When I saw the Bompas and Parr event “Kill it, eat it” I was intrigued. “The focus of the event is on drawing attention to a culinary area that is typically veiled with mystery. With most consumers inured to the reality of what raising, culling and preparing animals to eat actually entails”. As an ethical omnivore I try to be as connected, and informed, about the food I eat as possible. This seemed the perfect experience, and challenge (would I be able to do it). I did not grow up in a fishing, farming, or game shooting household. I have never killed anything more than a cockroach. If I am going to eat such things, I feel I should have respect for the creature to know how it is done, in theory, or practice. This knowledge can then inform my decisions.
The impending experience reminded me of the “Kill it, cook it eat it” series on BBC 3 in 2007. A TV studio was placed on the side of a small UK abattoir, with the best standards in animal welfare. Audience members were able to view (via one way glass and cameras), the entire process. From the animal arriving on a truck, to it becoming pieces of meat you might buy in the supermarket, arriving in the studio for a chef to prepare. It was hard hitting, but I felt it was important to know, and come to terms with, how some meat is produced. I was under no illusions that this was best practice, and many animals do not get this humane end (or life).
The Bompas & Parr event was understandably quite different, logistically and practically. Also we were the ones doing the dispatching! Crabs arrive at restaurants across the UK alive (for freshness). They are kept in the fridge (this puts them to sleep) and then brought out when a chef is about to cook them. Crabs used to be dropped into boiling water as the killing method. This is is now understood to be inhumane, it has been proven they suffer.
As is current practice in the UK hospitality industry, we were taught how to firmly, and quickly, push a metal skewer through the underside centre of the crab, into the central nervous system, paralysing it. We then pushed the skewer between its eyes (into its brain) to kill it. The whole process was very fast and simple, but I still felt nervous, and a sense of importance about getting it right. Doing it myself felt very different to just eating crab in a normal restaurant.
Other guests were foodies, a food photographer, architecture professionals and Bompas & Par fans. All were interested in being more connected with their food. Most people had not killed anything other than insects before. For more information on this experimental food duo, check out their website for the wide range of thought provoking interactive events they create.
My personal food philosophy
Has been heavily influenced by the writings of Michael Pollen (food activist and writer) his summation of what he chooses to eat resonates with me.
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”
By “food” he means real food which is as unprocessed as possible. As someone intolerant to artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colourings, flavour enhancers, and sulphates, this is an important factor in my food choices.
“Not too much”. For me this is not too much of one thing. I aim to consume a wide a diversity of food items, seasonal, as local as possible, within the framework of my own personal ethics and values.
“Mostly plants”. For me, I choose to eat vegetarian, or vegan, often, especially when eating outside my home. But when I do choose to eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy I purchase within my own personal ethics and values system. Based on the information I have at the time. If there is limited information then I assume it not suitable for me.
I believe what we eat is highly cultural, personal and emotive topic. I recognise I am privileged to be part of the UK population who have the education, freedom, access to information, and financial luxury, to make informed intentional choices. However not all sources of information are created equal. Be mindful of where you get your information, and cross check facts / research, before changing your purchasing or eating habits. It is terrifying how much media hype, company sponsored research, sudo-science and plain bad science gets reported as fact.
Do Chris (my husband) and I eat the same all the time? No, we are different people with different views, experiences and knowledge. But we do inform each other of new information we discover in our respective networks. Then respect each other’s decisions. Will my eating habits change in the future? Yes certainly, as I learn, new studies are carried out, and the food system we have changes.