Fetching Tomatoes

Slices of green tomatoes dredged in cornmeal and fried in bacon grease. They are slightly tart and incredibly addictive. I believe I could eat two or three pounds by myself; of course, I would later pay the price for such gluttony with abdominal pain. But it would be worth it. Alas, I will not eat two or three pounds by myself. I will eat a fraction of that volume. I will share, because that is what one does. One shares one’s bounty. It is the right thing to do.

At the moment, there are no green tomatoes in the house. Before long, though, I will drive to the Ponce de Leon Center parking lot and will retrieve the two pounds I paid for yesterday. I had planned on buying green bell peppers, purple bell peppers, bok choi, and Napa cabbage, as well, but Ouachita Hills Farm, the supplier, was sold out. So, I have to be satisfied with green tomatoes. And I will be satisfied. More or less. I will want more than I eat, but I will appreciate what I have.

Except for my passion for meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, I think I could be a vegan. I’m certain I could be a vegetarian…except for, as I mentioned, my passion for animal-based products. I have mixed feelings about eating animal products. On the one hand, killing animals for food is unnecessary. On the other, I think it is natural, much like it is natural for other animal predators to stalk and kill their prey.

You’ll notice I said “other animal predators,” thereby suggesting (rather strongly) that humans are predators, too. Indeed we are. We are predatory by nature. Our predation is not limited to killing and eating other animals, either. We prey upon other humans. Not for food, but to feed our ego, our innate greed, our desire for superiority, and our lust for power. I suggested our predation on humans is not for food. That may be true as a generalization, but it is not a universal truth. If one believes Wikipedia, humans are among a rather large throng of cannibals. I quote:

“Cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well documented, both in ancient and in recent times.”

Human cannibalism stuns us. When we hear of it, we tell stories and write books about it, documenting our dismay over behaviors we find both repulsive and, in an odd and macabre way, attractive. Think of the whaleship Essex, whose crew members resorted to cannibalism after the ship was sunk after being attacked by a sperm whale. The experience inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. How many books and films and campfire tales have been spun as a result of the Donner Party‘s  tragic westward migration? And the 1972 tragedy of Flight 571 of the Uruguayan Air Force that crashed in the Andes; the dwindling number of survivors resorted to eating the bodies of the dead in order to survive. One of the first books to be written about the tragedy, Vivir O Morir, was published the following year.

Humans’ relationship with food is one of both necessity and gluttony. We both tolerate and treasure the act of eating. Food is merely fuel, but it can take on an almost spiritual aura. What other fuel can do that? Gasoline? Kerosene? Coal? Electricity? No, food is alone in its unique ability to both feed us and fuel our frenzied admiration. An admiration like the one I have for fried green tomatoes.

But I won’t get away quite that easily; not after having stumbled across thoughts of cannibalism. I have a hard time imagining myself slaughtering a goat or a cow or a pig. The idea of butchering the animal once it has been killed is slightly easier to picture in my mind. Preparing and cooking the meat is quite easy to imagine. I could go back a step and imagine eating it raw, when given the right “cuts.” In fact, I’ve eaten plenty of raw beef and raw seafood. But would I, could I, eat human flesh? I suspect, in exceedingly trying circumstances, I could, especially if the other option was starvation. But would I be as concerned about how to prepare the flesh as I am when considering beef or pork or chicken? I rather doubt it. I would probably try to force my mind to be elsewhere while I stoked the fuel I needed to survive.

I wonder whether, after being forced to consume human flesh for the sake of survival, a person might develop a taste for it? How long would it take for a person to get over the initial revulsion and, ultimately, begin to look forward to it? Revolting idea, on the one hand, but a matter of extreme curiosity, on the other. I’m not prepared to find out, of course, but I might write a fictionalized account of a group of people who, stranded in an unreachable place over a period of years, gradually take up cannibalism as a celebration of the lives of dead members of their tribe. At some point, a member of the group takes the first slippery step down the steep slope by deciding not to wait until a member dies. Is it murder or simply preparation of a meal?

My mind wanders, of course, to character names. What can we make of it when the parents of a newborn decided to call their new son Protein? Do their other children, Harissa and Cinammon, suspect the folks are preparing for an elaborate meal that will be prepared at their children’s expense?

I think I’ll stick to veggies for now. And I’m cutting down on my consumption of meat. So cannibalism is off the table, so to speak. And it’s time for me to don daytime clothes so I can go fetch my precious green tomatoes. My, aren’t those tomatoes fetching? Yes, I believe they are fetching tomatoes. And I will be doing the same. Fetching tomatoes.

About John Swinburn

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