About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, February 06, 2006
Beef on the Plate
I was watching Full on Food the other day and they were talking about how Britain is the biggest consumer of instant meals in Europe. The figures were staggering, billions of dollars are spent every year on these meals and they talked about how some people are eating them two or three times a week. They pulled one chap out of the audience, who admitted to being a regular user, or should that be serial eater, of instant meals, handed him one, showed him the microwave and told him that it was a race against someone preparing a meal from scratch. He lost the race to a steak sandwich with salad and home made mayonnaise.

But that is not what I want to tell you about, rather the promo for the next program. In it, they showed a cow being led to the slaughterhouse and promised to show us what happens to the beast every step of the way.

Now that's confronting.

Not so much the dressing of the cow, I know I can handle that; it's just not every day that you can see the death of the animal destined for the dinner table. Years ago on one of Nick Nairn's shows, he went deer hunting to obtain some venison for one of his recipes. They showed the stalking, selecting the deer for the shot and I remember thinking they would cut away at the last moment. Well Nick is a Scot and there was no cut away.

Some years ago, I was at a friends farm and it was time to get some chickens for the pot. Being a lad at the time, I thought I could help, put the chicken's head on the block, lined it up with a machete and all I could see was one beady eye peering back at me. I wanted to do it, but I couldn't. At this time in my life I had hunted and fished and was completely unsentimental about killing an animal for the pot, but with the intimacy of the animal in hand, I froze.

When you think about and have to confront the issue of killing in order to eat, it is easier to understand vegetarians and where they're coming from, but nature is full of examples of predation, it's not nice or pretty, it's survival.

Will I watch the program next week?

Would you?
  posted at 2:12 pm

At 4:39 pm, Blogger Sam said...

In defence of the British I have to say one thing: The quality of instant meals in the UK far surpasses ANYTHING i have ever encountered in the US. Marks & Spencers started the trend years and years ago, other supermarkets followed suit. Instant meals in the UK are not crap - they are pretty amazing - verging almost on fine cuisine. Even I (and I am a pretty obsessive cook), used to partake of them on a regularish basis when i lived in Britain. They cover all the suisines of the worls, even. I would rather people eat those meals than a burger from macdonalds, for example.

At 6:14 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Sam, looks like I need to be more thorough, what I didn't write is that it was a British program and they did say they thought the trend to instant meals was due to the British working longer hours than the rest of Europe. Whilst they weren't critical of the quality, they did demonstrate the fat content with lumps of shortening. I'm almost certain they said lasagne was the most popular meal and the piece of shortening they showed to demonstate it, looked in the order of 50-75g (3-4 oz), for a single meal. For the record, I have eaten instant meals, but we are not as lucky as those in Britain, I found the Australian versions a bit dull.

At 8:16 am, Blogger Gigi said...

The American versions are godawful and loaded with trans fats. I don't partake of them much, perferring to fix my own, mostly fruits and veggies during the week. And yet, I manage to gain weight. Hmn...

On weekends I'm an avid carnivore I'm afraid, and would not watch the show. It's wrong, but I'd rather not know than be tempted to give up my steak. Cowardly, of course. But I do understand my vegetarian friends.

Thanks for the note that you'd been reading my pages ~ you must be at the old AOL site. I'm posting here now ~ http://lotusmartinis.blogspot.com/. And I like this blog! I'm adding you to my bloglines... ;)

At 5:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once saw a documentary film on the killing of an animal on an Italian family farm to make salami. And everything else - nothing went to waste. Films can be made to be confronting to those not used to traditional farming, cooking, preserving and eating. Most documentaries have that problem. I don't object to vegetarianism myself - my wife is borderline vegetarian - but many vegetarian thinking seems paradoxically more in line with traditional no-waste practices. If that makes sense.

At 9:33 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, nothing cowardly about knowing yourself. Why is it that we can eat so well and still put on weight, lifes not fair.

Hi KH, yes I do understand, it's about respect fot the ingredient, whether animal life or plant life.

At 5:32 am, Blogger Angela said...

Between this post and the badger post....I am teetering on the edge of vegetarianism again.....Quick! Someone hand me some nicely cooked prime rib!


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