Monday, June 23, 2008

Nature but wrapped in clingfilm please

I’m a hypocrite in so many ways, but today I’ll just focus on the food and recycling side of things for reasons of brevity and to keep my self-worth on a relatively even keel.

I’d like to be more committed to buying, living and working towards a more chemical-free, recycled and natural style of living, I really would, but the reality of such a lifestyle occasionally reveals itself to me and I flee in terror and revulsion. There still is a place in our world for slices of cheese wrapped in plastic, mentos mints and Farmers Union Feel Good iced coffee, I'm sure of it.

Love Chunks’ father, Rob, has lived for the past ten years in a shearing shed about 20km out of the riverside town of Morgan. His companions have mostly consisted of a flock of chickens, 70 randy goats and a grown sheep called Malcolm who thinks he is a goat. Rob doesn’t venture into Adelaide very often and when he does it tends to be when we’re all out at work, school or an outing. We’ll then return home to find several bottles of home-brewed stout on the back door mat next to a frozen goat leg wrapped in newspaper and our muddy running shoes filled up to their tongues with eggs. Don’t get me wrong: these are all great offerings and we enjoy them with gusto.

However the other day Rob popped in with a dozen eggs that he’d collected from his chooks just hours earlier before his 30-something Kingswood wheezed its way from Morgan to our suburb. Before he opened the lid, he said apologetically, “Now you don’t have to accept these if you don’t want to.”

“Of course we want them – we love your eggs – they’re so big; the yolks are so yellow and they’re absolutely de-----." I was unable to complete the sentence as I clapped my horrified snot-green eyes on the eggs – all of them were overly-besmirched in chook shit, feathers and dust.

Rob sensed my dismay. “Sweet heart all you have to do is crack ‘em real carefully so that the gunk doesn’t end up in your meal. Or,” he added hopefully, “….just make sure that you don’t eat them raw in case the poo germs win the war.”

“Oh, OK, thanks,” I said weakly.

Rob said he had a few errands to run before and he was gone before I could say "How about staying for dinner? Roast goat, frittata and stout?" Milly the dog was most disappointed at his departure – she had only just finished sniffing his boots which looked even messier than the eggs and had the added bonus of pungent goat and sheep odour affixed to them. The eggs were plonked into a sink full of water before his car had finished pulling out of the driveway and the water immediately turned a murky khaki green colour. It was almost as if the chooks had decided to squeeze out a mighty big crap and an egg slipped out as well in a kind of karmic added bonus.

Don’t worry dear reader, I donned sturdy rubber gloves to scrub off the debris and then threw away said gloves and sponge and then disinfected the sink whilst the hopefully-clean eggs were drying on the dish rack. I now just need to gear myself up for making an egg and spinach frittata for tonight’s main course – perhaps a couple of Bombay Sapphire/Mothers' Helpers-and-tonic beforehand will help. Only to participate in a social pre-dinner tipple, you understand, and to perhaps loosen my muscles up for karate class afterwards....

All this ridiculous faffing about, yet I keep intending on buying all of my fruit and veg from an organic shop. They may look a little less glamorous than those under the automatic water-spray and fluorescent lighting at Coles, but they taste great. Trouble is, they cost a helluva lot more, and whilst we're currently on one salary and the 'if you squint hard enough into the distance towards 2010 you might see a royalty cheque arriving' sniff of an income from my fledgling writing efforts. As such, every buck has to be thought about before being handed over (I can already hear Love Chunks' derisive laughter as I type this - he knows I have about as much control over my purse as Pamela Anderson does with marriage licenses).

Organic meats are also on the list but my squeamishness means that I’ll buy them only if they’re so far removed from their origins that they do end up under the fluorescent lighting of the Cole’s meat fridges; shrink wrapped and presented in pleasingly hygienic CFC-free trays. Perhaps I can be forgiven this hypocrisy due to having to attend a primary school excursion to the Murray Bridge Meat works in 1976. For some reason, the educational powers-that-were deemed it appropriate to send the year ones, twos and threes there to see cows ‘run up a race’, get shot through the head by a bolt-gun, skinned, boned and sliced with the resultant body parts working their blood-dripping way through the factory to have pieces designated as chops, steak, roasting legs, sausages and BBQ packs. The wet blood smell of the meat was overpowering and I learned the hard way that ‘running up a race’ for a cow wasn’t going to end up with applause or a blue ribbon.

Murray Bridge at that time was also not privy to the requirements of reducing pollution. On a still summer’s evening (which was pretty often), the noxious smell of the factory rendering the left over animal fats lay over the town like a boy scout’s itchy grey blanket – so powerful you could almost taste it as you lay in bed, sleepless and agonized. Despite all this, I still eat meat! I did try to be a vegetarian a few times, but the smells of grilled bacon or the thought of no longer having access to mince-filled spaghetti Bolognese or a good roast chicken ala Love Chunks seemed too miserable to contemplate.

