Food for Thought

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So since coming to Georgia I’ve become really conscious about food. I’ve always loved food and it’s an important part of my life (if you met my dad you’d understand why) so it’s interesting for me to observe these new thoughts as I go.

I’ve never been one for meat, never liked it and have always been way too attached to any fluffy animals to be happy eating them. That being said, I come from a meat and two veg family and was never allowed to be Vegetarian when growing up, since my parents were worried I’d become malnourished (baked beans weren’t persuasive enough unfortunately).

I’m forever worrying about making sure I and the people around me are eating properly. Moving to London in 2013 was my first experience of living alone and therefore cooking for myself, which I enjoyed although London restaurants were always more tempting.

So in Georgia, where restaurants are in abundance but mainly consist of meat, meat dumplings, barbecued meat and really mayonaise-y salads, I can’t say I’m so tempted. I love cooking, even more so when I cooked for a loved one. I’ve got a good opportunity here to experiment with new dishes and to get creative since some ingredients are very hard to find here compared to in the UK, but are generally natural and seasonal.

One little thing before I continue, despite the rich land and multi-cultural life of Georgia, since it’s situated between Europe, the Middle East and Asia and therefore has an over-spill of all of them, people can be painfully narrow-minded when it comes to food. No matter how much I love a dish, I can’t just eat it every day. Here, people tend to cook up batches of various dishes to be eaten cold throughout the week which drives me crazy.

I’m so thankful that I’m in a relationship with an open-minded guy. Last night his friends dropped by spontaneously when I’d just finished preparing dinner and they hated everything. Black bread instead of shotis puri, pasta with a homemade sauce, baked potato wedges, fresh salad, and fried fish for Shota. Simple stuff but they complained throughout and at one point even laughed at the fact there was only fish at the table. Now Shota has said to me that he’s starting to dislike meat too, so he’s happy with what I cook, but I was surprised – how rude!

Anyway, before I start ranting, the main thing I wanted to talk about is meat production here. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but this video which a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week spurred me on (be warned, it’s not pretty but there’s no images of carcasses or anything like that. It is sad though).

The photo above is of my neighbours’ pigs, just opposite our living room window and next to our garden. When I first arrived here I grew quite attached to the one I always saw hopping merrily around a plum tree, only to wake up one morning to the blood-curdling squeals as they slaughtered him for mtsvadi. I ran to the kitchen and blocked my ears, shedding a tear for my little friend.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a pig get slaughtered, and I doubt it will be the last. My first ever trip to Georgia in December 2014 included visiting a village in Kakheti where we stayed with Shota’s sister’s family and enjoyed her beautiful house and garden, full of homegrown veg and fruits. I woke up to a beautiful sunny but crisp winter’s day and joined Shota and his nephews kicking a ball around in the garden before breakfast. This charming scene was interrupted by a loud, pained squeal which I initially thought was a child until I caught on, and Shota gave me a cautious look as I realised. It was a harsh wake-up to reality in a Georgian village (and Georgia in general) but I wouldn’t say it prepared me enough for the pig’s head I accidentally kicked in the butchers the next day!

While this devastates me, I’m conflicted. Of course I would love if we all became Vegan and saved the planet etc etc but realistically, that’s not gonna happen on a large scale any time soon. Even more so in non-Western cultures where meat is the staple of any dish and they’ll happily eat if for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So, atleast I would want the animals to be treated well, which is what I’m seeing here in Georgia. That’s not to say there won’t be huge depressing factories like in that video, but generally everyone has their own livestock or atleast meat from the bazaar which has been brought in to Tbilisi fresh that morning.

The road into Tbilisi from the villages is usually lined with cars selling various chunks of meat from their boots. I don’t have a photo to show you, and generally don’t have photos of meat here because it makes me queasy.

The supermarkets are much more reliant on factories but the average Georgian won’t buy meat and dairy from them. They know the difference in quality and would rather slaughter the animal themselves than buy a chemical-pumped carcass from Fresco.

The animals are happy though, they have space, good food, fresh air, their own garden to play in… It’s all perfect except the killing part. If we’re talking about pigs, they usually cut their throats, halal-style (even though they’re not halal/kosher, but I think the impact of Muslims and Jews here over time has influenced this) which takes time and leads to a slow and painful death for the pig, usually held down by several men. They’re strong and intelligent animals – it shouldn’t be that way!

I don’t know the details of this kind of thing but surely a stun-gun would be better for everyone? But they have their traditions I suppose, and they’re never very keen to hear about people opposing them or trying to advise them.

