This is the fifth day in a row I’ve eaten the same lunch: a salad of lettuce, spinach, cheese, and ham.
Wait a minute! HAM?! EnviroBecca is a pescatarian (eats no meat except occasional fish) for environmental and health reasons–ham should not be in her lunchbag, especially not five days in a row!
Hang on. I can explain.
My Girl Scout troop provided bag lunches for the final meal of last weekend’s camp with two other troops. The menu included several sandwich ingredients so that each girl could choose what she wanted in her sandwich, and one of these ingredients was ham. Since I don’t normally buy lunchmeat, my only means of deciding how much to buy was the number of servings listed in the Nutrition Facts on the package: We had 37 people attending camp, and the Costco package of ham said it contained 21 servings, so that sounded about right, since a substantial fraction of girls would choose peanut butter instead.
That was way too much ham. I was packing other components into the lunches, not involved in the sandwich-making, so I’m not sure if the girls making sandwiches were really stingy with the ham or there just weren’t very many people who requested ham. At any rate, we had more than a pound of ham left over.
Left holding a surplus of a food I wouldn’t normally eat, I have three choices:
- Throw it away.
- Give it to a person of lesser (or at least different) scruples.
- Eat it.
Throwing it away really clashes with my values: I hate to waste anything, and the most important reason I don’t eat meat is its inefficiency–feeding an animal to make meat uses much more grain and water than if people eat the grain and drink the water ourselves–so wasting meat is particularly wasteful. From an animal-rights perspective, throwing away meat just compounds the insult to the animals who died. Although I believe people should not be eating pigs, once a chunk of dead pig has been procured, it ought to be used.
I made some effort to give away the ham to other leaders and did unload some of it, but I still brought home almost one pound.
There are some meats I would not eat. The safety risks of ground meat (particularly after sitting at room temperature in the car for nearly two hours while I navigated a detour to get us home) are too much for me. Other meats I just didn’t like very much even when I ate meat routinely, and I can’t choke them down now: lamb, rabbit, pot roast, or anything stewed in brown gravy.
But I like ham. It’s something I’ve willingly given up because of the above efficiency issue, because of the horrors of pig excrement contaminating our land and water, and because the nitrites used to turn pork into ham cause cancer. All of those are problems of scale, issues that become big problems because people eat too much ham and similar foods. A little ham will not hurt me or destroy the world.
I can’t even recall when I last tasted ham. Our SoyLent diary mentions that, after giving up meat for Lent in 2002, I didn’t care to eat ham on Easter; had I eaten any since then? I’m not sure. It’s every bit as delicious as I remember, yet I haven’t really missed it. And I’d forgotten how slimy it is–when I first reached into the package, I thought it had gone bad, but that’s just how it is, slick and gooey with pig fat. The messiness of preparation is another reason we quit eating meat. Preparing this salad each morning has gooeyed up a plate, a knife, a fork, and my fingers in addition to the container in which I transport and eat my salad.
Yum. Ham. Free ham! (Well, one can argue that I earned it with my many hours helping the Girl Scouts sell cookies to earn the money that financed this camping weekend among other things. But it seems free because it wasn’t bought with my grocery budget!) I’m enjoying every mouthful. I’m eating it every day because I want to finish it while it’s still good–the use-by date was yesterday. I’m on a big ham binge!
But that doesn’t mean ham will be a regular part of my diet ever again. I’ll eat ham only to prevent it from being wasted. It’s tasty, but there are a lot of tasty foods, you know? Actually, I kind of wish I had some honey-baked lentils right now….