A true story about a bird I loved, lamb and produce.
I am remembering a dear cockatiel named “Babe” sat on me or beside me on any available perch she could find, most evenings when I wrote or cooked. She had a habit of trying to remove my glasses and earrings when she landed on my shoulder, much like another dear bird, Minky, a lorikeet in the photo. Before I had my two children, birds were part of my family, and Babe was the baby of the family. One festive holiday when she was about 2 years old, I attempted to cook Cornish Hens. When I thought they ought to be about done, I took them out of the oven and set them on the table. Each of the hens was not much larger than Babe was. I looked over at her where she sat on the back of a wooden chair, and she looked at me. She fluffed her feathers and cocked her head. All at once I knew eating birds was finished for me. It was over 30 years ago. Some call it compassion. I had a deeply emotional reaction that couldn’t be undone.
Paul McCartney tells a story in his new promotion of vegetarian diet for once a week, about lambs. He is working on “Meatless Monday” for school children, to promote reduction in meat eating and variety in the diet. For him, becoming vegetarian was a change he made after watching lambs run around in a field on a day when he was eating, yes, leg of lamb. 30 years ago he changed and has been vegetarian ever since. If you have ever caught yourself eating a relative of an animal you adore at the same precise moment, you’ll know what he means. Unsettling for sure.
Walking home around Union Square on Farmers Market days, I feast my eyes on beauties like these radishes, garlic, peaches and plums among other lovely herbs, fruits and vegetables. I can’t count the number of times friends and relatives have felt sorry for me when I turn down a meat dish. People ask, “I’m so sorry, what do you eat?” When I was young, I would be obnoxious and say, “Everything but cows, lambs, pigs, birds and fish.” Giving up meat rules out 5 kinds of things, but the varieties of fruits and vegetables and grains seems endless, and wonderful.
In the fictional story “Rain Dream” in my short story collection “Death and the Dream” a young scientist examines a tank full of lobsters in a restaurant, while drinking and waiting for her meal. Compassion, yes, and maybe even an obsessive attention. If you have a look, let me know what you think.
Have you ever felt your stomach turn, while eating in front of animals?