Sunday, June 21, 2009

Do we understand the origins of what we eat, the who-what-when-where-how of food production.

It amazes me, to find how quickly a generation of young Singaporeans have grown up without knowing that "wet markets" or "open air markets", where live chickens slaughtered right in front of the customers, did exist in nearly every neighbourhood before they were replaced modern supermarkets and mega stores. These days the young ones are more familiar with the sanitized-looking chicken breasts slapped on a Styrofoam and encased in plastic found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Honestly, how many of us bother to understand the origins of what we eat, the who-what-when-where-how of food production. Of course, there is also an ever growing market for natural food and write-up on pros and cons of organic grown food to cater for the discerning few. But somehow, despite all of the questioning and soul searching, there still seems to be a lack of understanding of a crucial part of the big picture: What happens between the farm and the supermarket? Take meat, for instance. How many people are truly familiar on how the animal is raised and butchered before before it goes on sale in the super market. These days even your local supermarket or meat-retailer usually go through a middleman - someone who receives the whole animal and prepares the cuts to exact specification for the modern consumer who seems to be buying their meat pre-cut, boned, and cling wrapped on a Styrofoam tray. This, of course, saves time and energy and convenient to our present hectic lifestyle.
But the downside, is that they become a noticeable separation between the origin and the end product. What you don't know is when and how was the meat slaughtered, how it was treated and stored prior to your purchase.So much so that it is safe to say that butchering is in danger of becoming a an invisible art. Unlike the days of the wet market, where whole carcasses of of the slaughtered animals were displayed and customers had their butcher carved out the cuts of meat they wanted.During my stay in Papua New Guinea, killing our own meat was a common thing to do. I can still clearly recall my first kill. Like any form animal slaughtering, it was not an easy task and I didn't want to botch it when I tried it for the first time, so I had someone with experience giving instructions next to me. I do not want to go into the grisly and grotty details as I personally do not enjoy slaughtering an animal unless it is a necessity.Anyway, I become quite a competent bush butcher by the time I relocated myself back to Sydney. So competent that I am able to debone a leg of lamb for my next recipe. Please stay tuned.


  1. Is there anything that you do NOT know how to do?? (Except high-tech/IT stuff, which I'm sure you'd be able to grasp soon!)

  2. Printing $$$. Ain't we all taught to kill? At least I put my army training in good use. haha.