My 10-year-old daughter has been grappling with her “rules of food,” as I’ve come to call it. Last year, she came to me and declared, “I’m a vegetarian.”
That lasted until she discovered that bacon and hamburgers were meat. This was then converted to “I’m not eating any animal that we raise!” Recently, it became “Mama, I don’t eat anything that I saw when it was a baby.” And then, “Mama, people shouldn’t eat animals that they kill.”
OK, so she’s 10, and after some probing questions, she revised that one to “OK, then only for people who are poor. They can eat what they hunt, but not rich people.”
All of these declarations have been met with, “Hmmm.” and perhaps, “Well, what do you think about ” She’s recognizing the dichotomy of her manifestos, and yet hasn’t yet come to terms with the unavoidable fact that “if I eat meat, an animal must die.”
In some ways, vegetarians have it easier because the line drawn in the sand is clear and unmuddied by how an animal was raised, what it ate, how did it leave this earth, and so on. That is until, of course, you get the vegetarian who says, “Well, I don’t eat meat, but I eat chicken and fish.” Hmmm.
It was easy when food came wrapped, sterile and very distant from its origin. But when a pig’s head (not for the feint of heart, to be sure) is boiling on the stove to make head cheese and stock, it’s much harder to avoid the glaring truth. While she wants to eat meat, she doesn’t want an animal to suffer and while she wants to raise animals, she doesn’t want to be a part of ending their lives.
This is true for many of us, and the more one knows about animal husbandry, the less that knowledge can be ignored or denied and therefore the more it must inform the choices we make when we purchase our food. If one chooses to eat meat, then I’d suggest that this choice might also come with a responsibility and a respect for the animal that provides us nourishment.
CHILI-RUBBED POT ROAST AND BROWN ONION RELISH
This pot roast can be served hot or cold as a potluck or buffet brunch dish. The small amount of cinnamon in this rub goes well with the other spices, and will meld into the meat rather than be a distinguishable flavor.
3-4 pounds chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
3 medium onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 heads garlic, excess skin removed and top 1/8 cut off
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Combine salt, pepper and spices in a small bowl. Rub the roast two hours ahead of time or overnight. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the roast on all sides, about 10 minutes.
Add the onions to the pot and saute until they also begin to brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red wine and broth, and cover. Transfer to oven and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the onions are a very deep brown, the liquid is nearly entirely reduced and the meat is very tender.
Carefully transfer the meat to a cutting board. If you still have liquid in the bottom of the pan, return it to the stove top and reduce until the onions are more of a paste. To the pan of onions, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to taste. Spoon relish into small serving bowl.
At this point, you could do one of two things. Either slice and serve hot immediate with other terrific sides, or cool and slice for sandwiches or a buffet situation with the mustard and chutney.
BRIGHT GREEN KALE WITH CRANBERRIES AND WALNUTS
In an attempt to insert one more vegetable into my diet per day, I’ve taken to serving two, maybe three at dinner. While I want more greens, I’m also yearning for a little protein to go with it.
1 pound kale, about one bunch
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
De-stem the bunch of kale and rip into more manageable 2-inch pieces. Wash in cold water and drain. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, remove the pan from the heat and add the kale. Be careful, as it will splatter.
Turn with tongs and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue turning occasionally until the kale is wilted but still very bright green. Taste a leaf to be sure that it’s cooked enough that its not too “toothy,” about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, and sprinkle with cranberries and walnuts.
Serves 4 to 6.
Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]