Plenty of poultry

So, how was your Thanksgiving holiday? For a lot of reasons, Thanksgiving is the holiday I like least; too much guilt. For years I didn’t celebrate it at all. I wasn’t sure it was a day we should celebrate considering how native Americans have gotten the short end of the stick; it doesn’t seem quite fair. I think in many parts of the US it’s easy to overlook that but in New Mexico, it’s a little hard to ignore. Some tribes are wealthy owing to casinos and fortuitous accidents of economic geography but unemployment rates of 40% or more on reservations is more typical around here. My friend Sally said we should fast. Considering the initial hassle of the holiday, I’m thinking she may have been right. Below is a picture of the only poultry we came in contact with for the entire weekend. It was taken at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. These are mostly sand hill cranes and light geese.

We went to Albuquerque for the weekend. Initially we’d planned to eat with Eric’s family and I was looking forward to it thinking I’d get a good post out of it -with high entertainment value- because my mother-in-law hates me. She hates me for a lot of reasons. First she hates me because she’s a home sewer with this big cognitive dissonance thing going on. Like some home sewers (but not like my friends who visit here), she thinks three things about the industry. One, we make crap. Two, we have lots of sewing secrets we’re keeping from them. Third, we’re into hiring 9 year olds to sew but only if 8 year olds are unavailable. Hmmm. My first thought is, if we’re making crap, what secrets are there to keep anyone from learning? Second, between the two of us, I’m not the likely candidate to operate a sweatshop, that’s not something liberals do. She’s the one who keeps a “W” is for Women!” sign on the dining room table. Third, she hates me because I made her son a vegetarian. I guess it’s like being a vampire. All it takes is one bite to the neck and you can turn anyone. Last but not least, it would appear that my biggest crime is that I don’t fix myself up, do girly-stuff to my hair and all that. I’d idly considered getting dolled up for the visit but decided it’d be too much work to find the make up I know I have somewhere. I was mentioning it to a friend and we decided it was better I didn’t find it since I bought it in 1996 (when I shot that video). I can only be glad she’s never seen me bare legged. So what if my idea of grooming is limited to brushing my hair, often in the parking lot of wherever I’m headed? I eat well and exercise. Everybody has their own idea of beauty; I don’t know why she thinks her definition should be preeminent. I don’t know why beauty should even be a goal; does this mean ugly people are worthless? Why does this matter? My autistic brain knows there are a lot of people who think this way but it just doesn’t seem rational to me.

Anyway, mother-in-law decided she wasn’t going to cook this year because she’s in the throes of moving so that was perfectly understandable and acceptable to everyone. As it stands, eating Thanksgiving dinner under typical circumstances means the only items we can eat are carrots and mashed potatoes because people put meat in everything else. I really miss green beans. I wish people wouldn’t put meat in those. Anyway, mother-in-law decided we would eat out at a restaurant and out of all the places she could have picked, she picked a steak house. A steak house. A. Steak. House. ~sigh~. I called them up to see what was on the menu (it was a fixed menu). As it was, we could have had salad and mashed potatoes but having salad and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t thrill me anymore than it’d thrill you -and for $15 bucks, no discount for vegetarians. Everything else had meat in it -including the green beans, naturally. And by the way, chicken and poultry are meat. What’s with this new generation of “vegetarians” who think poultry isn’t meat? How absurd.

As it turned out, we were saved by shingles. Eric came down with shingles and his sister is expecting and she didn’t want him there in case he got the rash blisters and on the off chance that he’d slime her with the goo and endanger the cognitive functioning of her unborn child, well, it was better to be absent. She told him to stay home, not to come to Albuquerque. We disobeyed and came anyway and stayed with my friend Sally, so they don’t know we came to town. I doubt he could infect her in Rio Rancho all the way from central Albuquerque. We ended up going to Furr’s buffet on Thanksgiving. Sally had already made plans to eat with friends; at that same steak house no less. She said it was lousy, like a TV dinner.

