Mike started deer-hunting regularly with his dad in the fall of 2004 (2005?). If I remember correctly, during that first year, he killed a spike-buck, and during the second year, he killed a doe and then a buck that were running together.
At some point, Mike’s yearly accounts of killing, gutting, and processing deer converged with our deliberation on the nature of wealth and our studies of the ancient world. I myself had never killed an animal and prepared it for food. I had no connection with such a familiar human experience.
I was standing in the kitchen—either prepping dinner or washing dishes, I can’t remember—and thinking about waiting for a deer to take its last breath. I had no idea how I would feel in that moment. It struck me as a very odd realization, not so much that I did not know what it was like to kill an animal for food, but that I could possibly live an existence where I could consume so much meat and have absolutely no idea what it meant for an animal to be void of life to serve that purpose.
My routine of consuming meat was devoid of any connection with life. When I went to the grocery store, the one-pound serving on a Styrofoam tray hardly evoked any association to the animal that had been killed for my benefit. I had no reaction, no awareness of its breath or warmth or blinking eyes. Buying meat was no different than buying a glossy, red apple. It was simply another processed food—pink, shiny, and clean.
Additionally, by this point, around two years had passed since I’d met Susan and her family. While they no longer lived next door, I had not stopped reflecting on the ultra-wealthy economic standing of Americans in the world, past and present, even for those in the lower income brackets, where Mike and I found ourselves. It struck me that our routine of eating meat every day was just another indication of how deeply we took that wealth for granted; it seems that only the most privileged people have had access to eating meat every day as the center of every meal.
In our detachment from producing food and our cultural habit of eating meat on a daily basis, I was seeing a stark discontinuity with the most common experiences in human existence. As we have continued to become more critical of 21st Century American assumptions about life, we have recognized the problematic nature of our cultural disconnection with obtaining and preparing food. Our decision to eat less meat became one practical expression where our shifts in thinking began to converge. And I will save that discussion for my next entry.