Instead I’ve been determined to waste a microscopic amount of mental energy wondering about the original source or subsequent processes done to the product that finds itself in my supermarket trolley and in my stomach. Apricot cutting (as discussed in my blog of: was another unfortunate opportunity to view the treatment of well, yes apricots, in a stark and brutal light. They arrived in the shed still dewy, soft and plump and left with their arses sliced in half, choked in sulphur and abandoned to bake mercilessly in the sun until they looked like miniature Donatella Versaces. And that wasn’t all – the ones that were too overripe and sloppy to cut were either scraped off the floor or slapped down onto trays and bound for some so-called health bar companies who added the orange gloop their bars and spreads.

Unlike my meat experience, to this day I can’t abide eating or smelling anything that has apricot in it as an ingredient. I’d like to say that I can assuage my guilt and hypocrisy by recycling all of our household waste, but I can’t say that. I do the tins, bottles, plastics, paper and cardboard, but honestly couldn't ever be shagged setting up a smelly, sticky little bin for vege peelings, tea bags and fruit cores. Thank god we now have three chooks of our own that eat that stuff up (Hermoine, Luna and Ginny. A great trio of layers. Boom boom).

Every November I attempt to pay my penance by collecting ten boxes of soil, seeds and tubes from ‘Trees for Life’ to plant and tend the botanic babies for six months until the farmers they’re destined for come and collect them for planting. The difficulty for me is in how to reconcile these conflicting sides of me.

As William Hazlitt once said, "The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy." Yeah, nice one Billy boy. Good on yer - especially coming from a moral figure like you who founded a church and then left your second wife for a career in journalism….!!


eleanor bloom said...

Wonderful post Kath.

I love the names of your chooks! How can you bear to eat chicken with such CUTE NAMES!!! No, I understand. I remember when I was really upset about my goldfish dying, and that night I gobbled up a lovely meal of grilled fish. (The penny didn't drop until I'd finished.)

I haven't eaten red meat for several years. Apparently that means I am helping to save the planet as all those flatulent and heavy, hoofed cows are like a plague on poor Gaia.
I don't eat it cause its just so heavy and yuk. But, that field trip would have totally put me off. I can't believe they took little kids to such a place!!! Or would take ANYONE to such a place! That's horrendous. Were their intentions to show off the local industry or something? Encourage future abattoir-ists??

I agree about the expense of organic produce. I buy some, but not as much as I'd like.

Oh, and I can tell you Kath, I'll never look at a dried apricot now without picturing it with an overly-peroxided mini wig. Ha!

eleanor bloom said...

Oh, and consider yourself (gently) tagged.

River said...

I am also full of good intentions, but like you, financial straits prevent me from buying organic produce. I do my bit towards saving the earth by eating much, much less red meat, a) because it's getting way too expensive, b) my digestive system doesn't tolerate it the way it used to. I also grow some of my own fruit. I have pots in my driveway that have in them a cherry tree, 2 plums, dwarf peach, miniature nectarine, a granny smith apple, and a self-sown apricot which has not yet produced any fruit in its five years. In my tiny back yard I have bush beans and parsley. I do the recycling thing and have even gone so far as to make mesh bags for buying fruit and veg so that I don't bring home unnecessary plastic bags. All of my groceries find their way home in "green" shopping bags. Hubby however, is a huge fan of plastic bags and brings home stuff he's bought in a plastic bag, inside the calico bag I make him take.

suzette said...

:) Actually it takes a great effort trying to stay green. I am now trying to quit eating meat too, but since I am a meat lover, I can't quit completely so will still eat seafood instead. Will slowly quit altoger, if possible. :p

BTW, here is my vote for you on the BOTB today. Good luck!

Baino said...

I'm a hypoctrite too. I once decided that if I didn't have the courage to kill it, I wouldn't eat it which left a diet of chicken and fish . . .then I absolutely went into withdrawals and NEEDED a steak. I talked myself into believing that my body needed the iron. I'd grow veg if the rabbits wouldn't eat it and fruit if the cockatoos wouldn't pillage it for the stones and pips . . .is there anyone on this earth that isn't just a little hypocritical?
I do use recyclables and those horrible green Coles bags and buy organic from the local grower's market once each month, I even make the kids wear an extra layer rather than put the heater on and have energy saving lights fitted . . there . .guilt satiated!

JahTeh said...

I stopped eating red meat because I felt better and the indigestion went immediately then I stopped eating chicken. I do sometimes have some free range chook and my eggs come from Kangaroo Island from happy chicks. I still get a craving for bacon though.

Kath Lockett said...

Ah yes, bacon. Does anything smell better when it's being cooked than bacon?