EDF: The Princess and Her Fridge
On the night that Barack Obama was elected president, Los Angeles-based blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan launched some change of her own -- Obama Foodorama, which she describes as a “daily diary of the Obama foodscape, one byte at a time.” In the few months since, Gehman Kohan's "Ob Fo" has become a must-read for anyone interested in what the First Family is eating for supper or what the Obama administration is dishing up for agricultural and food policy.
I'm not sure Kim realized she was going to be running a pop-psych experiment when she planned the Eating Down The Fridge challenge, but it seems like the whole lovely project has involved as much psychic cleaning as fridge cleaning for the enthusiastic cooks who've been hanging around in her virtual kitchen. It's been brilliant good fun to read. Naturally, I wound up doing some soul cleaning of my own, in addition to cleaning out the fridge.
I am "publicly" an organic locavore who's all about sustainable blah blah blah. I grow much of my own produce on the Microfarmette I live on, which happens to be on a greeny hilltop in the middle of a sprawling, decaying city. The Microfarmette is also worked by friends, and there's a whole Living The Sustainable Ethical Dream thing happening, and we're generally as obtuse and self-congratulatory as Alice Waters is when she talks about an organic garden on the White House lawn.
But if Kim is running a psych experiment, then I have multiple personality disorder. Because if you spend even a couple of minutes poking in my pantry and the fridge, there are all kinds of things that would persuade you that no locavore lives within spitting distance of the kitchen. I'm not certain when I stopped making my own sauces, but from the look of things, I'm Trader Joe's best customer. There are all kinds of goofy bottles and preps in the fridge, from halfway around the world.
Strike One for Team Locavore.
And then there's the pantry. I bake a lot, and at a certain point -- which fades in the twilight of recollection -- I grew tired of buying bulk grains and flours from my local CSA or orgo grocer, only to find masses of worms hatching out two weeks later. So now the only thing that's hyper about the pantry is the amount of processing for the inorganic grains and flours that come from far away. I could excuse this breach of loco-protocol by saying that I travel constantly, I work all the time, I'm also a contempo urban gal, despite the Microfarmette, but I won't. Oh wait, I just did, dammit. Add Tourettes to the diagnosis, in addition to multiple personality disorder.
Strike Two for Team Locavore.
But given all the sauciness languishing in the fridge, the EDF week actually went flavorfully swell. There was fish and steak, grain dishes with fresh squash and root veggies, greens from the garden, some soups and excellent winter citrus from right outside the kitchen door. All the sauces and much of the canned things in the pantry were used up, as were the annoying half cups of flour that always seem to be left over from the most recent baking project.
But here's where the psychological disorder kicks into full swing. I've been avoiding my freezer for months, as if it's a boyfriend I broke up with long ago, but still can't bear to face. And no, the fridge isn't harboring any kind of science experiment; rather, it's harboring the terrible results of my own labor.
I should preface the end of this story by saying that I'm a hunter. Yes, with guns. And yes, with a nice, hypertek bow. But here's the thing about being 5'2"' and weighing 90 pounds, and having a penchant, in your city life, for Prada heels: The guys you hunt with routinely give you what I've come to call the "Princess Pass" (I actually call it another word with double s's, but this is a family Web site, and I don't want to offend).
I can ride two hours into a forest on horseback with my strapping unwashed male friends, track for hours up to dizzying heights while carrying forty pounds of essentials, sit hunched all afternoon waiting for a bull elk to bellow somewhere in the distant wilds and pee unabashedly in front of the guys. And yeah, I can go and drop a fine, huge elk with a single perfect shot that stops time.
But God forbid I take care of the aftermath, because I'm the "lady" in the party. Yep, that's how we refer to women hunters: Ladies. The hunting associations and clubs are all "women's," but we call each other Ladies. As a result, my size, and especially my gender, has translated into getting out of the messy work at every turn. I've literally been dining out (and in) on the Princess Pass for years.
Hunting, at the end of the day -- and particularly when you have the Princess Pass -- is a distance sport. You are relatively far from your kill, even with a bow, and if you're not dealing with your own meat, well, you may as well be shooting paper at your local range. I’m exaggerating, but not really; after a while, you stop experiencing any kind of transcendence, you're not really watching the Holy Light of Numinous Life flicker out of a fellow travelers's eyes. And there’s no spiritual transaction while eating, because you’d known the animal while it was still alive, or any of the other blather foodists who hunt will have you believe.
All of this changed last year, when I decided to learn kosher slaughter techniques.
I won't bore you with the chain of mental and professional events that led to that ghastly week on the killing floor, but that's what it was. A bloody, awful ghastly week, no matter how cautiously the knife was wielded, no matter how carefully.
I'm still having nightmares, I tell you. There's something epically disturbing about being in a confined space with an animal that has no chance for escape, whom you are responsible for killing by hand, which really brings your fairly disconnected value net into a fine focus. Anyone who eats meat has, at a certain point, disconnected themselves from the idea of the living animal that the meat used to be, and that's a good thing. It's a necessary thing. Please don't mistake this for any kind of veiled PETA screed. Give me the choice between beef and berries, and I'll choose the beef every time.
But there, in my freezer this week, I had to confront the final creature I'd dispatched (note professional use of obfuscating language: "creature," "dispatched"). Neatly and perfectly done by me, cut into perfect professional-grade slabs, and packed into what looked like rustic gift packs, with fetching, rough string. All these months, I haven't been able to cook or serve the meat (or obviously eat it), due to the last moments we'd spent together.
So last night, I squared my shoulders and took the portion out that I'd defrosted early in the week at the beginning of the challenge, and…and put it right back again. I can't even bring myself to look at something I've killed, up close, months ago, because for once it really was a face-to-face experience.
Jean Anselme Brillat-Savarin’s famous saying Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are suddenly has an entirely different meaning for me. Self-awareness is a swell thing, isn't it? Good to know your limitations. And I know now, assuredly, that I really am a princess (or that other p word, also with the double s's.) And I know, too, that that won't change any time soon (especially since I gave all the meat to one of the Farmette Partners this morning).
But the locavore thing? Well, now that I've Eaten Down the Fridge, I'm ready to go back to my former life of religious devotion to The Cause. In that area at least, I won't be a princess, though I suppose we have to add phobic to Kim's EDF Disorder diagnostic book. So yeah, it's been an enlightening, fun week, but I'm really glad it's almost over....
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