We didn’t do much, just hung out. I ran in the local Turkey Trot. Nearly every town has a fun run on the morning of Thanksgiving day; this was a new one (6th annual) called the Turkey Trek. It was a beautiful day. Here’s a picture of me near the finish line (center).

Friday, I was a very bad girl because I went shopping. Any left leaning liberal worth their salt isn’t supposed to shop the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday; so called because retailers finally hit black ink for the year; it’s profit then on out to the close of the year). It’s called Buy Nothing Day and it’s a day to protest conspicuous consumption. You know, the saying from Mahatma Gandhi, live simply so that others may simply live? Still, shopping was one of the major reasons we went to Albuquerque in the first place. Las Cruces is too small to have good athletic shoe stores and I needed running shoes. At Heart and Sole, I got a gait analysis -free! I also bought some real running socks. Ever the cheap skate, I’d been borrowing my husband’s dress socks (mismatched, blue and black of course) and getting blisters from them. I’d intended to buy some running clothes too because I don’t buy new clothes unless they can be found in a bin at Sam’s on the way to the soy milk and tomatoes aisle. I also bought some gels. Gels are gross. They’re a paste you have to ingest for calories on long runs. They come in tons of flavors except not in Las Cruces of course. I got all kinds of wild flavors. They are still gross though. I can succinctly describe the consistency of gels if you call me on the phone but I won’t publish the description here.

We really didn’t do much but I did go to my favorite coffee shop even though I am still po’d over their name change. It used to be called The Double Rainbow. I used to take my son there when he was just a baby and he loved it too. Now it’s called The Flying Star. Dorky name and worse wi-fi connection speed. It is terrible, awful, so I only went twice a day every day we were there. I got up earlier than Sally and Eric to go running and naturally, it was a great place for a mid run pit stop. I probably gained ten pounds this past weekend, all of it chocolate related.

On the way home, we stopped at The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to peruse the poultry. Maybe these are tasty too? Anyway, I hope you had a great holiday. I’m still trying to muddle through Monday.

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    I’m a vegetarian too. Just woke up one morning a couple of years ago and decided meat wasn’t for me and it’s worked out pretty well since. I don’t even have fish- people assume I eat fish and shrimp, and lobsters and (sob, sob…) I adore animals (from a distance)- I was raised in the city and have always lived in the city, but one day I’ll have shelter or a sanctuary somewhere with lots of land and fresh air… aaahh…
    Time to wake up now. The whole butchering of the turkeys, not my fav thing, so imagine how much it made my day when I saw three of them running wild (ok, slowly walking- they were BIG birds) on the side of the road (I was supposed to be in the countryside- long story, not for the purpose of this post)- on Thanksgiving!! Yes, there were some still alive in the country. And that was wonderful. :)

  2. Mary Beth says:

    Well, this Thanksgiving turned out a bit differently after all. I’m sorry Eric has shingles but I am glad you got to spend time with your friend and avoid family dissonance. And running in the morning; how fun. I was a vegetarian for many years but started eating a regular Am. diet when I no longer had time to devote to food prep. I’ve got the extra pounds to show for it, too.

  3. sal says:

    thanks for the snow geese and sand hill crane fotos. you have reminded me to observe our feathered friends at the bosque; such a treat at this time of year.

  4. Sarah in Oregon says:

    I’m glad for Thanksgiving, because I have so many things to be grateful for, and sometimes I forget.

    On another subject, all this talk about meat and if we should eat it or not makes me want to bring up one of my favorite points….why wearing fur is a good idea. Now lots of people trot around in leather shoes and coats eating leg of lamb saying “fur is terrible”. I am not one of them.

    Now, I’m not in favor of holding animals in tiny pens or skinning them alive or anything nasty like that, but I do think that fur coats are a good idea.

