Friday, May 01, 2020

Where's the beef? Why, in my freezer

I am by no means a vegetarian.

In fact, there's nothing I'd like better right this very moment than biting into a nice, juicy hamburger. And if I really wanted one, and was willing to eat it on an English muffin rather than a hamburger roll, I could pull a packaged of neatly wrapped and labeled ground beef out of my freezer, nuke defrost it, and cook myself up a nice, juicy hamburger.

What's so novel about this it that, while I am by no means a vegetarian, I'm mostly an in-house vegetarian. Protein-schmotein. I get mine for chick peas, kidney beans, peanut butter. I might have the odd chicken best languishing in my freezer, or a package of bacon. But that would be about it. 

Meat I have when I go out to eat which, back in the day when people actually used to - get this - eat in restaurants, I did once or twice a week.

But that was then, and this is now, and like most people - I'm taking a wild-ass guess here - I've been doing a bit of panic buying.

First it was toilet paper and paper towels. When I realized I had only a dozen rolls of TP on hand, I scoured every store within walking distance. At store #7, which happened to be a Walgreens, I scored a 9-pack of the Walgreens house brand. Not that I've used it, but when this is all over, it will be part of my security "pantry". Fortunately, the TP crisis has passed, but just in case, when I spotted Scott at the CVS the other day - where it is now in plentiful supply - I bought a 12-back.

On the way out of the store, a young woman asked where I'd found it. I happily pointed towards the back aisles. "Thank God!" she shouted, taking off pell-mell. On my walk home, an older woman spied the toilet paper peeping out of my tote bag. "Where'd you get the toilet paper?" CVS, I told her. She was carrying a CVS bag, and she looked puzzled. So I realized she was coming from the tiny little CVS on the corner, not the good sized one in the plaza with the Whole Foods. I told her where to find it, and assured her that it appeared to be in full stock.

While I was there, I also nabbed a 6-pack of Bounty paper towels. So now I have two-dozen rolls of the quicker picker upper. 

Knowing this is quite comforting.

The reason I was out the other morning was for a meat run.

Why, you might ask, would someone who doesn't eat that much meat need to be making a meat run?

The answer in my case is two-fold.

The only person I see socially these days is my also single-and-lives-alone brother. So we get together for dinner once a week at my place while otherwise living in isolation. 

My brother is a meat and potatoes man -  no surprise for someone who grew up in the meat and potatoes environment begotten by having a German mother and an Irish father. Other than fish on Friday, the dinner table motto might as well have been Meat and Potatoes "R" Us. So when I'm cooking for him, there'll be meat involved. (Tonight: pork chops, potatoes, green beans, and homemade applesauce.)

The other reason was pure panic setting in when I read about how the pandemic is endangering the meat supply chain, thanks to all those horrific meat-processing plants that are advanced COVID-19 zones.

I tell myself that the upscale, Bell & Evans chicken I buy, the grass-fed beef, is not coming from those nasty meat factories. That the animal products I eat sit around in Barcaloungers eating sprouts until they voluntarily decide to get decapitated and gutted, at which point, a kindly older chicken or cow escorts them to their doom, assuring them that a grateful nation of meat eaters thanks them for their sacrifice. (Convince me I'm wrong here.)

Anyway, the truth is that if I really thought about it, I'd probably become a full-time vegetarian.

But first, I'll need to cook my way through the meat that is currently stuffing my freezer.

I must have 10 pounds of chicken breasts in there, and nearly that much in ground beef. (For whatever reason, I never think to buy steak, which is something I will occasionally eat out, but never in.) I have pork chops. A couple of packs of bacon. And - God knows what I was thinking - a couple of slabs of ham steaks, which I guess I'll serve up at some point with cole slaw (my mother's most excellent recipe) and pineapple-raisin sauce (which always accompanied ham at my house growing up, and that of my Aunt Margaret, the only other place I ever ate it). Oh, and just in case the seafood supply is endangered, I have a giant bag of frozen scallops. 

A part of this supply was purchased just the other day. I had to make room in the freezer by removing the two loaves of Irish soda bread that had been earmarked for my sister Kath and my cousin Barbara. (Sorry, ladies, I will bake some more when the clouds lift.) And I had to take out an orange-chocolate pound cake. (I always make a few extra at Christmas, as they freeze well and make a nice hostess gift.)

So I have the meats - for now.

Wonder what the next panic buy will be...

Meanwhile, even with my meat-stuffed freezer, I'd happily forego meat for a while if we could improve the lot of workers toiling in the meat industry. Take a look at our overall industrial food supply system to improve conditions throughout. Shut these plants down until a safer environment can be guaranteed and/or double or triple worker pay for the duration and beyond. Get cracking on better meat subsitutes. We may not have wet markets like China, but when your read about our food system, well, it's all pretty scary. 

Now, I must away to cook those pork chops.

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