This hasn’t been a coherent post and, just to summarise, I appreciate the quality of life animals generally have here since it’s much more healthy and natural, but if only they could have a little more empathy and hygiene…

What are your thoughts on this subject? Am I being too precious?

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22 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. Ompong says:

    In some countries or cultures, dogs, cats, snakes, bats, squirrels, rabbits, maggots, caterpillars, frogs, and other creatures not usually served on plates are eaten. Some are eaten cooked while some are eaten alive. The problem, I think, is the brutality behind the slaughter of meat stock. I saw a video where chickens are still alive while dipped in boiling water because their necks sometimes are not cleanly cut. I think the video came from PETA.

    The world’s cuisine is really diverse. Some may be considered taboo… Just my thoughts… 🙂

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      I don’t even want to think about the boiling water thing… But the reminder of how diverse this world is is most definitely welcome! You’re right, it does just boil (agh!) down to the standard of life and how cruel the slaughter is.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. transforminglifenow says:

    As a former meat-eating vegan, I have to say that I can’t wait until more people give up meat. That being said, as far as I know, there is no “nice” way to kill animals. If you can stomach it, you can check out the stun-gun way of killing on you tube. It’s really no better than any other way of doing it. I’m so glad to hear that you are concerned about mostly eating a plant-based diet. Good for you! Maybe others will catch on, too. 🙂

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      I definitely can’t stomach that! I think everyone is different and it will be unlikely that a plant-based diet will be dominant but I can atleast make it so for myself (: How do you find it, being Vegan?

      Like

      • transforminglifenow says:

        I love being vegan. It can sometimes be difficult when ordering in a restaurant, but I can get a meal made without cheese. Haven’t had a problem yet. I’ve been having fun finding new veggies and fruits to try. Not to mention grains and beans. Just you yourself have made a difference eating more plant-based foods. So, good for you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet says:

    You cannot help how you feel toward these things. Unfortunately if it were not for meat I would eat very little as I am not a massive veggie fan but I appreciate it is each to their own. I don’t like the idea of killing animals but I would struggle to eat if they didn’t. I have said before and say agin, I am so glad I can go to waitress and it is all dealt with prior to my collection.
    No need for gore….
    Oh, and I love pigs….!

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      It’s so interesting to hear different perspectives about this topic, I guess it’s always going to be controversial! Exactly, if it’s absolute minimal gore and cruelty as possible then it’s better, and of course standard of living… Me too, pigs are adorable!

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  4. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso says:

    I think it’s very individual, but most people would find it very difficult to live on a vegan diet. I’ve met quite a few vegans who after years of not eating meat started eating it once a week, because they felt they physically needed it. On the other hand, there are others who do well without it for many years.

    The dilemma is always there, no doubt, but we also have to remember that animals, including pigs, kill each other for food. It’s not a pretty sight either. We also tend to ignore the fact that farming also kills lots of animals – it’s impossible to raise anything without harming living creatures.

    I do agree it’s important to make sure the animal was raised well, and I’m all for quick and as less painful killing methods as possible. I was once in an Ostrich farm, where they use stun-gun and it was indeed a better solution.

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  5. awtytravels says:

    My grandmother was born in poverty, in a family of shepherd where she was the only one to have a job ‘in the city’, a job as weaver in a textile mill. For them meat was precious, a treasured source of proteins and much-needed calories. Ox was there only for Christmas, or similarly important events, chicken when someone was sick or on Sundays. They had animals in the households, animals with whom they literally lived, for in winters the cows went in the houses with the men. But, still they ate them.

    At the end of the day it’s biology, food chain. Eating meat, in my humble opinion, is necessary. Our teeth are the teeth of omnivores, not of herbivores. We cannot digest fibres, we don’t have two stomachs like cows do. We are, in a nutshell, designed to eat everything, including animals. It’s in our DNA, it’s what we’ve done ever since Lucy walked out of Tanzania.

    Slaughtering animals is not pleasant, especially pigs (you have to draw the blood out of them, for otherwise it’ll spoil their meat), but it’s something that has been going on for ages and that we can – and must – work to make as swift and painless as possible.

    So, should we all become vegans? Hell, no. I wouldn’t want my sons to become vegans, unless they were adults. Should we value meat as something special, to integrate our diet and not to become something to be had day in day out? Yes.

    As for the folks who complained about the food, well, I’d have directed them to the next take away!

    Like

    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Thank you for such an interesting comment!

