Goodwill to Dinner

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and already our household is in a flutter. We had a strategic meeting last night where we determined the full menu that lies ahead of us, and planned out our baking. We’re fortunate in that the Cap’ns live right down the street, so we essentially have two kitchens to play with. I’ll be doing the bulk of the baking on Wednesday (apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan-chocolate torte, dinner rolls, cinnamon bread, cranberry chocolate tarts) and then on Thursday the true fun will begin.

Cap’n Raspberry gamely volunteered to “take care of the turkey,” and I wish him the best of fortune in that endeavor. I wasn’t actually that fixated on turkey, mainly because I usually find that people over cook it and underseason it, resulting in a dull and bland meal. But the Cap’n wanted tryptophan, so turkey it is. He’s also taking care of stuffing and gravy, which leaves me mashed potatoes, baked yams, top secret brussels sprouts, grilled corn, and salad with Puff.

I was a vegan for number of years, and have always been amazed and amused by Thanksgiving, because it’s such a meat-o-centric holiday. I’ve had many delicious vegan Thanksgivings, utterly turkey free and perfectly fun, but I admit I am kind of looking forward to making a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is the centerpiece of an overindulgent meal, with ravenous hordes beating down the table for seconds. It’s the one holiday that I take very, very seriously, because it involves food on a scale which causes my heart rate to accelerate. And all of the food is relatively easy to make, not like these complex and insane meals that I construct most of the time. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff on the table, but all of it flows so nice and easily that in a way it’s a very relaxing holiday for me.

So how about that turkey.

This year there seems to be a growing interest in heritage and heirloom turkeys, which The Ethicurean’s Dairy Queen has explained in more detail here. Go on, read it, I’ll wait. It is a very informative look at turkey nomenclature, which can be dizzying to the uninitiated. For consumers trying to be conscious, food labeling can be deeply confusing, and I know that I for one wish there was more standardization in all these terms being tossed around, willy nilly, like so many giblets.

I think that more and more consumers are finally starting to connect meat with animals, and are feeling concern and perhaps even empathy for their food. I am pleased to see this, in a world where factory farming is so dominant. It is my ardent hope that consumer awareness will terminate the process of factory farming, that all of us will end up eating less meat but that it will be healthy, sustainable meat. The way in which we raise food animals is wrong.

Of course, many upscale markets like Whole Foods have begun to realize the potential sales value of sustainable farming. Consumers will pay more for food which they perceive as ethically more justifiable, and Whole Foods is happy to help with labeling like the Animal Compassion tags that are starting to pop up on meat products.

While I make fun of the capitalists for seizing upon the commercial value of humane meat, I think it is a very positive step in the right direction. After all, McDonald’s caused major reforms in chicken farming due to consumer outcry. In a capitalist nation, you’ve got to harness the man to achieve your goals. The growing popularity of sustainable meats is a really positive sign in the market, and I encourage all of you who haven’t already made your Thanksgiving arrangements to think about getting meat that makes you feel good while you eat it.

If you don’t have access to a local farm, pester your butcher. Find out where the meat comes from, and do some research on their farming practices and what the labeling on your meat actually means. Make a decision based on concrete facts rather than claims on the package. Not only will the meat be of a higher quality, but you will be able to sleep in a tryptophan induced peace, knowing that the animal you consumed for dinner was ethically and sustainably farmed without the use of harmful substances. It went outside during its life, and got to scratch around in the grass. It was handled with respect and love before it reached your plate, and you are supporting a humane farming industry by purchasing it.

Goodwill to dinner: all the cool kids are doing it!