Ramen, yakitori, wagyu beef, and pork tonkatsu — all are foods considered emblematic of modern Japanese cuisine and yet all are dishes which are considered relatively recent additions to the Nihon diet. Rewind more than one hundred and fifty years and a Japanese person would be hard pressed to identify any of those foods as Japanese. That is because for centuries the meals on this archipelago were almost entirely plant-based, a diet driven primarily by Buddhist notions of reincarnation and the belief of all life to be sacred. Add to this notion the indigenous Shinto principles that held eating animal flesh to be unclean and domestic animals like cattle prized for their value as draught animals rather than as sources of meat and you have the recipe for a primarily vegetarian cuisine.
(continued)…Today, one would have little trouble ordering a steak dinner or buying milk at the store anywhere in Japan. The past 150 years of Western interaction have transformed a nation where meat-eating was once forbidden into the source of such prized delicacies as Kobe beef and tonkotsu ramen. This dramatic change has helped make Japan into a global culinary destination and its now meat-based cuisine has earned Japan more Michelin stars than any other country, an award that itself was created for and is awarded by Western palates. Thanks to its continuing international fame, modern Japanese food is ever changing and stands as a continually evolving testament to the impacts of globalization, militarization, and trade have on the ways which we eat.
(continued)...Thinking about it now, I realize a great deal of what he cooked for me was nearly devoid of fresh food, and very light on actual cooking. I remember my father loving potatoes O’Brien, but the Ore-Ida variety, frozen in a bag. Occasionally, he would make a hamburger soup with canned peas and a stock made from instant bouillon cubes. Most of what he cooked involved merely opening a package or reheating in a toaster oven. I have no idea whether he had impressive knife skills because I don’t remember him ever slicing anything beyond the crust off my sandwiches.
The typical dinners were frozen. My favorites were Kid Cuisine or Marie Callender's, reminiscent of mess hall trays, with their individual compartments containing freezer-burned chocolate brownies or mushy corn kernels soaked in melted margarine. If I was sick, he’d nurse my cold with packets of ramen, or Nissin cup noodles, with bits of rehydrated carrots floating about. My vitamins came from chewable Flintstones or glasses of Hi-C. Strawberry and lime Jell-O counted toward my fruit intake.
(continued)...The artificial meat industry wants to redefine "meat" as nothing more than a proprietary mix of proteins, amino acids, flavors, and colorings, without acknowledging that meat should also contain emotion and respect. They're creating replicas of animal protein by way of creative molecular composition. Companies are spending tremendous amounts of money, research, and energy innovating ways to synthesize the entire sensory experience of meat (taste, sound, sight, and smell), and to make it as realistic as possible. Millions of dollars are being invested in an effort to monetize our appetites.
Considering the chemistry involved in making them, are flesh substitutes even healthy? The risks to our health associated with eating meat are better attributed to the sheer quantity of meat we consume every day, rather than blaming meat to be a kind of carcinogen. A "plant-based" burger sounds nutritious, but remember that Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meats are at their core ultra-processed junk foods. There are 21 ingredients in an Impossible Burger and 18 in a Beyond Meat patty. These include things like methylcellulose, which aids in refrigeration and emulsification, but is also used as a laxative; mixed tocopherols, a preservative; and cultured dextrose, another preservative, but one that quickly spikes blood sugar levels. These foods are less like a salad, and more like a Pringle.
(continued)...More now than ever, media makes us witness to how arrogance and agriculture do not mix. A pompous farmer is a dangerous farmer. Rather, humility creates a cautious farmer, a respectful farmer. The killing of our animals has instilled in me the constant reminder that there are forces at work greater than any defense or plan I can conceive. The potential death of any life we cultivate, whether animal or vegetable, is part of the game. Sad as it may be whenever we discover any of our animals dead, it is also most humbling. In fact, these tragedies provide me with a renewed sense of humility that, despite all the despair involved, I’m thankful for. I hope that similar positive lessons can be found should Nature ever plague your own flocks.
From Meatpaper issue twelve
(continued)...The death of the food we eat is ultimately what sustains us. And while some may choose to look the other way, I want to feel the responsibility and the emotion and say "Yes, it is my fault that this animal died." Because to claim otherwise is a lie.