and pork that I buy, when you buy whole animals, and depending on the animal that you buy, comes out to about two dollars a pound-enough for the entire animal (porterhouse, filet, and t-bones included). I usually only buy grass fed and organic, too. Walmart doesn’t even sell its logs of questionable meat for that price. So, while I agree that our system is unjust at times, being unable to afford quality animals, it seems, COULD be an issue of planning, knowledge of breeds and farmers, and awareness of options with purchasing meat. I’m saying this as a person living off one teachers salary in a family of four without my wife working.”
Hi-Ho-the-Dairy-Oh, my problem is I don’t know my farmers.