    First of all, fur is a natural resource which is renewable. No oil needs to be drilled for us to get fur. On the other hand, poly fabrics (fake fur, poly fill) do come from oil, and drilling for oil ruins animal habitat, and therefore kills animals. Not to mention the polution of refining and the animal deaths caused by oil spills.

    Furthermore, fur is very long lasting. People wear fur coats for 20, 30, 40 years, where poly is good for about 10 years (and it is looking pretty shabby around then, isn’t it?)

    Lastly, fur is very warm, and the best option for cold, snowy weather. Where I grew up (Canada), lots of people wear their fur with a touque and rubber boots. It’s not fashion statement for them, it’s just the best way to stay warm!


  5. Alison Cummins says:

    I’m a vegetarian too, so I made a nut loaf as my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. (Actually no, I’m not a vegetarian – pescatarian. I eat veges and pescas/fish.) My father was born in the US and is the oldest of eleven children, so the trip back to his hometown for Thanksgiving is always fun. This year was small – only about 40 people. But still enough that whichever relative one finds obnoxious can be tolerated briefly and then passed on to someone else.

    I’m a zipper-basting home-sewer too, and even sew my zippers in by hand to keep the seam soft and flexible. But I would never say that manufactured clothes are crap. (I do say that they’re manufactured – which means that they have to fit people generally and not me specifically, which is not what I want in clothes – but I don’t say they’re crap.)

    RE fur, it’s a bit of a grey area. Unlike meat, it’s re-used. (Fur coats that last thirty years are the ones that are hauled out once a year for an occasion and then carefully put back into storage. Fur coats that are heavily worn wear out quickly.) I wear leather shoes but not leather or fur anything else. Fur clothes are really good for standing around outside for long periods but are not necessary for most aspects of city life. I know people who live in the North who buy warm coats from the store and immediately haul them to their local seamstress to have an animal sewn into the hood. A wolverine, say, or a fox. Something with a nice tail is good because you can bring the tail up over your face when it’s really cold. But that really isn’t necessary for most Canadians who live within 100 miles of the US border.

    I avoid meat because it’s not a good use of the planet’s resources. Given the easy availability and healthiness of plant foods there’s no good excuse for eating meat. (Note that in the far north, plant foods are not easily available. You’d have to be really really obsessive to be vegetarian there. Don’t know what I’d do there. And in grasslands or hilly areas that are difficult to farm, running a ruminant over the grass and then drinking the milk or blood may be the best or only way of living on the land. Then you also have to eat the bull-calves/billy-kids. But for those of us who live in cities, we get to choose what we want any time we go to the store, and I choose low on the food chain. There are just so damn many of us we can’t afford to eat high. And by “can’t afford” I do not mean anything about my personal finances.)

    My other criterion is that an animal have lived a nice life. I won’t eat chicken because I know it’s lived a truly horrible life. But I’d consider eating a deer that someone shot on their land because the deer was able to live a deer-like life. Similarly, even farmed fish get to live a nice fishy life before I come into the picture. (I actually prefer farmed fish because it’s less destructive of the oceans.)

    The fact that we even have these discussions and choices establishes us as some of the wealthiest people on the planet. And for that, I am so, so thankful. It’s also a heavy responsibility. We somehow tend to talk less about that aspect.

  6. elizNY says:

    Please don’t confuse the methods and conditions used in large-scale factory farming with those used by small-scale, family farms. Most family farmers and organic farmers spend a great deal of time and money ensuring that animals don’t have “horrible” lives, and utilize sustainable farming methods to ensure the land is not treated horribly as well. Consumers support bad conditions and bad practices when they buy those products. Sadly, they don’t want to pay the prices at locally-based stores and farmers markets, even for a better quality product. Believe me when I say that most of us small-scale farmers are also in opposition to the cruel conditions and unhealthy practices, and the cramped-and-caged method that you see on tv is not how we all raise our poultry.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Alison wrote:

    The fact that we even have these discussions and choices establishes us as some of the wealthiest people on the planet. And for that, I am so, so thankful. It’s also a heavy responsibility. We somehow tend to talk less about that aspect.

