Monday, September 29, 2008

Living with fear...

Recently on the TVA's e-newsletter, another story appeared, this time from Australia, about cruelty inflicted on farm animals. Quite often when I see these stories, my thoughts drift back to a passage in Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking. You might be wondering what is the connection between war time atrocities and factory-farm cruelties, but I see a direct correlation.

In the attached link (click on the title to ready full story), animal activists posed as workers in an Australian meat processing plant. An employee was observed "viciously beating pigs with a metal rod while shouting to one of the PETA spies: "I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!"

Chang's book talks a lot about how Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated by their commanders into thinking that the Chinese were no worthier than "pigs". Attacking the citizens of Nanking, the Japanese soldiers, on their wild orgies of raping and killing, gave no more thought than one would when butchering farm animals. I wish I had the book at hand so that I could quote the passage, but if you are curious I would recommend this historical work (although of a ghastly nature, I could not put it down....Chang's story of Nanking will stay with you long after the last page is read).

Another recent story appeared about the U.S. military using live pigs in their training. I am assuming that pigs physiologically are similar to humans, hence make good 'live' target practice. The military also claimed that they were studying the damage to the animal for medical reasons.

I have often thought that to work on an assembly line in a meat processing plant, one, must of necessity, become quite numb (even if said person, entering the doors, possessed only a grain of sensibility). Also helpful if you want to kill without interference from a conscience, is a complete shift in thinking or attitude. The object becomes a 'thing' to be despised and reviled. In turn to rid yourself of the stomach-churning revulsion you must annihilate the object. Is this how it worked for a young, poor and probably hungry soldier in Japan back in the invasion of China, or continues to work in other parts of our world today?

In my view, it matters not whether we are talking pigs or people...the tendency of the strong to dominate the weak ('dominion over') is everywhere and very close at hand. The propaganda never changes - strip the enemy (be it a chicken or a person) of any identity, at the very least any similarities between you and them. You can then go out and do your job and sleep at night.

I wonder if this really works...could I be indoctrinated so readily given the right conditions?
Makes me afraid. Very afraid.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seitan (A Meat 'Analog')

My son was inquiring the other day about making seitan (pronounced say-tan). Seitan is a low calorie, high protein wheat gluten of which you make a dough to simmer in a broth; it can then be used in a variety of ways (sliced, chunked, ground) . Tubs of the flour are available at Fortino's in the organic section, Bulk Barn, Goodness Me and the Horn of Plenty. There are packaged, prepared setian products sold at Goodness Me and Horn of Plenty, but they are expensive for the portion size. Making your own seitan is very inexpensive and fairly quick.

As the adjective 'analog' implies, seitan has similar properties to traditional meat in dishes. It can be used in a stew (Affinity serves a mouth-watering stew with seitan chunks), ground up for chilli's or spaghetti.

Should you be looking for a meat substitute, try the following recipes.

First step is to make the Gluten dough:

1 cup of instant gluten flour
1 cup of water
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Add water to gluten flour and salt.
Using your hands, mix quickly to avoid the flour clumping.
Knead gently into a flat dough of about 2" thick.
Steam or boil dough for 30 minutes
for making into Seitan by following the recipe that follows.

Making Seitan:
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 chopped onion and 5 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger and thyme
2-4 cups of water or vegetable stock
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

Heat both oils in a pan, saute the onions, garlic, ginger and thyme
until onion is tender. Add the water, tamari and gluten.
Bring mixture slowly to boil and simmer over a very low heat
for about 45 minutes. After the seitan is ready, any broth that
didn't get absorbed may be thickened with arrowroot, cornstarch
or flour as a gravy to serve over the seitan.

(For other recipes and information about Seitan, click on the post TITLE to be connected to a site devoted to Seitan or 'kofu' as it is also known.)