Our Colin's losing weight, Mother
This week, The Grasshopper has been thinking about the strange relationship between certain people and their food-pets. Not petfood, you understand. Pets FOR food. We’re talking about those hobby farmers who give over swathes of their erstwhile lovesome gardens (God wot) for hens to terrorise, ducks to dig up, perhaps pigs to wallow in, and more.
For the majority of those who do still eat meat, the presence of edible animals in their midst is like the old (and very non-PC) bar plaque about women and continents. You know, the one that finishes ‘…is like Australia, everybody knows it’s down there but nobody cares’1. There are the farmers and gamekeepers of course, who maintain a healthy indifference to the beasts that are temporarily in their care, if care be the right word. But the smallholders and garden farmers are different. They give animals names. And once named, eating them becomes, well, tricky.
This point was brought home to The G. in a recent conversation with just such a person. His sister in fact. Having just told The G. that the Christmas turkey had just been ordered from the local supermarket, said sister then bemoaned the fact that a fox – or perhaps the neighbour’s ferrets – had been in with her two Buff Orpington ‘boys’. When asked if she’d made a dinner out of them, she replied ‘definitely not’. To which The G. replied:
“Seriously, you should be pragmatic. You think nothing of putting in your Christmas turkey order for an animal whose life was (will be) dull and uneventful, right up to that black swan moment when it realises that humans aren't its friends after all and are actually gonna kill it. It won't even get a shag out of life. On the other hand, your hens had a good life, got lots of shags (presumably) and - although they had an unfortunate end - never died feeling betrayed by you. Is that worth chucking them in the bin? Making them into a fine dinner would be a good way of honouring them, I think.”
Her response: “…your point is well made....however, they had names”.
Roget’s Thesaurus and other sources list banquet, blue plate, board, breakfast, brunch, carryout, chow, collation, cookout, dessert, din-din, dinner, eats, fare, feast, feed, grub, lunch, luncheon, mess, munchies, nosh, picnic, potluck, refection, refreshment, regalement, repast, snack, special, spread, square meal, supper, table and tea as antonyms for meals. Perhaps cycling through these as names might set the right expectations for namer and named alike.
The same is even true of much of the veg. We’ve all heard about kids who don’t know the relationship between their chips and potatoes, but how many of us know where mace and nutmeg come from. Same thing? Really??