    On this blog, I write about the responsibilities of those in the first world (read: US) to be responsible with regard to their purchasing practices and lifestyles. I know that most people don’t want to think about it. People just want to live the way they do or if anything, they want to be able to consume even more, getting bigger houses and more stuff. And I agree, a nicer lifestyle can be intoxicating but is it fair to the rest of the planet? I’m sure I’d be a lot more popular if I shut up but I firmly and adamantly believe it is my responsibility and duty to speak up -more so than others- because my audience is largely business owners who have greater potential impact on the use of resources. One of the reasons I’m a proponent of lean manufacturing is the reduction in the waste of resources. This is why I think that lean manufacturing is the only form of responsible manufacturing. You should only make the items in quantity that people have demonstrated a willingness to buy -meaning, they’ve submitted purchase orders for them.

    In the entry Twelve Acres, I’d written about the quiz that measures one’s impact on the planet, proportionate to their nationality. People in the US have a greater responsibility than anyone; we’re using far more than our fair share. As an example, when I took the quiz as a US resident, my footprint was 12 acres or the equivalent of 3 planets (the quiz measures how many planets would be needed if everyone lived at one’s lifestyle standard). When I took the quiz as tho I were a Canadian, my impact was only four acres or 1 planet. The quiz is set up like this because there are only 4.5 biologically active acres per person worldwide. No wonder so many go hungry, hence the 10 million annual ecological refugees worldwide. Ecological failure -not war- displaces the most people.

    People in the US bear a moral responsibility and should rightfully assume it. Anything less is not fair and supposedly this country is all about fairness, democracy and justice -or is that just convenient rhetoric? What of noblesse oblige? With wealth and power, come social responsibilities. Why do we resent wealthy people who don’t contribute their “fair share” to social causes when the average US citizen, with incomes proportionately compared to the others in the world, is just as guilty? I believe that business owners in the US, bear an even greater responsibility. Just because we are lucky enough to enjoy priviliged lifestyles here -owing to an accident of birth- doesn’t mean it’s fair to ply our unfair advantage.The thing that bothers me is, why aren’t more people outraged by these inequities? People don’t “hate our freedom” or resent us for it; they dislike our sanctimonious hypocrisy. Hunger is not a crisis of food scarcity but a scarcity in the democracy of food production.

    Personally, my life would be easier if I could happily eat meat, but ethically, I can’t contribute to the ecological load of commercial meat production. The conditions of which are such that it can endanger the lives of people who don’t even eat it; remember that spinach infected with e.coli from the nearby feed lot? I don’t have a problem with natural protein harvesting because this doesn’t contribute to the destruction of our national forests to say nothing of the rainforests which subsequently affects air quality and global warming (food politics have greater impact than cars). Unless one can limit their consumption to sustainably -and hopefully humanely- grown food animals, I can only hope that people will increasingly choose to eat less meat, going without it a couple of times a week would help a lot. If someone in your household won’t compromise, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Every little bit helps and it saves money too (our grocery bill is half what other families spend). The ecological impact of eating commercially produced meat is enormous. Eating less meat is something everyone can do; it’s a choice and it is within your power.

    I feel it is my responsibility to set an example here even if it destines to make me unpopular; that’d be nothing new. If silence lends consent, I cannot be silent. I do not consent. Live simply so that others can simply live. We in the first world must be mindful of our consumption choices; we owe that to everyone else. Maybe few people agree with me but that’ll change -eventually. Evolution favors altruism.

  8. Alisa Benay says:

    I gave birth to a vegetarian. Seriously, I swear he was born that way. He’s almost 5 and has only once even put meat in his mouth. It was antelope (sorry, my dad’s a big gamesman) which he promptly threw up. I have to say, in doing research on how to feed my little veggie, I’ve learned quite a bit about being more humane from the vegetarian community.

