Monday, March 17, 2008

Little Slaughterhouse in the Big Woods

I am so very excited! I have moved beyond reading the torturous Scooby Doo books to reading chapter books to my youngest goober. A couple years ago I bought the entire set of Little House on the Prairie books, which were a huge favorite of mine when I was growing up. I am a total sucker for pioneer frontier stories. And I tried to get Evan into it, but he never got past the first book, Little House in the Big Woods which I paid him a dollar to read, thinking that maybe he would be drawn in enough to keep going on his own.

I’ve been reading chapters aloud to Luka, and I’ve been so thrilled that he’s interested. After the first night that I read the first chapter, though, I was shocked to see him crying. He was upset over the graphic descriptions of Pa hunting and slaughtering a pig. I just couldn’t believe it. Evan never showed any animal-eating sensitivity whatsoever. When Evan went to daycare when he was about three years old, I would supply the caregiver with meat alternatives, but I told her that it was okay to give him the meat version if that’s what the other kids were eating and if that was what he wanted. We talked about how the meat came from animals, and Evan was fine with it. He was all, “I don’t care.” I cook vegetarian, for the most part, but I’ve always felt the boys need to make their own decisions about being a vegetarian or not.

I told L that if he was that upset than maybe he should stop eating meat, and he told me that he tried not to think about where the meat came from when he was eating it. I've heard people say things like that before, and I guess I find it kind of odd. We talked about how, during the Little House times, that their survival depended on killing animals, they made use out of the entire animal, but that we don’t have to do that now.

So the goober has been looking worried when I’m reading and appear to be heading towards a hunting scene. He was enormously relieved during the part that describes where Pa decided to spare the lives of the animals that he’s watching instead of shooting them. Now, it’s going to be interesting to see if he eats any more meat.


chachele said...

just more proof that luka is the sweetest child on earth (with a face to match). *my* son recently read the first in the little house series as assigned by his teacher as part of a plan to read one classic a month on top of other books. eli said, "as far as i can tell, "classic" is code for boring." i think he wants more meat-eating or violence or something. can we trade children just for one weekend or something...? luka and played such a nice game of izzy and he really liked it.

Zoe the Wonder Dog said...

Virtually assured that my boy will be the one to try out meat first. The girl child is a bit afraid of the whole idea of meat and I think she likes the status that comes from being "unusual" among her peers.

Despite her unease at the source of meat and her general sensitivity, she is a fanatic about the Little House books and seems to have no queasiness about the hunting, slaughtering, death of pets, and various tragedies that show up in the books. She is a funny mix of bravada and timidness.

biscodo said...

"I try not to think about where it comes from". I mean - do people really have to try to not think about it? I don't eat much meat, but that has more to do with how often I cook and shop. But I do eat it. And as I chew, I don't think about the slaughterhouse any more than I think about the rice farmers or cupcake bakery sweatshop workers.

Thinking about the dirt that the carrots grew in, or the feces that the mushrooms grew on, or the bloody neck stump of the carcass just doesn't factor much into meal-time. What would be the point, other than some sort of guilt ethos?

If the thought of the bloody neck stump is too much for the digestion, then just don't eat the meat. People rationalizing their actions ("I deserve this cookie", etc.) while at the same time guilting themselves about it is silly. Just be who you are.

Ypsipearl said...

I think that consumers should be responsible for what they're doing, in general. If you're eating meat you could be eating meat from a factory farm with heinous practices, that grind up the meat and spread it all over the place, or it could be from a small farm where the animal can graze. You're supporting the source of your consumption, whether it's meat or labor or environmental practices or whatever. The idea isn't to guilt yourself out but to be aware of the choices you're making. Mister. But do whatever you want, that's just me!

biscodo said...

I don't disagree, but there's a limit.

I purposely buy cage-free eggs because I feel that, if an animal is bred/raised for the purpose of getting killed and eaten, the very least that can be done is to let it go for a walk every now and then. I don't eat veal for the same reason. But there's a limit to how far I'll go. More to the point: I make those choices because there are options available and within reach.

Sure, local foods make more sense on a number of levels. But I'm not going to cut rice out of my diet. (there's little-to-no rice production in the US, compared to other countries)

I could spend all my time searching down sources for this or that and double-checking truth-in-advertising about USDA Organic filings, or who the actual farmer is, or whatever. But there are other things to do, and I guess I'm just ok with where I'm at right now.

Stacey said...

Of course you're okay. You're already an overthinker. You're the last person I would think would take anything at face value.

I'm not promoting unlimited agonizing and guilt-tripping. There's no point in that. Here's an example, though. An uncle once criticized organic food, saying that chemical residue has been found on some so what's the point. Well, yes, you can grow organically and still have pesticide residue on transitional soil, or you can have dioxins floating around settling on crops. But to say what's the point, well the point is that you're eliminating the skanky production of the pesticides that could have been used and it's an easy enough thing to do, to at least make the least toxic choice, when there's so many other things that are uncontrollable. I don't even think it occurred to him to think about it that way. Who knows, maybe he didn't even care but there's nothing I can do about that right? It's just the way I think and I'm trying to pass it on to my kids.

So I was using the example of animal slaughter to talk to my kid about connecting the dots between how his choice to eat meat supports something that obviously upset him. What he does with that remains to be seen.

Ypsipearl said...

One more thing about food guilt. I can't stand it when food is marketed as "guilt-free". That implies I "should" feel guilty if I'm eating full-fat brands or whatever the "free" part is referring to. Don't put emotional labels on my food, it pisses me off. Just the facts, please.

Andre said...

When I was reading those books to Solstice, the other thing that stood oput was the constant depiction of the Natives as brutal, blood-thirsty savages. I'm not surprised that LIW saw them that way, but it was tricky to navigate that issue w/ Solstice when she was 5.

Ypsipearl said...

We're just coming up on that stuff. There's been some rumblings about the "wild men" and how Ma doesn't like Indians. I thought it was a good one, though, when Laura asked why they were going into Indian country if they didn't like Indians so I'm sure I'll be referring to that along the way.

Those pioneers just weren't politically correct, were they? They were all into manifest destiny and shit.

Daye said...

Lou is a poet with a an ancient soul. (and he sure looked like he enjoyed the meatballs the other night)

& I am the person who searches for grass fed beef (Bob Sparrow) and only gets kosher chicken. Kirk Coleman is rapidly becoming a new bff.

And I had the same reaction to Mrs. Wilder's works as Andre. I adored the books as child and was beyond eager to share them w/my kids. The boyz were (no surprise-- far more into Tolkien so I had high hopes for Peanut to love Laura and hate Nellie as much as me. But when we got into Ma's fear of the "savages" and her meek following of Pa (why the hell did she leave civilization? he must have been HUNG!) I lost so much faith.