A Short Life Considered

Let me suggest to you that, one day when no one else is around, you take the process of cooking in a slightly different direction. My suggestion is that you do this when you are preparing to make a shrimp dish, but you can do it with almost any ingredient that once moved of its own volition.  I’ll assume you’re using shrimp.

If the shrimp is frozen, thaw it. If it is headless, imagine it with a head. If it lacks a shell imagine it with its carapace intact. Try to put yourself in the shrimp’s place; not as it is now, but as it was before it was harvested as food. Consider the scope of the world in which that shrimp lived. Think of the salt water environment in which it lived. Understand that, very probably, the shrimp was not sentient in the same sense that you and I are, but that it was aware of its surroundings. Look around at the flora and fauna on and near the sea floor.  Pay attention to the sea grasses dancing in the currents; follow their gyrations in response to moving water and to the turbulence caused by tails and fins as they drift by.

Snap to the present. Look at the carcass before you. Consider that it once was a tiny, almost microscopic creature, then its mother gave birth to it, and then it matured in a protected environment until it was able to make its way in its watery world. That dead shrimp you are about to process into food spent its entire short life oblivious to your hunger. It was oblivious to your very existence. Suddenly, though, it was harvested. And here it is before you. It has no memories of sea grasses swishing in the undersea breezes. It has no recollection of its search for food.  This corpse no longer feels pain nor hunger nor fear nor whatever else shrimp experience.

You wonder why that brief life, lived in a place you cannot hope to understand, came to an abrupt end. You look down at that shrimp before you and you wish you could express in a way it could understand how much you appreciate and admire what it has done and will do for you.  You cannot bring yourself to look in the mirror, for there will be eyes looking back at you, questioning what you are thinking. You dare not say.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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