    Thanks for your take on mother-in-law’s. That really cracked me up. I’ve got one like that, too. The only good thing about the relationship is just the funny stories you get to tell.

  9. Liana says:

    Thank you for the Sandhill Crane photos! We get them here for a couple months as they fuel-up for their migration and breeding season. They are marvelous! The Whooping Cranes, too.

  10. Josh says:

    I probably gained ten pounds this past weekend, all of it chocolate related.

    So you’re like me addicted to the brown tiger lol. What’s your favorite chocolate candy? Mines Snickers or anything with caramel and nuts. I have a tablespoon of cocoa powder in a smoothie every night. I gotta have that chocolate fix.

    I’ve recently read “The China Study” and now am considering dropping almost all dairy in my diet. I don’t have that much but I will eat some cheese on a daily basis and an egg or 2. I was shocked to find that dairy is just as bad as meat health wise. The only thing I will not be able to give up is milk because it’s in chocolate. Anyone interested in living a long life pick up this book.

  11. Alison Cummins says:

    Chickens are hard enough to raise economically and nicely that I have to assume any chicken-related product I encounter in a store is from a not-very-nice place. Of course some are worse than others, and farmers are not usually evil people. My cousin has a small collection of exotic mini-chickens on her hobby farm who live in a little house built by her architect son. They aren’t fenced in and come when called to be fed by hand. I would have no problem at all eating her eggs! But my cousin isn’t running a business. She just has pets who lay eggs. I don’t personally know any (hobby) farmers where I live who raise happy chickens, so I stay away from chicken. Not that it can’t be done, I just can’t identify it.

    Kathleen – that’s exactly why I read your blog! Your practical, passionate commitment to doing things right. At all levels. And to educating the rest of us.


  12. La BellaDonna says:

    I’m a Circle-of-Lifer. I eat meat, sometimes; I buy from local farmers; I do animal rescue. I wear second-hand furs which are older than I am.

    My thought was that if some of the birds in the photos are tasty, probably some of the people are, too (different audiences, though). I liked Thanksgiving for the chance to be with my family; we’re low-pressure, and I’m pretty much the matriarch. Good heavens. Mostly because our genetic Circle-of-Life has a pretty short diameter. I like to think one of the things my family is thankful for is a guilt-free place to go on Thanksgiving. If you can make it, you’re very welcome; if you can’t, no problem, maybe next year. I don’t know why it can’t just be like that for more folks.

  13. J C Sprowls says:

    LOL! Can I adopt your family, LaBellaDonna?

    Mine is high-anxiety – always, ALWAYS! I dearly love each of them, independently. But, my patience wears thin with the abundance of negative energy around the 2nd hour. They’re each brilliant, stellar people; but, that somehow gets sucked out of the room when more than 2 are assembled.

    I sometimes feel guilty by saying this: but, I enjoy being 2K miles from home. I can pick-and-chose my visits (strictly off-holiday, now) and can always save face by blaming flight schedules or traffic.

    RE: social duty and business responsibility…

    Thank you, Kathleen, for making this stand. I agree that, as potential employers, we have a responsibility to our staff and community. After all, these are the reasons we will achieve any modicum of success.

  14. elizNY says:

    Thank you Kathleen for differentiating between animals that are humanely and sustainably raised and those that are not. Most family farmers are acutely aware of our responsibilty not only to the animals but to the consumer and to the environment. Does it cost more to produce food this way? Yes. It takes alot more time and alot more acreage to raise beef on grass than to fatten it quickly on cheap, fat-laden, animal-by-product feed lots. But the quality is better, it’s healthier for the consumer, and the cow gets to be a cow. It’s easier on the environment. Same goes for poultry.
    Whether one is an omnivore or a strict vegan, we all have the ability to choose where our food comes from. Vegetable crops often employ eco-unfriendly practices as well. I eat meat, and I applaud your stand on commercial meat production. I personally do not drink milk, for a myriad of reasons which I do not have room to get into here – and I no longer care if that makes me unpopular (it does). The fact that people find it difficult to locate pastured poultry or grass fed beef in their communities is discouraging – it reiterates to me that family farms are disappearing, and agri-conglomerates are taking over, and that is a bad, bad thing for all of us, no matter where we live.

