Every American in The United States of America, liked Thanksgiving a lot… but the PROF, well he just did not. He implanted their brains with knowledge. Who does such a thing at college? This is the story of how he stole Thanksgiving, he even does it for a living.
Ignorance or Lack of Awareness
Adam Pascal once said that “Ignorance is bliss, I wish I still had some.” Me too Adam. Me too. Thanks to my Critical Thinking and Writing Class (CTW), I have more awareness of myself and the world I live in than ever before. This awareness has ruined my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.
Everyone says that his or her grandmother is the best cook. I am no different. My grandmother works magic in the kitchen. Growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It meant spending time with my extended family, who I rarely saw during the year. But more importantly it meant turkey and lasagna. My grandmother spent the entire day prepping Thanksgiving dinner by herself. She never asked for help because she didn’t need it nor did she want it. Thanksgiving was like her gift to my family. She liked to please us through food.
In September 2014, I moved 3,000 miles away from home to what seemed like a foreign land. This land was sunny and full of palm trees and students of similar age. Being my usual self, I attended my first day of college as prepared as I could be. I googled my professors and thankfully they all seemed normal. One thing did catch my eye, however. My CTW professor built American rustic furniture. What the hell is American rustic furniture? Oh boy. I immediately thought I would be dealing with some sort of hipster. When I got to class, my initial predictions seemed to be correct. Nicholas Leither was wearing a slim fit woven shirt with the sleeves rolled up, dark jeans, and navy blue oxfords. He then made us change rooms twice. When class finished I was already dreading coming back in two days.
Within a few weeks of the quarter I wanted to drop my CTW. For homework I was lucky enough to be able to watch piglets get smashed on the ground, chickens confined to small cages, and cows being physically abused. I was horrified. Things just went downhill from there. We started reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book looks into the factory farms in America and questions the way we produce and eat animals. A few chapters into the book and I began to theorize that Leither’s goal was to make me a vegetarian.
With each class period, my appetite for meat diminished. I love meat. Especially chicken. However, since this class I have not eaten any beef, turkey, pork, shrimp, lobster, crab, or farmed fish. I have not drank any milk, however, avoiding all dairy I have found to be more challenging. I still eat a lot of chicken. Though the chicken I do eat, I make sure is “air chilled.” Air chilled chicken can sometimes be difficult to find. This is because farmers in the United States are more concerned with profits than the quality of the meat that they produce. Many of the methods that they use in factory farms increase the risk of pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses in people. For example, after each chicken’s intestines have been sliced open from their stomachs, they are dipped into a refrigerated tank of water to be cooled (Foer 134). Despite the fact that these pools are highly unsanitary and dramatically increase the risk of cross contamination, United States farmers battle to keep this process legal. Why would farmers want their products to be contaminated? It is due to the fact the water tank adds extra weight to each chicken resulting in higher profits. Air chilling avoids this process entirely and is much more sanitary.
Returning home to New Jersey for Thanksgiving in November was exciting. I had missed my family and friends dearly and could not wait to see them. However, I wasn’t excited for my grandmother’s Thanksgiving dinner. With my newfound awareness, turkey no longer sounded appetizing. In factory farms turkeys are given antibiotics “to improve feed efficiency, meat quality and growth.” Eating meat rich with antibiotics can have negative effects on one’s health. Over time the effect of antibiotics in humans is neutralized (Kirby 70). Many people believe that antibiotics will always be around to save them from illness and thus do not consider antibiotic resistance to be a major problem. However, this is not the case. In the United States alone, two million people contract antibiotic resistant infections each year (Frieden). Despite the obvious harm, the use of antibiotics in factory farms is still legal.
It wasn’t just my grandmother’s turkey that I no longer wanted to eat. I was also no longer enticed by her lasagna. Why? Because Lasagna has ground beef. I originally thought that the ground beef I bought at the super market was the meat of one cow. After watching Food Inc., I now know that ground beef usually contains the meat of over 100 cows. This does not sit well with me. Not only is this gross to think about, but it also increases my risk of getting an infectious disease such as E. Coli. This is because most factory farms in America feed its cows corn. Naturally cows graze on grass. Farmers switched to corn because it increased profits at the expense of consumer health. Cows have a more difficult time digesting grains. This increases pathogens like E. Coli. By eating my grandmother’s two main dishes at Thanksgiving I could potentially get a disease and be unable to treat it due to antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, I would be supporting a system that I do not wish to support. As a result, I ate string beans, mashed potatoes and nothing more for Thanksgiving. This annoyed my grandmother and much of my family. I tried to convince them to do the same thing, however, they refused. They also forbade me from telling them what I learned in CTW. They wanted to be unaware. They wanted to continue eating as they pleased.
I never thought after the first week of CTW in the fall that I would be excited to return in the spring. What else did Nick have in store for us? One thing that I really found interesting was the Nacirema. Anthropologist Horace Miner published, Body Ritual Among the Nacirema, as an allegory to American society. He argues that to any outsider, American culture is pretty bizarre. He stresses the importance of remaining unbiased when evaluating a culture other than your own. This made me question why Americans even celebrate Thanksgiving. In some ways it is celebrating violence. The white Europeans arrival in the New World, caused the Native American population to drastically decline. This decline was largely due to disease, but was also due to white violence towards the natives. Somehow the death of Native Americans has translated to eating turkey with your family on the fourth Thursday of every November.
Miner reminded me of Foer in many ways. Foer often questioned American culture. He suggested that there was no justifiable logic behind factory farming. Foer also brought up an interesting point about eating dogs. Dogs are a nutritious meal. Millions of dogs are euthanized each year. Their meat goes to waste, despite the fact there are people starving in America. It is logical for humans to eat dog. In fact, many people do. Dog is popular mean in some Asian cultures. However, in America, the thought of eating a dog is almost a crime.
By the end of the year I realized Nick’s main goal was to make us aware of the world we live in. Although I once thought that this class would ruin my life, I am now truly grateful for what I have learned. Eating Animals was a huge eye opener for me. Before college I had very little knowledge on the American food system. I believed labels such as free ranged or cage free. Now I know these terms mean nothing (Foer). Body Ritual Among the Nacirema further changed how I view the world. Perspective is key and I now question everything. I try to spread my awareness as much as possible. I often spoil my friend’s meals by telling them about the food that they are about to eat. They hate Professor Nick for the monster he has created.
Barclay, Eliza. “Did Your Thanksgiving Turkey Take Any Antibiotics?” Npr.org. 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 4 June 2015.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. DVD.
Frieden, Tom. “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013.” US Department of Health and Human Services (2013). Cdc.gov
Kirby, David. Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry
Miner, Horace. “Body Ritual among the Nacirema.” American Anthropologist 58.3 (1956): 503-07.