Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Appearance v. Reality



As you can see, my dog Oli loves the woods behind our house. But a few months back he chased a cat into those same woods only to return with blood spurting from his paw. It turned out that he had cut an artery, and I'm grateful that we live so close to the vet as a thirty pound dog only has so much blood to lose.

At the vet, they put a tourniquet on his leg and knocked him out so that they could tie off the artery and stitch him up. When they removed the sutures a few weeks later, the wound re-opened and we had to return to have it stapled shut. As you can imagine, none of this was much fun for me, my dog or the vet, despite the vast sums of money they earned in the process.

The cut appeared to have been caused by a piece of broken glass. Oli and I traipse through those woods almost every day, and since he was only injured once, I decided it was a fluke. We now stay away from the vicinity of where he was hurt, and I thought that meant we'd be safe. Until yesterday, when virtually the same thing happened in an entirely different part of the woods. He didn't get the artery this time, but it was a terrible cut nonetheless and certainly worse than any I've ever had. If you don't believe me, there are plenty of bloody paw prints still in the snow.



There was another rush to the vet, and now he's lying beside me with a bright blue splint on his left hind leg. As my friend and fellow cook Chris said, "If he's going to be running up bills like that, he'd better get himself a job."

If you're wondering why I'm writing about this on a food (and tea) blog, here's the tie-in. Whoever threw that bottle into the woods may have thought that their action had no recourse, but years later it would cause great suffering and financial loss. Hmm, what other aspect of our lives does that sound like? How about.... food! Our effect on the world based on the kind of food we eat is just as direct a relationship as bottle-tosser to pup.



The woods behind my house are gorgeous, but if you look hard enough you'll find that they're in fact full of broken glass and rusty metal from years of irresponsible dumping. Same with that gorgeous steak on your dinner plate. It might appear perfect in every way, with a rich marbling, juicy pink center and salty crust. But unless that steak was sustainably raised (pastured, local, humanely slaughtered, etc.), you have to learn to associate it with the pesticide, synthetic fertilizer, petroleum, antibiotics, and cruelty that went into it. Even if it looks fine.

Do the woods in the photo above look dangerous? Perhaps a little foreboding in a Hansel and Gretel kind of way, but dangerous, no. Yet they are, as is that steak (or tofu, for that matter, depending on how and where it was created). Instead of not seeing the forest for the trees, I've been not seeing the broken glass for the forest. But we're not going back there anymore, unless I get Oli some Muttlucks.

Just like Oli's accidents, that beautiful looking, planet destroying steak is another reminder of the lesson our high school English teachers tried so hard to drill into our Stone Temple Pilots-addled brains: appearance versus reality.

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9 comments:

Amanda said...

You're such a good photographer!!

Karen said...

poor oli! hope he feels better soon...

Jon Lee said...

OMG. Dood. You've become an awesome writer. A big old leap from dog paw to food sustainability. I can't wait when you get your own food column.

Bravo.

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