Suddenly it’s like the couple Spring-like weeks we had never happened. The northeast hit with a major blizzard, the Moosehead Lake region of Maine accumulated over three feet of snow. It was almost spiritual – for three days and three nights we woke up and went to bed with it still snowing. The temperature hovering around thirty two degrees, the snow wet, the sun warm. And it all happened just before the pig roast.
We had the idea weeks before – We should have a pig roast for the end of season party! None of us had ever roasted a pig before, but one of our cooks is from Southern Louisiana, so I didn’t hesitate to put my trust in her. Barbecuing is like, they’re thing, right? We ordered a sixty pound pig from the local Maple Hill Farm, who had it dressed upon pickup. Finn, our maintenance guy, fashioned an adjustable post with a rotating skewer.
Then when the snow hit, I had doubts whether it would work. How could we properly cook a pig with three feet of snow on the ground and it actively snowing? But my team pulled through.
On the morning of the party, Taylor was outside at 7 AM digging out the fire pit. By 10:30 the fire was roaring hot and the pig was ready for the rotisserie. I sat by the fire for almost the whole six hours. The snow was wet, but the fire was so hot it kept my clothes dry. Anyone standing close enough could see the steam evaporate off their clothes. The high walls – about four feet or so – kept the area well insulated. It was overall a good time.
I have been vegan for over a year now. Obviously the pig roast was an exception. I recently spent hours marinating on veganism, trying to figure out how I felt about the whole pig roast thing. It did not make me want to eat meat again. Down with each chunk of pork went a tinge of guilt. I had many friends and family, after they saw pictures, ask what happened to my veganism. I’m still vegan and care very much about sticking to a plant based diet, but I’d also like to point out the difference between commercial meat and locally farmed meat. It is a totally different experience – eye opening – to watch a whole animal get cooked in front of you, knowing the day before it had been alive. This is how meat is supposed to be enjoyed. Rarely, locally, and with respect. Not wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam on a brightly lit shelf, with no idea where it came from. And if you did know you’d be disgusted by the treatment and condition of the animal you’re about to consume with zero regard to its life.
When I was nineteen I was on a trail crew in Colorado. One night, camping on a lake, a group of fisherman gifted us freshly caught trout. I had never deboned a fish myself. It really grossed me out, seeing it’s eyeballs and cutting the belly open. I couldn’t do it. I made someone else do it. A girl on my crew rolled her eyes at me and said, “You don’t deserve to eat meat if you’re not willing to kill it yourself.”
At the time I thought that was kind of rude. She was older than me, twenty-four, and opinionated. She was also right. I’ve learned since then the value of her words and respected her ability to be blunt. There are several reasons I gave up animal products four years later, but I can trace back to a single moment when I finally decided, okay that’s it. Last year I was watching a documentary about plant based diets on Netflix, I forget which one. At one point a vegetable farmer came on screen – white hair, tan face – and said, “You can’t call yourself an environmentalist if you eat meat.”
That was it. I realized how hypocritical (and arrogant?) I had been all these years to call myself green – an environmentalist, even – and still eat meat. I was never an environmentalist, I was just ignorant. But I wanted that to change. So I quit animal products. Hopefully this is just the start of a lifetime of learning to simplify, to scale down, to reverse consumer habits, to sustain, to choose earth first.
Not even environmental organizations choose earth first. I’ve decided that from now on my response to anyone declaring from atop their moral high horse, “That’s bad for the environment” will be “You’re bad for the environment.” What is usually a childish retort is suddenly literal. You as a human are terrible for the environment.
With all that said, I still believe that if you can raise and kill your own meat, or if you buy from a local farmer for special occasions, then that is a sustainable way to eat meat. Of course, if you’re a vegan who believes killing animals is wrong, then you’ll disagree anyway. However, humans have been eating animals since the beginning of time, and there are still indigenous communities in places like Latin America and Southeast Asia that eat meat and are far more earth-friendly than any American will ever be, even vegan Americans, because they connect to the earth on levels that American culture could never fathom. They are suffering the affects of climate change the heaviest, with unbearable heat, rising waters, melting glaciers, droughts, and floods. When the time comes the earth makes a final, irreversible push back, they will be the first defeated, which to me is the sickest, most evil irony of the human race. That those who cared the most about the earth, and who did nothing wrong, will be the first dead, and it will be our fault: America and every other power-saturated country who cared more about getting rich by earth-stripping industrial farming techniques and poisoning it’s people with excessive foul meat products (among a thousand other crimes) than taking care of the earth. Is that why we call her Mother Earth? (Note: veganism=feminism) Because we take and take and suck and steal and abuse and never give back until she’s near death, and then we show up at the funeral and wish we could take it all back, but it’s too late?
Everyone should read Eaarth by Bill Mckibben.
For basic info read this NY Times article, annoyingly categorized under “Unexpected Reads,” because it should not be unexpected. This should be common knowledge. Fact.
After thought: Everyone in our society is talking about becoming “woke.” Usually in reference to race or gender politics. But what about waking up to the earth? I mean, what’s even the point of being woke on any other matter if in a century or two the human race will be extinct?
***These opinions are my own and do not represent AMC***