Saying No To The Whale

Saying No To The Whale

I have some eaten some pretty gross things in my life.  In Jamaica I have been served both Mannish water (Goat head and innards soup) as well as Cow Cod (bull penis) soup. Mannish water was really one of the worst things I have ever tasted — basically an old billy-goat reduced to weird tubes, skin (I think I got a nipple once) and unidentified bits which a friend’s Jamaican father-in-law called
“rubbish” (as in “Stir Deep [in the pot] I want the rubbish.) Of course, both items are considered all-round health tonics and serious aphrodisiacs, and were offered up with such good intent, that all I could do is smile (chew something…maybe a heart valve?) and say…”Delicious.”  In Okinawa, I ate something that looked precisely like an alien.  Maybe it was a barnacle of some sort, but it had the texture of rubber bands and squirted (when bitten) some sort of aquatic urine into my throat. Again, it was the specialty of the restaurant I was in, and everyone I was with seemed to enjoy, so I gamely smiled and said…”Oishi!” We shouldn’t forget the horrible meals I have been served at various friend’s house — abnormal casseroles, over-cooked chickens, bizarre takes on African food garnered from hippie cookbooks.  All eaten and complimented. My rule of thumb I guess, is always be polite, especially when traveling and eating other culture’s food.

I am happy that I have never been offered either dog or cat or really any rodent of any sort.  While the torture / outrage porn animal rights activists offer up is hard to watch, I find it the height of hypocrisy to shame those who do eat such creatures.  Killing any animal is a brutal affair, whether they are cute or not or whether they exist as pets in our comfortable society. And, while I love horses and think of them as highly intelligent animals, I have happily gobbled up horse sashimi and donkey stew. We live in a very slippery moral universe and given all the outrageous horror 3/4 of the human population have to deal with on a daily basis, I don’t see not eating meat as balancing anything out.

That said. I can’t do the whale.  I just can’t.  In Japan people eat whale.  They eat it as sashimi, they eat it grilled.  There are even instant packages of whale curry for sale.  During the food shortages of World War 2, whale was a reliable and cheap source of protein and there is a deep affection for its flavor.  I withhold my judgement.  But, I just can’t eat it and I have had to wriggle out of some situations where it has been offered — I’m honestly thinking to claim a whale allergy at this point. My aversion doesn’t make much sense given my laissez faire food morality.  I am, however, a true child of the 70s — as sure as I knew Bobby Riggs was a male chauvinist pig and that you could get addicted to heroin simply by looking at it once, I was a “Save The Whales” kid, with the T-shirts, the stickers and the subscription to Ranger Rick magazine.  When I see whale sashimi, my seven-year-old self suddenly appears with a clear “Yechhhhh….” and memories of those Greenpeace shepherding boats come to mind. Yes, I am a whale hypocrite and I suppose, I can live with that.

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