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The Yuck Factor

A Mixed Grill for a Couple in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

A Mixed Grill for Two in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

I shot the above in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, in November 2011. It represents a mixed grill ordered by a young couple who graciously allowed me to photograph their lunch with a broad smile on their faces. It represents various cuts of beef, including sausages with a blood sausage in the middle accompanied by various organ meats.

The number of people who would find such a meal disgusting is growing by leaps and bounds, especially among the young. Let’s face it, meat can be gross—even if the animals are grass-fed the way South American beef and lamb typically are. American feedlots, if anything, result in even stranger meat, including such additives as “pink slime,” which was in the news recently, as well as various exotic antibiotics and hormones.

One of the best American growers with which I am familiar in the Harris Ranch located midway between Los Angeles and Sacramento on Interstate 5. Just north of the hotel and restaurant building is a huge feedlot whose odors have passersby on the freeway quickly pulling up their windows and recirculating their interior air for about two miles. And that is better than most beef you are likely to find at your neighborhood supermarket. I imagine that most Midwestern feedlots would be the mammalian equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.

Now Martine and I are both meat-eaters, but in a relatively small way. You might even say we’re part-time vegetarians. Would we ever become 100% vegetarians? Perhaps, if circumstances forced us, we would. In general, however, we shy away from vegetarian restaurants. It is not because we don’t like vegetarian dishes: It’s just that there is a certain vegetarian cuisine—particularly in the United States—which is almost offensively bland. If one is a vegetarian because one finds meat yucky, then one is likely to eat exclusively blah food.

One example of a vegetarian cuisine that I like is that of India. In fact, whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I usually concentrate on the vegetarian dishes exclusively, unless some fish is on the menu. Indian food is almost never blah. (One exception: The Govinda’s Restaurants run by the Hare Krishnas, who have managed to banish all flavor from their menus.)

There are two vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my office. I do not patronize either of them. As I am a diabetic, I have to avoid carbohydrates as much as possible; and American vegetarian food is usually fairly heavily laden with carbs.

As I write this, I am thinking of cooking a Chana Dhal next week (a curry with chick peas), if Martine is willing.