Have you ever been in a learning situation where the whole class goes off topic for a moment - and in those few minutes you learned more information than you ever wanted to know? It’s a shock to the system and then (at least for me) my curiosity goes into overdrive. I MUST know MORE!
The digression from a video essay on colour saturation and mood (I know, juicy and salacious content that holds me at the edge of my seat as I devour pixel after pixel of information… NOT!) was quickly held hostage when a classmate took a bite of his open faced melted cheese bread and ooey, gooey cheese strings followed when he lowered his snack. We are all online so he might as well have been sitting in the same room as us, we saw the deliciousness and, as a collective, were outraged he didn’t offer us some. Immediately the chat lit up with comments and before long, he was sharing the recipe… garlic bread or a slice of your choice but the thicker the bread, the better, apparently. The bread MUST be evenly buttered to the very edges of the crusts, followed by a teaspoon or so of Miracle Whip. Then, thinly sliced Black Diamond marble cheese tops the salad dressing and the bread is placed on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven. The bread is not broiled, it is allowed to slowly toast and the cheese melts. It’s how the ooey, gooey richness of the cheese develops so that, when the toasted bread is ready to be eaten, each bite has long strings of ‘telephone wires,’ which is essential to the “perfect” sandwich. From there, the conversation went downhill fast.
“Did you know horse hooves make glue?” was a quick opening question. Followed by, “Mascara is made out of bat feces.” And then, “Lips gloss contains horse urine.” It was apparent now that each of us was playing a game of one up-man-ship and this wasn’t going to end well for anyone with a weak stomach. “I’ve heard there is a well known butcher shop in Saskatchewan that prepares horse meat for human consumption at least once a week. It makes me wonder about the day after the meat is processed and they prepare hotdogs … what is that mystery meat?”
Of course I Googled it. And it’s true. The company has since gone into receivership but back in 2007 Natural Valley Farms in Neudor, SK found a niche they could fill providing horse meat to European consumers. The animals were processed, packaged and exported. The meat processing plant was one of two companies in Canada approved to meet the high standards of the European horse meat market. That’s a compliment, I guess? In my mind I just see a majestic animal standing tall and beautiful - at no point do I ever look at a horse and want to pull out a knife, fork and ketchup so I can dig in. But that’s just me. My bucket list contains things like duck soup, salmon jerky, and turkeyducken (a deboned chicken is stuffed into a deboned duck that’s then stuffed into a deboned turkey and baked. In England they also foray into Gooduckens where the chicken and duck are stuffed into a goose. Of course I would be tempted to serve a Gooduckduck at my next dinner party and I’d insist guests eat the meal from the inside out thereby enjoying an invigorating game of duck, duck, goose before the first course was finished.
As interesting as learning this information was, as an educator I wondered how our instructor would bring the class back on topic and regain control of our wayward conversation. I tried to help by focusing our attention on more “civilized” and less stomach turning ideas, “some early paints were made using berries, roots and even ink from squid and octopus in coastal regions of Canada” I offered up. “Yeah, right?” our instructor gushed, “and that was in addition to blood, urine and poop, right?” And that’s when I realized, she meant to take us all to hell in a hand basket. Some conversations are just like that. She couldn’t have planned that the conversation would go where it did just because a pupil took a bite of his sandwich while on camera but she saw a teachable moment, and she went with it. My classmate turned off his camera while, I assume, he finished his meal. He seems to be a person whose appetite wouldn’t be adversely affected by the topic. Then I considered foods consumed in North America and maybe horse isn’t the worst thing that could be in the menu; frog legs, fish eggs, liver pate, fertilized eggs, one hundred year old eggs, blood pudding and even aged beef are all considered delicacies in several first world cultures including Canada.
So, I guess maybe my adverse reaction to learning about the horse production plant in Saskatchewan was only amplified and met my disgust because of the list of recipes that followed at the bottom of my Google search which included ‘horse and sweet potato casserole’, and I’m so grateful to my brain, which read “horse” and suggested the recipe would be tastier with beef. However, some recipes aren’t authentic unless a specific meat is used in its preparation. For instance, a casserole can’t be called “Shepherd’s Pie” unless lamb is actually used in the dish. With that being said, I’d like to think this is not the same premise used in the making of hot dogs or Gorilla glue.
To be fair, there was a time not long ago when horses served a much greater purpose on the farm. And then they became redundant and ecpensive. Back in 1947, McLean’s magazine reported there were 800 000 horses in Western Canada and that at least 500 000 of them were useless as they’d been replaced by tractors. So it was a natural solution to fill the niche created by the hungry in Europe, who were starving. A lot of jobs were created in our province following the war, and horse processing was part of how the economy recovered after the World War. If you study the history of that time, people living in Canada were living on food stamps and a lot of “staple” items including sugar and meat were rationed and the majority was reserved for those fighting the war. People were starving here as well. We just weren’t necessarily eating horse flesh. Squirrels, gophers and even bears were hunted and eaten simply because there was nothing else TO eat. My Mom often told us children how grateful she and her family were to a neighbour who kept her family supplied with casseroles, stews and other meals containing meat. Because of this woman, families in the community were healthy and no one asked what the meat was or where it came from. In return, they kept the woman supplied with fresh vegetables and fruit such as berries. When it’s a matter of life and death, people get creative.
With that being said, did you know the skin of people killed during the Holocaust was used to make lampshades? Human skin. It’s true. And you might think disgusting practices such as this have since been abolished. Especially in First World countries. Also not true. In my research I learned fetuses from abortions are used in every thing from anti wrinkle cream to food additives in some foods. It’s a practice that came out of Switzerland, which is ironic because this country has always been lauded as neutral and peaceful … I guess money can’t buy ethics when greed gets in the way. People argue the piece of fetus used is the size of a postage stamp. And they may shrug and think “that’s nothing.” But imagine if someone removed the skin off your back and used it in the cream you used to moisturizer your face? To a fourteen week old aborted fetus, that’s about how big the back would be to that child. And I’m not trying to open up a debate about morals and ethics etc., etc., etc. - I’m just using facts to make a point. Just because we CAN do something, like eat a horse, a frog, blood sausage or fish eggs, doesn’t mean we SHOULD do it. At some point we need to draw the line and say “No way, that’s too disgusting for even me.” Go ahead, Google both these topics and you’ll learn such interesting facts. Things that people simply don’t wish to make public knowledge as it’s too distracting from facts they do want to make known or the topic is too sensational and wouldn’t sit well with the general public. Well, the same argument could be made in light of certain discoveries recently made public at residential schools in Canada. We don’t have to like the truth but we do need to accept it when it’s factually validated and proven to us.
Some wonderful discoveries have been made by people who were willing to take risks and cross over, above and beyond their comfort zone. For instance, mould eventually led to the discovery of penicillin, which has saved millions of lives and prevented some serious infections. On the other hand, over use of penicillin has also led to mutant diseases that have made penicillin ineffectual in combatting some illnesses. And yet, it’s kind of ironic… we are talking about mould, which leads us back to that open faced cheese sandwich and diverted me from having to do homework on colour saturation and mood. I didn’t mean to be disgusting but …. It sure turned a dull topic into something a lot more interesting. But as I consider the origins of some paint colours I have to wonder about the person who first looked at blood, urine or feces and thought, “I can’t wait to get my hands on my next fresh sample because I’m going to use that when I next paint my bedroom cave wall!” I hope I don’t find that person is a distant relative in my genealogy - I don’t think I’ll feel compelled to brag them up! “I come from a long line of….” well, you get the idea. Ha, ha, ha!
Take care and have a great week, everyone.