An interesting website called “Green Prophet” (www.greenprophet.com), which styles itself as “a sustainable voice for green news on the Middle East,” a region of 500 million people—with control of more than half of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves, by the way—posted an intriguing take on the European horse meat scandal.
I apologize if you’re getting burned out from yet another spin on what has been an embarrassing violation of labeling regulations, but one with no apparent health or safety implications.
The editorial comment was written by a Karin Kloosterman, a Dutch-born Canadian resident of Jewish heritage who previously wrote on environmental issues for The Huffington Post, prior to launching the Green Prophet blog.
“I grew up eating horse meat. It was considered a treat—a Dutch delicacy,” she wrote.“Maybe once every four or five months, my dad would come home with half a pound of it wrapped in waxed paper [and] sliced thin, like prosciutto. Salty and delicate, it almost melted in my mouth.
“This paardenrookvlees [smoked horse meat] was expensive, and I’m not sure that’s the reason why we didn’t eat it more often. I wasn’t sentimental about it, and enjoyed it when it was there. We ate it on a slice of buttered white bread, the same way we’d eat chocolate shavings on bread, the old Dutch way. Or we’d just pop a piece into our mouths.”
I’ve never knew there was such a “treat” as an open-face horse meat sandwich, nor had I heard the often tough and tangy meat described as so tender it “melts in your mouth.”
Not in your hand.
Kloosterman’s is an interesting culinary recollection, and one that underscores the awkwardness with which media tend to describe the horse meat-in-ground-beef problem: It’s a widespread and clearly illegal scam—and one that’s thoroughly unappreciated—but hardly a scandal on the order of mad cow, as some news stories have all but implied.
So what’s the “appropriate” reaction?
Kloosterman offered a suggestion.
Swedish horse (meat) balls
“It is scandalous when people buy something, and then are lied to and given another product,” she wrote. “But I’m not surprised: People have become too far removed from what they eat.
“As a former horse meat eater, it’s no big deal to hear the news that there is horse meat in Swedish meatballs. But I blame consumers for the scandal: When you go to the grocery store you see plainly that the amount of packaged food far outweighs fresh produce, deli items. Most of the packaged and frozen food at the grocery store you can make yourself.
“My solution: People should become more religious about their food.”
Kloosterman went on to note that religious groups, especially the Jews, are “constantly scanning, checking and monitoring” their food sources. She noted that kosher beef comes from cattle slaughtered in “a very specific way,” and notes that Jews are “constantly checking what’s in their food on religious grounds,” especially now during the Passover season, which begins next week. A religious approach to how we source and prepare food is an appropriate model, she suggested.
“Whether you have moral, health, or ecological reasons, take a look at religion to see how food is handled and consumed,” Kloosterman wrote. “With more interest in food traditions [and preparing] food at, you can engage your kids in before it’s too late. Forget blaming the government and the stores and the suppliers for horse meat—prepare your own healthy food at home.”
That is sound advice and probably a good place to close an essay.
Oh. No. She added one more thought for all those scandalized by the horse meat debacle:
“Stop freaking out about what’s being put into your food, as if you have no say in the matter.”
Religious affiliation aside, that’s not a bad way to go.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.