The Eat with Care blog
Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)
Stocking stuffers for meat lovers
There’s a scene in the 1951 film of “A Christmas Carol” in which Tiny Tim daydreams about the Christmas goose that will soon be roasted by his bustling mother in the cramped kitchen of their gritty 1840s London home. (The Cratchits got the biggest goose of all, thanks to Scrooge’s eventual generosity.) This was back when meat was a treat and holidays were a reason to prepare the plumpest, most perfect pigs or poultry. Talk about revering the animal! It was the centerpiece of revelry and tableside discussion.
Today, you may not give your sweetie or your mother a goose as a holiday present, but there are other gifts that would delight the people in your life who make it a point to eat local, sustainable and/or humanely raised meat.
Here are a few randomly selected ideas – by no means an exhaustive list of meat-oriented gifts, just things that struck me this morning as nice things to give (or get!)
The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, by Shannon Hayes (Eating Fresh Publications, 2004)– A meat cookbook that focuses on pasture-raised animals, because they’re special (i.e., they often require different preparation methods). Cook everything from teriyaki short ribs to orange pork shoulder roast to curried goat! Shannon Hayes peppers her book with farmer interviews and personal reflections.
All About Braising and All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens (Norton, 2004 and 2011) — And she means all… These comprehensive books get down to the grit of cooking meat via braising (using moist heat) and roasting (using dry heat), with numerous sidebars on topics such as trimming, carving, and shopping. Winter in Vermont will be bearable for me this year because one of my cold-weather projects is to dive deep into these impressive tomes.
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon (NewTrends Publishing, 2005) — A friend recently saw this book in my kitchen and said, “Oh, you cook that way… so do I!” This is because Sally Fallon has a philosophy: that the animal fats, dairy products, and fermented foods eaten over eons by earlier humans can greatly nourish our modern bodies. This classic book helps you cook a lot of basics — like stock and sauerkraut.
The Compassionate Carnivore, by Catherine Friend (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2009) — This chatty, pleasant book weaves reflections and tips on humane meat eating with farming experiences of the author, who raises sheep for meat in Minnesota. It provides a good introduction to topics that most consumers will stumble on when researching humanely raised meat.
Righteous Porkchop, by Nicolette Hahn Niman (William Morrow, 2010) — A memoir and call to action by a former environmental lawyer who crusaded against factory farms and is now the wife of sustainable rancher Bill Niman (who started the Niman Ranch line of meats). The book is at its best when revealing the underbelly of the factory farms that Hahn Niman visited in her activist days.
The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery (Ballantine Books, 2006) — A must-read for any pig lover you know. A New Hampshire author raises a very large pig at her rural home, and he becomes the talk of the town and beloved by many — especially those he runs into whenever he escapes. (Humaneitarian’s 2012 intern reviewed the book here.)
A good meat thermometer would be appreciated by any carnivorous cook. There are electronic ones, instant-read ones, ones that have timers, ones that keep you from having to open the oven… you get the picture. I am not enough of an expert to recommend one, so search around or ask cooks you know.
If you can, poke around the kitchen of the person you’re buying a present for and see if they have necessary items for cooking meat well, like a roasting pan, a Dutch oven, proper skillets, knives, etc. Even though these sound like basics, some people (like yours truly) have gotten away with cooking meat for many years without proper kitchen bling.
A CSA share — What a precious and unusual gift this would be! Buy a CSA “meat share” from a local farm (CSA stands for “community supported agriculture) and your partner, friend, or family member will receive a certain amount of farm-fresh meat over a certain period of time. (Here’s Side Hill Farmers in upstate New York, a great CSA example.) Some CSA’s make deliveries, others have pick-up sites; some give you whatever they have “in stock,” others allow you to choose what you want. (Note: I’d suggest simply telling your giftee that you’re going to buy a share for them, then find out what kind of meat and delivery system they’d prefer.)
Mail-order meat — A number of medium to large farms that raise grass-fed, pastured, free-range, or certified organic animals are getting into the mail order business. This is good news for folks who live in places where you can only find factory farmed meat in stores. Humaneitarian will soon have a page on alternative buying methods; for now, check out Tendergrass Farms and Grayson Natural Farms as examples of meat-by-mail operations. You can search for others and see if they sell gift certificates.
Got other gift ideas for humaneitarians in your life? Tell me and I’ll mention them here.