      It’s eye-opening to hear what you think, I agree completely that meat should be something special to be had rather than daily since it’s unrealistic that the general population would become Vegan or Veggie. More should be done to make it quick, and more importantly for the standard of living to be better before they’re slaughtered. I think that’s what gets me, it’s awful and the quality of meat would be even worse so I can’t fathom why horrible factories and farms exist. (Of course money but still). I dunno, I think the mentality appreciating meat as something to have on certain occasions would solve this issue, since the demand wouldn’t be so high but the quality of the meat should be better instead. Good idea!

      Liked by 1 person

      • awtytravels says:

        Well, I sort of adopted this view after a series of events, starting from lessons learned in the family, a brilliant episode of ‘Horizon’ I saw on the Beeb iPlayer on a plane (it showed how much, in terms of input, is needed to grow a kg of meat – various meats – as output) and a chat with our oncologist one day. She mentioned that there is a very large American sturdy (also mentioned by Horizon) positively correlating heavy meat consumption, especially cured meats, with particular – and nasty – cancers. Still, a study is a study and can be absolutely wrong, but it made me think.

        Ever since that I made a point of eating little meat: chicken once a week (it’s the cheapest to raise and in the UK, at the end of the day, I can’t find tasty meat so what the hell) and beef or pork every month or so, with the occasional rabbit thrown in. By the way, why do people look at me like a serial killer when I go to the butcher’s and order a couple of rabbit legs? Is it a UK thing?

        Fabrizio

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      • itstartedinoxford says:

        I’ve heard similar things regarding cancers too, quite scary! I’ve been thinking about what you said and it’s really logical actually, I don’t see why that can’t be a reality for most people since, of course not many people enjoy a completely meat-free diet.

        That sounds fair, I can only imagine how much of a difference it’d make to the environment if everyone adopted that lifestyle! I think they find it weird because barely anyone eats rabbit, if they do it might be at a restaurant rather than from the local butchers. Also ordering just the legs will seem to most like the worst part of the rabbit too! I dunno, I’ve tried most game like rabbit, pheasants and venison thanks to my dad (I hated all of it but that’s another thing) and could never get past the idea that they’re all such adorable animals. Do people tend to have pet rabbits too in Italy or not really?

        I’m fascinated by your impression of the UK as an Italian with these little cultural differences… Or not so little. You must find Brits ridiculous!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. vacationmode says:

    How cute are those pigs! I had a similar “wake-up” call visiting family in the Philippines – with a pig I’d naively befriended, thinking it was a family pet :-/. I’m certainly no authority on the most humane animal slaughter technique and try to respect everyone’s personal choice with their diet/lifestyle, but I love the point you make about these animals having happy lives. It’s great that they can enjoy fresh air, fresh feed, and open spaces. I see this in many parts of of the world (including for my little Filipino friend) except where I live. I’m American and the factory farm system here is just abhorrent. Great post!

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Sorry to hear about your little friend! I’d love to have a pig as a pet here but I’d be worried someone else will slaughter him… I completely agree, I imagine it’s quite similar to Georgia and I think this is definitely an area where richer countries are much, much worse. I guess it’s all money though rather than quality for both the humans and the animals!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Saana / Always Abroad says:

    I share very similar view on meat with you. I was, however, raised by a vegetarian mom and a meat-eating dad, but mom has always been the one to cook, so perhaps she has subconsciously pushed us towards vegetarianism for a bit. Anyway, I just don’t really like meat. I find the treatment of farm animals absolutely devastating – like you said, pigs are incredibly smart animals. It is wrong that we only see them as walking chunks of food. I’ve had some ridiculous conversations about halal and kosher with those who support them, them claiming that the meat is better and that the way of killing painless. Umm, if anything, it has been shown that pigs who are played music before death have more relaxed muscles and therefore softer meat. I quite doubt that the throat cutting method (including minutes of the animal screaming while hanging up from the back legs waiting for the blood to flow out) has anything to do with a “better quality of meat”. It, however, has a lot to do with people being sick.

    Sorry for the rant haha!! I just cannot tolerate animals being treated badly 😦 Biologist out -–> 😀

    Ps. Stumbled upon your blog just now, looks great!

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    • itstartedinoxford says:

      Rant all you like! I completely agree. I don’t feel like I know enough about the different processes etc (I can’t bring myself to research it) but what you’re saying about the quality of the meat : quality of life makes perfect sense to me.

      Wonderful that you’re a biologist! I’d love to hear more. Thank you so much, I’m just scrolling through yours now – oh how I want to visit Naples!

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      • Saana / Always Abroad says:

        I know what you mean, researching this kind of stuff is never enjoyable. I cannot really even watch any food production documentaries either!

        Naples is an amazing city, really recommend a visit if you’ve never been 🙂 and sure, ask anything you like! I’m always glad to help with biology related stuff 🙂

        Like

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