I was at a birthday party last night, which took place in an apartment that overlooked much of the Barcelona’s Northeast from a stunningly large balcony. I had spent what probably amounts to the most pathetic week in a long time, hunched up behind my computer at up to three different libraries a day, typing away on my Bachelor thesis. Which is coming along nicely, thanks for asking.
After such a week, the social interaction at the birthday party was a refreshing incident, particularly because I got to broaden my knowledge about foreign countries. In Panama, I learned, it is possible to buy chicks (as in little chickens) on the street. Every kid, as it was pointed out, obviously wants one and then bugs the parents until they give in, buying the child a small, yellow and fluffy chick. “But what do you do with it?“ I asked, “do you keep it as a pet? And if so, how attached can you possible get to a chicken, once it is all grown up?“ “You do“, I was told “but at some point in time your parents tell you that the chicken flew away or escaped or something. And then, 3 days later, there’s chicken soup.“
Before I could even ponder such a lesson about life and death, Ana, the Hungarian girl who used to work at our company, presented us with a story of her own. When she was little, her parents once gave her a little rabbit for Easter, which I am sure must be a charming experience for the child. Unfortunately, quickly realizing that the child could apparently not take correct care of the rabbit, they passed it on to the neighbor, who had grown up on a farm and knew all about the nature and nurture of rabbits. Due to a slight misunderstanding, said neighbor went ahead to raise the rabbit as food, eventually killing and skinning it. What makes this story so extraordinary, however, is that he then went back to said girl’s parents and presented them with the meat. “They told us it was chicken”, she said, remembering the dinner. “I only found out a few years back. I was so mad.”
In many ways, these anecdotes reminded me of Spain- where people have a conception of meat that by far exceeds all I have experienced so far. I used to believe that we need food to be just that- food, with no connection to its origin. And as city people, we are not very used to making the connection, instead buying meat in sterile styrofoam containers, possibly even pre-cut or pre-sliced. In Spain, on the contrary, people seem to have a somewhat different idea of the matter, illustrated by the omnipresent dried pig legs hanging in every other bar or restaurant. When you wander across the market, you first see colorful fruits, stacked up to pyramids. Then, strolling along, you may walk by the butcher’s, where freshly skinned whole rabbits lie next to ribcages. It turns your stomach over- clearly, people are into seeing exactly where the meat they are buying comes from.
As for the connection between such unpleasant sights and food- I have been increasingly making it since coming here. For now, I am all about vegetables.