Saturday, February 16, 2008


I watched the movie "Fast Food Nation" last night.

I can't speak to its accuracy, but it definitely paints the act of stopping into McDonald's to grab a burger as something to feel guilty about. The film is a work of fiction – not a documentary – but it uses realistic and graphic footage of a meatpacking factory where the cattle are crammed in, electrocuted to death, and then sliced, diced, and shredded into burger patties as rapidly as possible by wage-desperate illegal immigrants.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed the movie, but it definitely gave me something to think about.

In contrast, I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon at Howell helping to saw down a dead tree among a grove of Sugar Maples. When it wouldn't come down despite being cut almost all the way through (the top of the tree was tangled up and held aloft by other neighboring trees), I helped yoke a team of oxen – Chris and Jake – who were employed to pull down the tree by means of a long rope. When it finally came crashing down, the oxen then dragged the trunk back to the farmyard, where I trust it will serve its last purpose as firewood.

At the risk of sounding sentimental:

One of the things I've enjoyed most about my visits to Howell Farm so far is that every act is intimate. Need breakfast? Fry an egg from the henhouse. Need firewood? Harvest a dead tree and then get to work sawing. Fertilizer for the fields? Put on your boots and start shoveling. I don't think any animals get slaughtered for meat at Howell, but if they did, it would be an intimate affair, and the people who ate that animal would know where their burger came from. Somehow I think that makes a big difference between it feeling right and it feeling wrong.


Dani said...

Hey, Jared,

The last paragraph of your post got me thinking. Among people in our generation, it's hip to DIY. If I knew how to kill, pluck, and cook a chicken, I'd think I was hot stuff. Growing my own herbs earns me some points on the authetic-o-meter as well. I don't think I'm the only one guilty of this.

And you're right, these choices do make our relationship with the bare necessities of life more intimate and meaningful.

But sometimes I wonder if glorifying these tasks is a luxury. I think about my grandmother, who CAN grow her own food and find edible mushrooms in the forest and wring a tom turkey's neck and gut a hog and can her own raspberries. For most of these things, she doesn't see the point in doing it herself when you can get the same result for cheaper at the Sharp Shopper.

I don't think either generation is quite right about the whole thing, but I do like running the juxtaposition in my head. Maybe something to think about the next time you are sterilizing maple syrup equipment.

About the Blogger said...

Along these same thought lines, there was an article in Wired magazine this month (March 2008) entitled "Take Up Thy Tools" that I found very interesting. Page 64.

I encourage you to go to your local mega-bookstore and check it out.

Anonymous said...

just watched Fast Food Nation, it's impactful to say the least... earlier today i passed up a sausage mcmuffin because of it. Evidently it is worth passing up fast food for more than health reasons.