This year my words are ‘presence’ and ‘intention’ – I picked two because after a long and busy second half of 2017 I felt that I needed to refocus my energy and realign my lifestyle to match my values. I was preaching self-care while simultaneously skipping the gym, and getting too few hours of sleep. I was advocating for living a healthy and balanced life while also working myself until I was so cranky I didn’t know how to undo my mood. I was advocating living consciously, while also mindlessly spending umpteenth amounts of money on fast food just to get me by in a stage of life that had gotten crazy busy. Full time work and full time graduate school didn’t allow for much balance. This year I wanted to live more consciously, more presently, more intentionally. I also wanted to try something new.
A few months ago I was sitting at a gal pal’s dining table. She had invited me for a home cooked meal of salad, sweet potato gnocchi, and a chicken she had raised, and slaughtered the night before. The house smelled amazing and the food looked delicious, but when we sat down to eat I struggled to politely eat the chicken instead of pushing the meat around my plate like a picky four-year-old. The meat was soft and broke apart easily, almost flakey. It was flavorful and tangy, a bold natural flavor despite the fact that the chicken only had a little salt and lemon. And what startled me the most was the color of the chicken. It was white. Not pink. I honestly was convinced it was raw or diseased. Despite the fact I sat there embarrassed, and feeling like I was being completely rude, I was entirely thrown off by the difference in truly natural meat. It took a lot of gentle teasing and convincing from my friend to talk me into eating the fresh meat.
Only a few short weeks following this dinner, my husband and I were driving down a back road to a farmer’s home to purchase a used lawnmower. Push mowing our now several acres of property was getting old. As my husband drove the mower around the property, testing out how it worked, I started meandering the property. I had gotten bored at the site of my husband doing laps and started looking for the source of the sounds of clucking and mooing. The farmer saw me wandering and showed me down to the barn. I stood at the gate stupidly waving my arms around trying to get the cow to greet me. My conversation with the farmer went something like this:
Farmer: You need to stop flailing your arms around. Cows are timid creatures. You need to try to feed him.
Me: I’m less than half his size, why on earth would he be afraid of me?
Farmer: Well for starters, he is a baby. Secondly, he doesn’t know you.
Me: Well if he is so timid, why such a big fence? Animals that are scared don’t seem like a flight risk.
Farmer: To keep him contained and to keep the thieves out.
Me: Thieves? Why on earth would someone steal a cow? (I am not from the Midwest so this concept seemed preposterous to me.)
Farmer: Because they are worth a lot of money. They can be bred, which is worth a lot of money. They can be slaughtered, which is also worth a lot of money. And his breed is expensive.
At this point I was wracking my brain about the reality of cow theft as a legitimate concern…you don’t see a lot of those living in the proximity of a big city.
Me: Well what do you have him for then? It’s not like he can give you milk.
Farmer: Well to butcher him of course.
I must have given this farmer the most perplexed look at his statement that was clearly so obvious to him. Now mind you, I know that cows are used for consumption, but the gentleman wasn’t a cattle farmer…he merely had one cow in a pen on his property, so I hadn’t really pieced together that the cow was being raised for food. He matched my facial expression and with a chuckle he looked at me and asked, “what, have you never eaten all-natural beef?”
Me: “Sure I have.”
Farmer: “Where did you get it?”
Me: “The grocery store. The package said organic.”
The farmer made a crooked face, turned to walk across the yard, and said, “you aren’t from around here, huh?”
We walked off that day with not only a used mower, but nearly 12lbs worth of all-natural beef from the farmers personal freezer. A few short days later we cooked a package of the beef, and again I found myself perplexed by what was in front of me. The smell of the beef was incredibly potent, the color looked nothing like the store-bought package, and it tasted like no meat I had ever eaten before. It was a pretty astonishing experience. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about my food…and truthfully, I felt like an ass for all the times that I had thought highly of myself for spending the extra money for things labeled ‘organic’ or ‘grass fed.’
I can’t believe I am saying this because my soul food has been a double bacon cheeseburger for as long as I can remember, but I am temporarily going Vegan. I believe that presence and intention in our lives can and should be examined dynamically. In order to really embody our goals, we have to look at how those goals play into every aspect of our life. I am choosing, for 30 days, to practice intention by being more deliberate about what I am consuming, more present in the preparation of my meals, and more conscious about what I am putting in my body. Going temporarily Vegan is my way of approaching an important part of my life (my health) more intentionally, while also trying something new. So far, I am REALLY bad at this. I like my daily dose of cheese. Though I care deeply about animals, the truth is that I fundamentally don’t have a problem with eating meat. I feel firmly that I am part of the food chain, and if other animals consume meat, there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with me consuming meat. My problem (that I didn’t know I had until eating locally sourced, truly fresh meat) is the way our food is handled. The startling differences in the color, smell, taste, and texture of store bought vs. locally sourced meats led my husband and I to really start researching more about how our food is handled and processed, and what we learned was jarring. Our food is not handled with the integrity or respect. Mass produced meats share very little resemblance to meats that come from animals that are treated with integrity and respect, which I didn’t know until I actually had the opportunity to try them. We believe that part of respecting mother nature means to respect all creatures…even those that are consumed. We also learned how damaging factory farming is to the environment, a reality we were incredibly disappointed by as consumers who try to proactively take care of our surrounding. We will be taking this time to think about how we approach this part of our life more thoroughly; we understand the cyclical and codependent nature of all types of industries, cattle farmers included. We really want to take the time to understand everything better. For many reasons, we wanted to give this lifestyle a try. Being more purposeful rather than mindless in our consumption, an act we do every day, can have measurable impacts on the other things we care about in our life.
So dear readers, may this post be a testament to learning new life lessons in the most unexpected of ways, being open to what those lessons can teach you, and to trying new things. May you also find ways to live healthier, happier, and more intentionally. Sayonara cheese, ill see you in 30 days….maybe.
Love and Light,