Of Meat And Fish


My mother used to say in the course of a week she would serve everything we needed to grow up healthy and happy. Being from Italy, she was a proponent of the Mediterranean diet, though she didn’t know it had a name. She knew we were poor, though.

Basically, Papa grew most of the stuff we ate, like vegetables and fruit, and we had chickens and thus eggs, and Cilli’s dairy farm right down the block.

Life centered around meals, and they were lavish by any standards. Things have changed. They’ve made it so we feel guilty about eating some things, and others things we enjoy can kill us.

This puts Karen in a quandary. She used to be carnivorous, which means a meat eater. She wrote a headline for an ad (for Peter Luger’s Steak House, I think) that read: “So big you need an order of protection!” It featured a picture of a huge Porterhouse steak.

Something had to give, and the first thing to go was the meat.

They wear you down. First, it’s the bacon that kills you. Then, you had to stop eating veal for humanitarian reasons. I didn’t get it at first, until an animal lover explained what happens to them. Then I realized: I have never seen grown-up veal. They kill every one when they are still babies. If any one of us ever wants to live in a world where veal become productive members of our society, now is the time to just say no. Someday, veal will graze in our fields and ride on our buses and be free to live the way other animals we eat live, like cows.

What are cows, exactly? Cows are red meat. And why is red meat bad for us? Because our hearts have trouble digesting it.

Consider the range in our country’s formidable years. Bison rumbling; wild horses and deer, sleek and beautiful, leaping and prancing. Cheetahs, purring one moment, striking with fury a few moments later. Cougars, picking up handsome young men.

And then you have the cows. They stand there, chewing. They are chewing what appears to be themselves.

“Yo. Give me a piece of that bubble gum.”

“I ain’t got no gum. It’s my cud.”



“Give me some.”

No, they don’t they just keep standing there, tail flicking, mouth chewing, awaiting their ultimate destiny on the wrong side of a gun.

Don’t keep feeling sorry for them. They embrace their fate. I asked this guy what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said, “A Kansas City burnt end.” Say goodnight, Gracie.

We ate fish twice a week. I don’t know what, but we always had it on Friday, when the Catholic church decided it was a sin to eat red meat.

Mom would get Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks, meanwhile there would be a bay full of fresh fish right down the block. So I’d get home Friday after a long day of stealing, using god’s name in vain, coveting my neighbor’s wife, and soon my mother would point out we had to eat fish or we’d be committing a sin. I’m thinking, “One more ain’t gonna hurt.”

I leave the head on the fish when I eat it just because it annoys Karen. She lines up the ketchup bottle, the napkins, the wine bottle, the pepper mill, and anything else that obscures the view. Still, the thing stares at her. Let’s face it, fish eyes only come in one model. And they don’t blink, folks. Recently a letter writer to the newspaper referred to fish as “sea kittens.” Cute little sea kittens who want to be our friends.

“No problem. I’ll bring home a salad.”

“Are you nuts?” Karen cried out. “Are you reading what’s going on?”

No, I get it, and I said this all along: You try and keep romaine lettuce down for too long, and it’s going to come back at you. It’s gonna go all veal on you. In this case, we call it Montezuma’s revenge, even though he had nothing to do with it.

That brings us to chicken, which at this moment is the only socially acceptable food we are allowed to have. You can grill it. You can fry it. You can make salad. You can eat the breast, or the wing, or the leg, or the thigh. People eat the gizzard. PLEASE DON’T DO THAT.

Yet we must eat, and eat we must. The trick is to find something politically correct that is good for our body, souls, and minds, easy on our pocketbook, and acceptable to our mates.

Maybe the cow is onto something.

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