“The problem with kids these days is they don’t know where their food comes from. If you don’t know your McDonald’s burger is a slaughtered cow, you don’t deserve to eat it.”
Dad grew up on a beef farm. Dad’s a hunter. Dad knows how to kill, and therefore dad knows how to eat. He knows where his food comes from.
Once, I was talking in school and I asked a bunch of friends at the lunch table if they knew where their food comes from. “I don’t want to think about it,” said one friend. A few friends looked sickly at their meatloaf. “It’s animal muscle, that’s all. Those cows we pass on the way to school, they just chop them up. Meat is bloody. That’s all.” They looked at me in horror.
I guess they didn’t deserve to eat it. And they didn’t really want to sit with me at lunch anymore, either. You are what you eat, but they eat lies. They numbly buy food from the store, don’t ask questions, and tell themselves it’s a burger, not a cow. They don’t even know where their food comes from, never planted a seed, never shot a gun or drawn an arrow. They eat lies. They live lies. They are lies.
My dad isn’t a lie. My dad is pure truth. But people hate truth, because truth is only beautiful if you can make poetry from ugly things.
Sometimes truth hits you when you’re at peace and don’t expect it. I remember skipping through the woods one autumn day and coming across my dad. He was bent over the fire pit. A small flame was starting in the middle of the stone ring. He was crouched with a pile of feathers. I came up behind him and asked what he was doing. “Turning the kill into cordon bleu,” he said, holding up a pheasant from that morning’s hunt. I blinked. I hadn’t realized mom didn’t cook with chicken. Now it made sense. We don’t hunt chickens. If only my friends knew they’d eaten venison tacos last week…
I wanted to continue walking through the woods, to see the wildlife that is easier to see in the fall when the leaves are down and the food is disappearing. But something kept me tied to the fire pit. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. I had to watch as dad picked up a pheasant, slightly warm because it had died only an hour before. He opened its wings in his hands. It was beautiful and helpless. He took a wing in each hand. He pulled. It tore. It sounded like a bed sheet tearing. I didn’t know bodies could tear.
I watched my dad tear a bird in half.
I backed away slowly as he threw the useless scraps into the fire, to keep the dogs from rooting through the trash. It wasn’t even the sight, it was the sound. I hadn’t thought death could have so many sounds.
That night, mom cooked up a plate of dad’s truth. My cordon bleu had never tasted better.