What I’m Contemplating

As feared, the book titled The End of Animal Farming by Jacy Reese has me teetering toward veganism. Even as I settled into the train yesterday, and began to peruse its pages with presumptuous self-satisfaction—after all, most of the cheese and milk that I consume is “happy” Reese managed to burst that bubble in his chapter “The Psychology of Animal-Free Food”. Worse, he has me assessing the “happy” lives of “my” chickens. 

He uses as an example the visioning of the past: Neanderthals won the fight for dominance over Homo s. Sapiens. Yes, Neanderthals rule the world and they eat us. But no worries! Because we Homo s. Sapiens are raised in happy conditions. We have lots of room to roam. Books and stuff to stimulate our minds. Healthy food to eat. Good health. The only ever-so-slight hiccup? At age 15, we are taken to a (clean) facility and, before we even know what’s happening, we are killed and processed. But we don’t know this so it doesn’t matter. We’re dead.

That’s his example. Granted, Carl and I don’t kill our chickens unless they are dying of cancer or some mystery illness, and we don’t eat them, we bury them in the chicken graveyard. 

And the fact is, time and again, our chickens overrule our rules and escape to scamper and gallivant blithely about the field, chasing grasshoppers and digging for worms. 

Yes, we take their eggs. And, yes, those eggs are fertilized, proof being the 4 chicks cheeping and chasing Splotches. 

Have I mentioned that three of them seem to be transmogrifying into cockerels? 

This begging the question of really? We don’t kill our chickens? 

If we have, by the time the snow is flying and the ice is formed in February, six-count-them cockerels and said cockerels begin, as they are wont to do, fighting, thereby disheveling our 16 or 17 count-them hens, what are we to do? Send them off to another farm, which typically suggests adding one short step to slaughter and the big happy farm in the sky?  Or will we return to old lessons learned and get out the loppers and a bucket of water heated to 180 degrees (used for feather removal post facto, not for steaming them to death a la lobsters.)

To tell the truth, I am not bitter. Life is life and I do love to watch the chickens from a distance . . . . which brings up another point. I have for these past 7 years respected my chickens’ space. I don’t inflict human handling on them unless they seem okay about it. That means they come running to me, feathers flying (especially now during molting season when Copper, oh my goodness, is a measly little chicken without her feathers and down and probably a very cold one, too,) I don’t grab them, clutching them to my breast until they settle down breathlessly resigned to the insult. No, my hens are free from harassment and, thus, more feral than people might imagine, given my chicken obsession. 

Schtude is the exception as he, on occasion, needs to be reminded who is boss. I pick him up, to his humiliation and surprise, and hold him for a few minutes. 

Truth be told, I am beginning to suspect he likes it. He kind of hangs out near me and, when he is not obviously planning an attack, he looks to be shuffling closer, allowing himself to be “surprised”. In fact, I’ve reached the point that I wonder if it’s an honor to be picked up? Because when I do pick up a hen, the others seem to resent her. When I put her down, they peck her, whoever she happens to be. And, rather than a loss of respect, the girls seem to bow to Schtude when I return him to the ground or, more likely, to a place of height so that he can redeem his valor and prove his vast and endless courage.

But back to not being bitter. I am hoping to be more aware of this chicken dilemma. I am thinking about it now, contemplating what, at heart, I will do. Because I don’t want to relive the cold night in hell I write about in my upcoming book. I want either to find a home that is truly a home for our myriad roosters, or figure out how to keep them all alive (30 more hens, anyone?) Or . . . but I won’t go there right now. Instead, I will contemplate that purifying concept of veganism. It is, in the end, merely a cooking challenge. It doesn’t have to be a miserable sinking (picture the Wicked Witch of the West’s demise, melting, I’m melting) into a life of no (double cream) Fromager d’Affinois nor Sottocenere cheese and (OMG) no more milk for my cafe lattes. Say it ain’t so. This only has to be a step. One night a week, testing a new vegan recipe. Do you have any idea how many fabulous cookbooks there are out there by amazing chefs who are vegetarian, if not vegan? I swear that the recipes are not 1970s version of tasteless lentils and tofu. Carl’s and my current favorite is Black Pepper Tofu from Plenty.

And once I expand my recipe repetoire, adapt to the habit of no (less?) cheese and using beans and such . . .  it’s kind of like cooking gluten-free for friends. Or no garlic. Or no sugar. Everyone these days has some little issue and it’s just a matter of tweaking. Getting used to. Embracing the change, not clinging to the past. And so, this book The End of Animal Farming opens doors to a new perspective. Reese writes of a future of Animal-Free food. This isn’t a gauntlet nor a threat but a fact. Like a fossil fuel future. The world cannot hold billions of people and maintain the billions and billions of animals needed to feed them. We have a choice. I agree with him, it’s an ethical choice, not just of how we treat the animals currently living in misery and dying miserable deaths. But how we treat ourselves. So many choices we face about our future, from energy to food . . . which falls under the umbrella of energy, given how we grow food is one of the problems, as well as one of the solutions, to climate disruption. Any how amazing is that? It’s Friday and I’m writing about energy and didn’t even mean to!

 Carl is just getting home from a walk and I envy him that feeling of a walk outside with the chill and the snow. For my part, I’m in an overheated NYC apartment and looking forward to spending the day with my mother. Yahoo!