This Labor Day weekend, I embarked on a kind of labor pretty unfamiliar to myself – the kind that makes my biceps ache as I type this. And it’s not that my arms are particularly weak. It’s that I’ve spent the last couple of days in the Keys with Andrew, waking up at sunrise to set out on the Amante and fish our hearts out for tuna, mahi, and anything else (legal!) that these beautiful blue seas will offer us.
Let me tell you, these fish look smaller and weaker than they actually are. It’s a Herculean task to try and reel them into the boat… but I guess they’re fighting hard enough against the line and pull that it makes sense how difficult it is.
Okay, vegans and vegetarians, fair warning—you probably won’t like these next paragraphs; continue at your own risk. I remember being in Costa Rica and freaking out when I saw Macho, our field station’s farm hand, slaughtering our chickens to prepare for the next day’s meal. Pop, pop, pop, he just took their heads right off, a vaguely pleasant smile still decorating his face – an emblem of his bulletproof cheerfulness. At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to stomach the arroz con pollo on my plate the next day, knowing I had been running around with the squawking chicks the day before. My attempt to become more connected to the sources of meat and fish in my diet had blown up in my face, instead turning me off completely to eating chicken for the last month or so that I was abroad.
However, this weekend sort of reversed that. I still can’t hold a fish without it flopping out of my hands and me flipping out, but when we cut up the fish we caught and cleaned it, Andrew brought out a plate of some of the tuna I had caught with a bit of soy sauce on it and it was the best sushi I have ever tasted in my life. Sure, it’s probably because it doesn’t get any fresher than that, but this time there was a sense of pride and relish in eating something I had furiously fought with all my strength to catch instead of the disgust and wretchedness I felt toward eating chicken in Costa Rica.
Being connected to and cognizant of the source, cleaning and capturing methods of the meat and fish in your diet can provide you with a more holistic awareness of what you put in your body- and make you deeply connect with every morsel that crosses your lips. It can also make you sprint in the other direction and adopt vegetarianism/veganism overnight. It can put you somewhere in the middle. But whatever the outcome, I think it’s of paramount importance for us to cultivate a greater connection to what’s on our plate, in our cup, and sliding down into our stomachs (sorry for the visual). The food-comes-from-grocery-aisles mentality needs to disintegrate in American minds.