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....

By Kim ODonnel |  March 13, 2009; 8:00 AM ET Eating Down the Fridge
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Comments

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Very entertaining. I remember the time a friend's mother went deer hunting. With her car. He got a lot of ground deer out of it, which makes a delicious spaghetti sauce.

Night #5 was nothing to write home (or blog) about. Mrs. Blade cooked up some pot stickers that had been sitting in the freezer while I was bowling. I put some spaghetti in the pot and sauteed olive oil, butter, garlic, pepper flakes and a few misc. odds and ends. Good enough for two plates.

I'm hoping for something a little more interesting tonight. We have some pumpkin ravioli in the freezer and some gorgonzola and leftover mascarpone in the fridge. Probably pair that with a salad and try to make something as a side. Oh wait! I just remembered we have some zucchini in the fridge for a recipe that didn't happen this week. There's gotta be something interesting that can be done with that. Back to my copies of Lidia's Family Table and Trattoria cooking.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 13, 2009 12:07 PM

Ms. Gehman Kohan - Thanks for telling this story. Some hunters do experience it a little differently, though. My partner hunted when he was a teen to put meat on the family table (he also helped garden to get the rest of their food) and he says he felt the pain of killing every time. Small animals were butchered at home, large by a professional. He did eat the meat because wasting the life would have been worse than the taking of it, and they didn't have the luxury of eating meat someone else had killed instead.

I understand that you are having a tough time facing your freezer. I am not judging you, either, though it may sound as if I am. I just want to say that I think you should try again. Don't waste the experience and don't waste the meat. In my limited, philosophical, atheistic understanding, if you allow that carcass to languish in your freezer instead of eating it, you violate the spirit of the kosher laws if not the letter. Allow your own spirit to rest by finishing what you started. I wish you peaceful eating,

esleigh

Posted by: esleigh | March 13, 2009 1:23 PM

Carl Parisien Natick MA says; great article. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: DrRobertCarlParisien | March 13, 2009 1:51 PM

Wow, where to begin?

1. I recommend kicking those men in the shins with your Pradas. There are plenty of 5-foot-2, 90-pound children in America who can dress an elk just fine. Taking responsibility for the animal you just killed is an important part of hunting; for them to deprive you of that, and for you to let them, is flat out wrong.

2. I understand being reluctant to COOK what you killed. Personally, I'm always afraid I'll screw it up and dishonor the animal. But to not want to eat it? Criminal waste of a life. Really, slitting an animal's throat only to let it die a second death of freezer burn? Nuts.

3. May as well be shooting paper at the range? Good lord, even letting the men pamper you, you should feel the difference between shooting paper and shooting an animal. If you don't feel at least a twinge of sadness when you take an animal's life - at any distance - perhaps you shouldn't be hunting.

4. "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." Speak for yourself honey. Those of us who DO feel a deep connection with the food we've hunted resent being dismissed by someone who doesn't even field dress her animals.

Maybe you should just be a vegetarian. I hunt, because I've decided I am happy being an omnivore and I am willing to take personal responsibility for what that means. But it sounds like you don't have the stomach for it. And while it's usually nice to hear about other female hunters out there, I know I speak for plenty of hunters when I say we don't want someone like you representing us.

Posted by: NorCalCazadora | March 14, 2009 11:48 AM

Woah, woah, woah Norcal! She was not talking about dressing a dead animal, rather killing a live one *by hand*. I never detected a hint of queasiness for hunting. With regards to dressing the animal, yes. However, I'm not that fond of cleaning the toilet myself. In truth, she is a better representative of hunters than you. Her story interested me. Your comments left me cold.

I eat meat. I enjoy meat. I recognize that it means a living, breathing creature has departed this mortal plane. It is an ex-creature (albeit a rather tasty one). A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to make lobster risotto. There were some particularly lively lobsters up at the DC water front. So, I purchased said creature, put him or her in the freezer, killed it with a knife to the brain, and steamed it.

The fact that such a creature has a rudimentary nervous system doesn't change the fact that I killed it and ate it. (The risotto was delicious.) It makes one think about the diet and so I recommend it to any omnivore. However, I'm not going to judge anyone who doesn't want to spend a week in the slaughterhouse before putting some burgers on the grill.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 14, 2009 12:39 PM

I'm thinking that BB is over-offended because Lady hunters just got a big weird bashing in the media for the entire time Sarah Palin was going around ruining McCain's chance to be president. And lady hunters, for people who live in cities, seem to be an odd thing any way, when in fact their are millions of them...but you always wind up explaining yourself to people who have no experience of it. From my own experience as a bow hunter...the men DO step in. Also the writer pointed out that she was a "pussy," in case you didn't understand what she meant about the other word with double s's in it, so it seems pretty clear she's aware of what's going on. And while this post raises thoughtful issues about food animals, has it not occured to anyone that it's maybe a little satirical? She's talking about the EDF as a psychological experiment, and kind of ripping on Alice Waters even though she says she's a locavore. I think the line about shooting paper is just writerly exagerration, or whatever it's called. Anyway, I think it's really good.

Kim, I loved the challenge, and you really made me think about my food habits, and how to be a really thrifty cook! And the recipes have been great. Thank you so much!

Posted by: RobinFromIowa | March 14, 2009 4:45 PM

My response was to Norcal, not BB, by the way, sorry.

Posted by: RobinFromIowa | March 14, 2009 4:46 PM

Robin - not really offended by the post. just thought suggesting the guest writer should become a vegetarian was over the top. How many folks out there would actually attempt to learn kosher slaughtering techniques?

I'll admit that the main connection I have with the meat that I consume is between my taste buds and my brain. The connection one gets from hunting is much deeper and worthy of respect. All three of you (the princess, norcal and yuourself) have that.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 14, 2009 8:47 PM

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