Raw carcasses more palatable than Philistine chefWhile browsing my mother’s cookbooks the other day, it was refreshing to find an alternative to the typical encyclopedic tomes and glossy self-promoting drivel by celebrity chefs.
“Simple Food for the Good Life,” is a compilation of vegetarian recipes using raw, unprocessed foods. But it goes beyond being just a cookbook, offering philosophical views on food, written in the style of an intellectual’s journal.
The author, Helen Nearing, lived with her husband Scott, a peace activist, on a run-down farm in Vermont. The couple lived what Ms. Nearing describes in the book as “the art of the simple life,” which seems to mean following one’s conscience and being environmentally friendly.
An entire chapter of the book is spent criticizing meat consumption in contemporary society, while offering extensive ethical, medical and emotional reasons about why one should become a vegetarian.
The writing is quite powerful ― when I first discovered the book four years ago (shortly after its publication in Korea) I was discouraged from eating meat for several months after reading the section on animal slaughter. And I’ll never forget Ms. Nearing’s description of meat as “an aged carcass.”
However, when I came across the book again recently, my reaction was more tempered.
In parts of the book, Ms. Nearing goes overboard, even making an aesthetic argument for being a vegetarian. Quoting a poem by Walter de la Mare, she hopes to evoke a visceral distaste for the men who prepare meat: “I can't bear a Butcher, I can't abide his meat. The ugliest shop of all is his, the ugliest in the street.”
At this point I thought, “Who has the right to make a moral judgement about others’ tastes? Why should anyone have to defend their dietary choices?”
Further on in the chapter, Ms. Nearing asks, “If eating meat is so natural, why wouldn’t someone eat raw dead flesh?”
That was where I took offense.
I know she lives on a remote farm, but hasn’t Ms. Nearing ever heard or sushi or steak tartare? Over here in the Far East, there are perfectly civilized office workers who munch down writhing octopus tentacles and raw beef (known as yukhoe).
A philosopher I can stomach, but a culturally insensitive chef? Never.
How to Cook
Yukhoe (Steak tartare)
Ingredients (for 1 serving): 300g of ground sirloin, 1 pear, 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic, 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a dash of crushed pine nuts and black pepper.
1. In a bowl, place finely ground beef.
2. Add soy sauce, garlic, sugar, sesame oil and pepper. Mix with the beef.
3. Slice the pear into long, thin strands. Spread them around a plate.
4. On top of the pears, gently place the seasoned meat in a ball shape.
5. Put an egg yolk on top. Sprinkle crushed pine nuts on top and serve.
by Park Soo-mee