A story about how little acts encourage relationship with your food
By Laura Terifay
In the Bible, we see God made the Garden of Eden; it was a paradise like no other. God then introduced animals and the fish of the sea to this land. After that, God made a man in his own image. To him he gave the name Adam. In this perfect world (subtracted from a love life), things were not all fun and no games. God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals. He noticed that it was not good for man to be alone and God gave him a woman out of his own rib. To her Adam gave the name Eve because out of man came woman. One day, we see the serpent or the Devil tempt Eve by asking if God really did say that they could not eat of the Tree of Good and Evil or they will die? The woman knew that God did indeed tell them that they could not eat of it. The serpent perceived to tell her that they would not die, but be like God know good and evil. The woman then ate of the tree and saw that the fruit was good gave it to her husband, Adam. Adam and Eve saw that they were naked because the fruit opened their eyes. They then made clothes out of leaves and hid in the bushes. God came and asked where they were? The man blamed the woman for making him eat the fruit and the woman blamed the serpent. Thus, we come to the first animal that was killed for food and clothes. As we see, the animal was first named and had a connection to Adam followed by being killed for a basic human need. I encourage you at connect with your food, as Adam did.
Thousands of years later, I lived next door to next door to a family. They participated in things that was seen as “old fashioned” or a back to basic lifestyle. They had a garden, raised chickens, canned, dehydrated foods and so forth.
One day the friend (who belonged to the family) had me over for a meal. Before I ate, I needed to see her chickens because they were like part of the family and were important to her. I went along with the flow of things because one way or another I would see these chickens in her mind. She led me out to the backyard. In the back, I saw two handmade chicken coops. They were made of wood and chicken wire with a mini-house inside the chicken wire for the chickens. We walked over to the first cage. At first, I did not think too much about her having two cages. She then showed me the cage with all of her pets. These chickens were to get eggs from or also known as layers.
My friend said, “This one’s name is Jill and she is mean. She peaks all the other chickens and see the roster over there (pointed at rooster)? His name is Jeff. He likes to wake everyone up at five.” We watched all of the typical chicken behavior like eating and walking around for a while. We then walked twenty feet and came to the next cage. This cage had the chickens that would be eaten.
My friend: “This cage we have all of the chickens that we will eat.”
I nodded as to acknowledge that it made sense.
Friend: “We gave them all stripper names.”
Friend: “You know stripper names. That one over there (pointed) her name is Ginger and that one over there is named Bambi.” Followed by us watching more “chicken TV” (the act of watching something that will or could be food). Nothing different from the first cage, but that these chickens go to death in the fall. The family maybe killed around twelve chickens and they would continue to put the care into them by hand plucking the feathers from this bird. Followed by dismembering them. After being torn to pieces these chickens would be put into a freezer bag and would be frozen. The family would defrost poor Ginger and serve with a side of mashed potatoes with a side of corn as well.
This family would not at all sad or mournful that they eat what was once a beloved pet. I think by naming their food after strippers (however strange it may be) they were objectifying them and are giving them a side name, but years later I see it as a mental trick to distance themselves from the act of eating them. For example, in the stripper industry people are given the names to give a professional appearance. That is to say, that they are not in a relationship with the one whom they are giving the favor for. I think by naming them after strippers the family was taking a distance from the fact that they were about to eat them. This family would regularly raise their own chicken to eat and sees it as a way of life and the circle of life. I guess, in their world it was. Get one batch of chickens and take care of them for a short while only to eat them later. I would think that by eating their own chickens there would be sense of self-importance or value in the act. This, I would imagine, would make them quite proud in the fact that they are eating their own chickens and the life they were sharing with the chickens. Like the family, you can be proud of having your own food, but I encourage you to be responsible for the connections you make with your food. I think owning something with life or having something in your care in life you are responsible for it and should treat it how you would want to be treated.
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When I was age sixteen, I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. The people who lived on the farm planted corn and all types of trees. They also had different types of animals like a peacock and cows. The cows were to go to the slaughterhouse and the peacock was to stay. The farmers had around twenty cows at a given time.