  15. Alison Cummins says:

    elizNY, using more land to produce the same amount of food is not necessarily a good thing if land is in limited supply. And land is in limited supply, with the 6.6 billion human beings pushing the planet’s limits every day.

    Our choices are not simple.

  16. elizNY says:

    From a herd management standpoint, there are many benefits to it.

    For some crops, narrower row spacing can result in higher yields. Farm equipment has evolved over the years to accomodate this. For others, it can result in lower yields due to lowered pest resistance, spread of fungi and other diseases, and less access to sunlight. There are limits, epscially if you do not want to use chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides that poison the food and pollute waterways. There are natural ways of managing weeds and pests, and they require room.

    There are more benefits to preserving farmland and open space than yield per acre.

    We aren’t running out of space to put people. We are running out of space to put people who wish to live in the ever-expanding suburbs, and who wish to widen roads, build strip malls and mega-car lots and have hundreds of shopping opportunities once they live there.

    If land is in limited supply due to an increasing population, all the more reason to preserve and protect land that will feed people. Supporting family farmers helps.

  17. Alison Cummins says:

    “Using more land to produce the same amount of food is not necessarily a good thing if land is in limited supply.”

    You’re absolutely right, using more land to produce more food is probably efficent. But that’s not my comment.

    With less than 2 hectares (5 acres) of biologically productive land per human being on the planet, economy of land use is a high priority. If humans use every last bit of usable land to live on and produce food, there’s nowhere left for animals either. Life won’t be fun. The real problem is that there are far too many of us, but given that we’re here we can’t squander land.

    Where you live, land pressure might be most visible as suburban sprawl. But if the entire planet lived like the average american we’d need about sixteen planets. Land needs to be used thoughtfully.

    For instance, slash-and-burn is a perfectly sustainable subsistence farming technique for small groups in low population areas. It actually contributes to ecological diversity by opening up spaces in forests. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to feed everyone today.

    The problem is that there are too many of us, not that we all live in big houses. Because most of us don’t.

  18. La BellaDonna says:

    J.C., you’re welcome to come if you like. (Seriously. Fourth Thursday in November.) Yeah, they’re nice people – bright and funny, even if the volume tends to go up when they’re all assembled; if they lived closer, I’d spend more time with them, because I like them. And they’re easy to entertain! One year (for whatever reason), we were rivted by the subject of Pearls, the Nature of Nacre, with a side tour into Univalves and Bivalves. Another year, they were riveted by a math program on the TV – I think it might have been “Meet Mr. Pythagoras.” Really, really easy to entertain. Be prepared to mash potatoes, and to take a Sudafed if you’re allergic to cats, of whom I have one (but he’s a substantial representative of the species – and also very nice).

  19. J C Sprowls says:

    LOL! How generous!

    No need for Sudafed – I’m not allergic. I love animules. Though, if I bring Maddie (my dog) she would be making new friends (and, adopting pets) straight away.

    Univalves e Bivalves, eh? They sure do sound easy to entertain…

  20. kathi s says:

    My dear departed MIL disliked me so much that she mailed my husband new clothes every week for 5 months (I am not exaggerating) so he would not have to do laundry (his job in grad school). After the mountain of dirty clothes exceeded the capacity of our little bedroom, I gave up and did the laundry. Her dislike of me continued to the end.
    My husband has been a vegetarian for ten years. He converted to Buddhism 12 years ago and made the ultimate conversion to ovo-lacto vegetarianism after he had a revelation. We have a hamburger loving son so have a “mixed” marriage. I probably will cut back on meat after he leaves home, but will probably not convert completely to a meatless lifestyle. I did buy a free-range turkey this year and hope she had a happy life, be it a short one.

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