Contrary to what most think, the biggest benefit of being a food writer is not sampling the food, but learning more about food than what youd expect. All beats have that benefit, of course.
Ive learned a lot of food science in 30 years since taking Microbiology 509 at Ohio State. But more often than not, food writing is writing more about fashion than science. Ive decided were fickle fashionistas, when it comes to food, especially when were jumping on board the latest in eating trends.
When I got the press release about Camp Carnivore I visualized happy cannibals dancing around a circle of drummers, all taking in some blackened beast, being charred over a smoking fire. It was dramatic imagery, for sure.
Then I recalled a feature story on public radio in which a class full of amateur butchers talked of what a dying art it is to know how to cut meat, because we have lost our butchers.
I talked to a few folks who listened to the story. Four out of five concluded there was something sadistic about wanting to know the ins and outs of cutting meat, the specifics of bloodying your own hands.
Why? Im guessing its because were harboring some subconscious guilt about eating animals. Were shuddering at the thought of cutting into corpses. By extension, he who slaughters the cow is the murderer. The rest of the crew from the butcher to the grocer to the chef and to the server are accomplices.
Up until about a decade or two ago, there were still plenty of beefy meat-cutters with thick forearms and no-nonsense attitudes employed in most grocery stores of many Eastern cities. When a customer rang the buzzer, because there were no short ribs in the grocery case, out stomped a grouch in a bloody apron. You had better have a good reason for parting this behemoth from his saw. Butchers were dispassionate tradesmen, delivering a product to the people.
The butcher who taught Durangos Camp Carnivore was a young, energetic type, physically fit, conscientious and knowledgeable. All but one cook taking the class was a man. There were no vegans, of course. When I watched these butchers-in-training cut into stuffed, grilled pork loin, a reward for the nights collective effort, I saw smiling faces. These were amateur chefs seeking information about preparing meat, so that it presented at its best.
My questions to you:
1.Have you decided to limit the red meat you eat because you are not sure of its origin, or are you concerned about hormones or additives that might be pumped into it before slaughter?
2.Have you decided that you want to be as far removed as possible from the animal for moral reasons?
3.Do you view butchering as an art the conclusion of one participant at Camp Carnivore (Durango Herald, 9/14/11).
4.Is the move away from meat just one more trend dictated by food fashionistas?
5.Is the popularity of Camp Carnivores nationwide a signal that consumers want to be up front and personal with whats on their plates? Or are they fed up with finger waggers suggesting that if theyre not on board with roasted beets, gluten-free and locally grown, theyre criminals?
What do you think?