On one particular day, my sister walked out our back door to see the cows. As she normally said hi to all the cows, but on this day a cow came to say hi to her. This cow was not like all the other cows. It was friendly and came over to her. As she connected with the cow, she decided to name the cow Jeff. As the weeks formed into months, she would walk over to the cage, talk to Jeff, and feed him grass. As the months went by one day came by when he was to go and be killed. As she said her goodbyes. She had a peace over her that she made a connection with Jeff. She was glad to have formed the connection. She now looks back on Jeff’s life, takes joy in the memories of the cow, and is happy to made his life pleasant.
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Making connections with food seems to happen effortlessly in my family, a few years before, my brother made a connection with his meat. This occurred when we moved to Chesapeake, VA, and found out they did not allow chickens in our city. Jump five years later the city allowed us, living in Chesapeake, to have chickens. We were excited at the new law being passed! The limit was six chickens and no roosters. In order to get the chickens, we went to a chicken farmer and asked if we could order chickens with him (it was cheaper to order in bulk). We got four chickens: Pymouth Rock (named Fish), Rhode Island Red (Molly), Silky (May Lynn), and a Black Polish chicken (La Founda).
These little balls of fluff were so cute! When they were little, we had them in side partly because we did not have a cage for them and partly because they were not big enough to be alone. I remember, that my sisters, brothers, and I would come into the room that they wee staying in and would pick them up to hold them. These little fluff balls soon warmed our harts with their unique personalities, chirps, and did I say fluff! In these early stages of life, we saw that La Founda was a ditz, Fish had attitude, and May Lynn favored me.
When they got bigger and the cage was built for them. We would go out to feed them and collect their eggs. What was interesting about the eggs was that: La Founda’s were the smallest, Fish’s and Molley’s were both brown with speckles on them, and May Lynn’s were just white. We would also sometimes give them leftovers or give them cherry tomatoes. My favorite time to watch them was when we would give them cherry tomatoes because it was like watching chicken football. You would throw in a small red tomato the perfect size for a chicken to put in its’s mouth. The chickens would all run to be the first to grab the “ball” and get to a side of the cage to be alone with the red ball in beak to be the only chicken to eat it. Although, this is not how it happened. You would see something similar to football passes with these chickens. One would grab the tomato only to have another chicken grab it out of her beak. This would go back and forth until one got to the victory spot of being the only chicken with the tomato.
One day, my mother called us all to eat (as was our normal habit). We all came with plates already made for us. The plates were made up of the normal Pennsylvanian Dutch classics of chicken, mash potatoes, and green beans. Little did we know what would await us on this day! My younger brother, age four, realized that chicken the animal is the same thing as the chicken you eat. He for some reason thought that we were eating one of our pet chickens. So, what does he do? He asked for all the details of the chicken’s life….
He glared at the chicken and asked, “Mom what is the chicken’s name?”
Mom knowing how fast thing could go haywire responded, “The chicken does not have a name, Russell, eat.” My brother then made a sad face of not being heard and got up from his spot. Followed by thump, thump, thump as he walked down the long hallway. He then putted on his blue clogs and just walked out the backdoor.
He walked to the location of the chickens because one of the chickens we own could have been used to make dinner. He walked ten feet, then he counted, “one chicky (his name for chicken), two chicky, three chicky, four chicky”, but what is this? We had two new chickens that we did not tell him about (Easter Egg Chickens)! He counts again. Russell, “one chicky, two chicky, three chicky, four chicky, five chicky, and six chicky.” Puzzled he came back inside. He sat back down.
He placed his hand on the chicken and once again asked, “Mom, what is this chicken’s name?” My mom then looked at him and said, “Bob.” He then took a huge fork full and happily ate his meal. From that point on, we have needed to name the chicken that we eat for dinner. All because my brother made a connection with his chicken. Having that connecting with our food has changed the way I see our food and interact with it
As we found out, naming our food had a powerful impact on us. We not only identified what we were eating, but now we were able to think of the life it once had. Now we go out of our way to connect with what will be eaten and try and make its life better. We also are forming a bond and a memory that will last a lifetime. I encourage you to think of how you can connect with your food.