Ask Tom, Answer Gansie


breathing fish: From a sentence in your recent review – fish so fresh it was breathing when it hit the table. I’m no vegetarian, or member of PETA, but that’s just wrong. It’s morally wrong. While I do believe in animals being a source of food, as higher-intelligent beings aware of concepts like pain and suffering, I think we’re ethically bound to dispatch our food as quickly and as humanely as possible. I don’t care if it is your job to experience all types of culture and cuisine, sometimes a line should be drawn. Sometimes you should refuse. I’m disgusted. And the fish wasn’t breathing, it was struggling as it suffocated. Really disgusted.

Tom Sietsema: Sorry to offend you, reader. But that’s the way the food was offered up to me in the Chinese restaurant. The fish had been “stunned” by a quick dip in boiling water before being brought to the table.

I’m curious if others were/are offended by such?

Disgusted? : Nope, not a bit. While I agree animals we consume should be treated humanely and raised in an eco manner, I don’t think you can always pursue that in your current capacity nor do I believe you should have to. If you -personally- were offended you should have left. Since you weren’t you did the right thing and reported things as they happened. Kudos.

gansie: Now I think most people are pretty desensitized to the whole eating crazy shit trend, with popular shows such as No Reservations, Bizarre Foods and Man v. Food. But my whole issue is: why do people care so much about what other people do, eating or otherwise. Gay rights? Abortion? Veganism? Why does it matter if Britt wants to cook a loving, albeit limited, dinner for his boyfriend?

But then I hear myself say obnoxious things like: “No! Stop! DON’T PUT MARGARINE IN THE MASHED POTATOES!” My brother nearly dropped the entire plastic container in the pot just out of fear and shock. Everyone else over for Thanksgiving dinner looked at me in horror. I ran over to SAG, ensured him there was butter, and handed him a stick. Why was I screaming? Why was I judging?  My brother didn’t even realize the devil that is margarine, the chemical concoction posing as a creamy spread suitable for toast and mashed potatoes.

And then at dinner a few night later, I scoffed at my family for wanting to order a tomato mozzarella salad for dinner.  In winter.  “I don’t eat tomatoes out of season,” I declared.  Am I just trying to save my families’ arteries?  Save the world of needless carbon energy? Or am a I big, fat, judging snob as bad as those people out there with signs featuring an aborted fetus?

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  • miked. December 9, 2008  

    there’s an important distinction between matters of taste and matters of morality. So no tomato basil salad in winter = snobby. Disgusted if one eats still wiggling fish = morality (which implies making negative judgments about those who violate what you view as moral). “don’t put margarine in the mashed potatoes!” = ??? That one’s tricky… was it to protect your beloved family (and yourself) from transfats? Then it’s morality/self-preservation… Was it because anybody who knows anything should know that mashed potatoes have to be made with butter? snobby.

    but, gansie, your explicative-laced, shouting, snobby outbursts are quite endearing, and I’m sure your fam would trade them for nothing.

  • Maidelitala December 9, 2008  

    I also have to say that exposing your family and friends to food snobbery and moralizing behavior is a little different than shoving pictures of mutilated fetuses under the noses of passers-by.

  • JoeHoya December 9, 2008  

    Miked. is on the right track here, gansie. Calling anti-abortion, anti-Big Oil or even anti-government-across-the-board demonstrators “judging snobs” overlooks the fact that these people are protesting based on what they believe to be fundamentally, morally correct. They’re doing what they do because they seriously believe that the other side is absolutely wrong – not just disagreeing with them.

    Refusing to eat tomatoes out of season and avoiding margarine CAN have that moral component, and you and Miked. have already mentioned what those moral points are, but it can also be a simple question of taste. Only you know for sure.

    I personally avoid eating grocery store tomatoes even when they ARE in season, because our local farmers’ markets have made me aware of just how good a tomato can taste…but that’s not a moral stance by any stretch of the imagination.

    I think our food decisions are, more often than not, driven primarily by taste and secondarily by moral imperatives. Otherwise we’d be doing our damnedest to live like Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in terms of what we would and would not eat in any given month.

    Does that mean we’re better than those who protest and condemn others based on ideology when we try to impose our food choices on others? Does it mean we’re worse?

    I don’t think it means either, because I don’t think it’s a bad thing that PETA, Right to Life, and everyone else is out there ‘sharing’ their views.

    I may not agree with all of them, but it impresses me that they care enough about their cause to actually advocate it in public, instead of just talking about it around the dinner table. Maybe I’m not brave enough to do that, or maybe I just don’t feel strongly enough to take that kind of public stand.

  • Maidelitala December 9, 2008  

    and the same goes for PETA shoving pictures of blinded bunnies, that have gaping bloodied eye-sockets, into the hands of tender-minded kiddos (did anyone see them outside of metro in Farragut the other day?). While symbolic political action lends vibrancy to democratic discourse, I judge harshly those who articulate their points without assaulting strangers with grotesque images.

  • Maidelitala December 9, 2008  

    *who can’t articulate… (pardon my typos, urgh)

  • Yvo December 9, 2008  

    Just kidding, though I did think Britt was a girl’s name, whoops, I hope I didn’t address him as a girl.
    As for the margarine thing – well, you have to eat it, so I think it’s fair to run over and tell them no. I tell my sister how to cook/what to use all the time, if I’m eating it. If I’m not, I offer advice but I’m less adamant about certain things.
    It’s a matter of judgment – the person in the letter was kind of like “YOU should not do this” not “*I* won’t do that”. I don’t think anyone should really be able to tell other people what to or what not to do … save harming themselves or others (like, I can tell you not to stab me, because that directly affects me, or even not to stab someone else, because that affects other people… I guess if you really want to stab yourself, it’s not really my business but I could tell you I like reading your writing and a lot of people would be sad if you died). I’m a big believer in letting people do what they want provided it doesn’t infringe upon others’ personal happiness (and people who say “But I’m directly made unhappy by there being gay people out there”… need to find other sources of happiness).

  • Britannia December 9, 2008  

    Yvo– you are too precious. I don’t think you ever referred to me as a lady… !

    In England growing up all my folks ever did was spread that margarine on my toast, I’ve become wiser and more discerning in my old age, I hope its not out of snobbery but more out of education. I think gansie has educated her brother of the butter/margarine conundrum. The same could be said for JoeHoya’s tomato advice, I totally agree, most produce from a farmers market trumps that from a store. It’s about a better quality product.

    Why wouldn’t we want to share this food advice with our nearest and dearest?

  • Mariah Carey December 9, 2008  

    mmmmm…..spray butter….

  • Liza December 9, 2008  

    I think I am a tolerant person, but then maybe I’m intolerant because I don’t like to tolerate intolerant people…

    with food, there is a health aspect that yes, you should share with your family (like he he he I snuck vegan dishes into my thanksgiving meal for my family and only told them after they ate it)

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