I am not a human indifferent to ethical issues, and over the past year, I have been thinking about my relationship with food and eating meat.
And while it may seem funny to serve this reflection thinking up with a steaming, vegetarian carrot soup, I’m going to tell you what I think.
The omnivore’s dilemma
I was born in Emilia-Romagna, an Italian region where pigs became many delicious dishes.
I like tortellini and Sunday roast. I can’t resist a fragrant slice of mortadella or Parma ham that melts in my mouth. I also think that eating all the ingredients is necessary for my work as a food writer (here, I write about a home cook who writes about food).
For the planet, I might become a vegetarian. But before I throw away flavors of home, traditions, and, ultimately, memories, I decided to look into the theme, however broad, complex, and, like all things in life, not without contradictions.
You won’t find the truth here.
Only some reflections I have developed over the last year by reading essays, books, and research by Italian and foreign authors; by interviewing farmer friends. And questioning vegetarian and vegan friends about lifestyle and food habits.
A vegetarian world
A vegetarian world needs every free inch of land to become a field for cultivation. Agriculture is intensive and supported by pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds. Products have to ship all over the world.
A vegetarian world endangers meadows and pastures (which, in effect, become useless because farmyard and barn animals, producing only costs, are no longer bred).
In a vegetarian world, biodiversity suffers. The farmers choose modified seeds instead of old and local varieties. Pesticides are -already- responsible for the pollution of land, air, and water resources. And the death of birds, small rodents, and bees.
Talking to a farmer, I highlighted a contradiction. Grain, rodents, small foxes, and other animals end up in the combine. The food industry prepares food for vegetarians from that identical grain. Is not knowing enough to be innocent?
It reminded me of another nonsense generated by not knowing.
A steak from a local pig, raised properly and which travels only a few kilometers to get to my table, has less impact on the planet than an avocado which consumes resources and travels around the world before arriving at the greengrocer’s counter.
A vegetarian world has many shadows.
That is why I have decided not to accept social conditioning produced in good faith by some and, with other aims, by the large multinationals and companies that make ready-made food for vegetarians and vegans. The battle against meat is a strategic market action to replace previous habits.
When home cooking was planet-friendly, and agriculture respected animals and natural cycles.
Home cooking, a model to restore
In the past, the home cook was a skilled orchestra director who created ensembles not of sounds but flavors. The foods on the table changed with the seasons. The preciousness of ingredients and the complexity of the preparations make the difference. Rich and complex dishes were for Sunday or festive tables.
It is the table I see in my memories.
For example, meat was a precious ingredient. So, I remember the Sunday roast for lunch and the stews for the Sunday dinner. But on the daily table, I remember all the vegetables cooked in so many different ways. Soups, pasta sauces, casseroles, soufflé, sides. I didn’t eat meat every day.
The home cook of the 1970s, as my grandmother, had more knowledge and fresh and local ingredients. For the home cook, meal preparation was a daily challenge to her imagination and ability to renew established repertoires.
Over the decades, we have lost our links with the countryside. So we have forgotten the origins of our food and the knowledge about wild herbs, flowers, ingredients in general, and how to use them. As well, of course, as the memory of many home recipes and their infinite variations.
I look at this table with renewed interest.
Saffron carrot soup
The word soup comes from the archaic Italian word suppa, which means soggy bread.
So don’t forget the croutons, which you can add to the soup pot or bring to the table separately (I prefer the second version).
Otherwise, this soup is tasty beyond expectations and has a beautiful, naturally bright color, thanks to the saffron.
It is a quick and easy recipe and, as is often my style, economical too.
The precious ingredient in this dish is saffron, which you will need to use in abundance to give the soup a strong character.
If you have read this far, thank you.
Buona cucina, Monica
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by M. Pollan inspired the title and many reflections of this post. If you want to read some of it to get an idea, I suggest you start from here.
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Saffron carrot soup recipe
List of the Ingredients
Put the saffron in a cup with a bit of hot water and set it aside.
Wash and finely chop the onion.
Peel and chop the potatoes.
Clean and chop the carrots.
In a high-sided pan, brown the onion with a bit of oil and butter over a low flame.
When the onion is translucent, add the potatoes, stir and add the carrots (keeping about a third to one side).
Pour in half of the stock. Add a little salt and bring to the boil, lower the heat, add the water with the saffron pistils, stir and continue to cook for about 12 minutes.
When the vegetables are soft, cream them with a hand blender.
Taste and add salt if necessary. Pour in the rest of the stock, stir to incorporate into the cream of vegetables, add the carrots you have set aside and return the pan to medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
Serve the soup hot with bread croutons and Parmesan cheese on the side.