Waste Not, Want Not

by Jackson Livingston Seagull, aka Jackson Gillman © 2008

“On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese,
I found my poor meat ball, had Mad Cow Disease
I died when I ate it, won’t do that again
I wish that I had been ve-ge-tarian”

- Skip Mendler

When people talk about their past lives, too often there seems to be mention of some colorful royalty, or some other lofty personage. In contrast, I suspect I was a starving peasant, because…

I hate seeing food go to waste. It’s not like I lived through lean, hungry times as a kid. I don’t think that the adage of “people are starving in China” was drilled into me. Nonetheless, I even indulged in some “dumpster-diving” at the Bar Harbor Shop and Save in my college days, though it may have been as much for the cheap thrills as for the free, salvaged food. For whatever reason, I just hate seeing good food go uneaten.

This was particularly troublesome during my singing waiter days at the Deck House Cabaret. The amount of “superior comestibles” coming back into the kitchen was sinful. Especially the stuffed flounder. Each order had two pieces of fish wrapped around a crabmeat stuffing and draped with a delectable sauce. Many of my customers ate just one and left the other untouched. I would stash this gourmet loot on a shelf in the kitchen to enjoy later. My co-workers noted this scavenging behavior, and I was duly dubbed “Seagull.” Soon, whenever a leftover flounder was spotted coming in, you could hear the recycling cry – “Save it for Seagull!” At the end of an evening, there might be as many as a half-dozen wraps in my larder.

Since then, I’ve gone through many dietary phases in my life, the longest being a quarter century of being a non-dairy vegetarian. During that time, I still retained a very large, soft spot in my belly for fish of any kind, the fattier the better. Perhaps because my body was deficient in Omegas 3, 6 or 99, I particularly craved the skins. I still do. When fish is served at home now, the leftover skins on my family’s plates are more likely to go into my gullet than the compost bucket.

My diet changed radically after I became a family man. I believe there is validity to the theory of eating for your blood type. I am A positive and can do very well on a vegetarian diet. Typically that is not the case for folks like my wife, Susan Mann, with blood type O. My daughter also fancies meat. By the time my son became part of the picture, I was already outnumbered. So, rather than being the odd man out -- when in the Gill/Mann’s home, I eat as the Gill/Mann’s eat. However, knowing too much about the meat industry, I had my own Omnivore’s Dilemma. Not wanting myself or my family to ingest conventional meat with so many things wrong with it… I’ll resist getting on my soap box here and simply say that I took it upon myself to become the primary procurer of animal protein. This sometimes involves going straight to the farm of choice, and purchasing animal products that I trust, from farmers I trust. More often than not though, I simply do the best I can and buy grass-fed, organic carnage from the natural food markets.

I almost started this story with: I like things raw: raw emotion, raw food, raw sex…
I figured that might get attention. But if you’ve read this far, I already have your attention. And the truth is that I do like food raw. In fact, before I conformed to my family’s eating habits, I was strongly headed towards being a raw foodist. I believe I could be a happy, healthy man living on uncooked fare, especially nuts and berries. And think of all the time and energy that could be saved in food preparation and clean-up! Which happens to be one of my main beefs with cooking meat. Whenever the carcass of a free-ranged, grass-fed critter is rinsed and prepared, that area of our kitchen remains virtually under quarantine until any dot of raw meat juice has been sanitized from the face of the formica, stainless steel, and/or chopping block. Whether this hyper-hygiene is due to the fanaticism of myself or my wife, I’ll leave you to guess.

I more than tolerate meat now. After all, I was raised very carnivorously. Nearly every dinner had meat of some kind. Good meat mind you. Straight from Hymie the Kosher butcher; I kid you not. And if you can’t trust good ol’ Hymie, who can you trust? I ate it all -- turkey, steak, brisket, corned beef, and especially tongue – yumm! I helped my mom pluck the chicken. I loved being her grindmeister cranking the chuck steak into ground beef for the meat loaf. Is it any wonder that I admittedly still retain a fondness for the creature comfort food of my youth?

Anyway, all this is background for what happened the other day in our kitchen. Frozen ground beef had thawed in a bowl, far from the preparation of the rest of the meal, which included rice and beets.

I enjoyed the hamburger my wife made, and no one left any scraps. The kids went up stairs with Susan for their bath and as usual, I do cleanup before heading upstairs to join them for their bedtime. With clean-plate club all the way around, there were no leftovers, only the beet juice -- ah, the best part with all those rich bioflavonoids and phytonutrients! I hoist the bowl with the dark, red elixir to my lips and eagerly chug it down… That’s odd… no… No… NO!…OH GOD NO! I didn’t. I did. YUCK! Spit. SPITTOUIE! Too late. All the raw meat juice had gone down. What should I do?

I run upstairs in a panic. As calmly as I can, I ask Susan to leave the kids for a second because I have a question: “Should I induce vomiting?” That’s enough to set off her alarm bells which the kids pick up on and soon everyone is clambering to know what’s wrong. I spill the beans and now the kids also want to know “Should daddy puke?” Susan calms and steers me back downstairs to read a page from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. There I read about many other cultures’ various practices of eating raw meat. Hmm. It’s not uncommon. Further, it says that if the meat was frozen, there’s no worry about parasites.

Hey, I know this was frozen, quality meat. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll just keep assessing how I feel. Well right now, I feel all right. Fine in fact. I feel really good. Strong. Where’s that jar I couldn’t open earlier? Wow – easy! What about that bureau I couldn’t budge? Piece of cake! What a man! I feel like Popeye on steroids.

Next time I go out to eat, maybe I’ll go to a steak house and when they ask me how I’d like it done, I’ll say -- “Done? Real men don’t eat cooked meat.” Perhaps I’ve finally found my final frontier diet, just the way I was headed also -- eat it raw! Just call me Count Jackula.

(photo simulations by Susan Mann)

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