14. Babe-alicious!

Weekend Dad
Weekend DadI just love the smell of bacon in the mornings. Truth is, I really made it only when I had the kids. I liked making them a hearty Canadian breakfast. Sometimes it was just back bacon and eggs with some toast, or it was bacon and French toast with melted butter and syrup, or bacon and pancakes. Usually I’d supply Aunt Jemima syrup, which is laden with sugar, but sometimes I’d splurge and give them pure Canadian maple syrup.

Either way, weekend breakfasts with my sons were special.Whenever I was frying bacon, the boys would wander into the kitchen during a commercial break from watching cartoons and ask me how it was going. I always started with the bacon to get some grease to fry the eggs or pancakes or French toast, and the aroma attracted them like bees to honey. It was almost Pavlovian.

“When’s breakfast going to be ready, Daddy?”

“Oh, I need another ten minutes or so, Jord. But would you like a slice of bacon?”

“Yes, please!”

I would put the slices on a plate with a double layer of paper towels to absorb the grease. When they were cool enough, I’d hand out a couple of slices. Like hungry puppies, they would devour their appetizers and then later, charge back into the kitchen when I announced their breakfast was ready.

In the mornings at our summer cabin, I often used the smell of bacon to get them out of bed and come downstairs. (This didn’t happen often, because I was usually the one who wanted to sleep in.) The smell of that fried bacon really permeated the entire cabin and was enough to drive anyone crazy.

One bright and sunny morning, I was frying some bacon when it suddenly dawned on me that, although my sons loved bacon, they had no clue to what it really was. They likely hadn’t made the connection between slaughtering unsuspecting farm animals and the food they were eating.

Quinn and Jordan were naive and innocent to the manner in which these easygoing animals were brutally butchered and processed. They only ever saw meat and bacon at the supermarkets, all neatly wrapped up in cellophane with bar codes and weight/cost labels. Just the night before, we had been relaxing by the fireplace and the subject of hunting had come up. Both Jordan and Quinn deplored the idea of it. I had explained how some indigenous cultures are dependent on hunting and fishing, and that there were other forms of hunting that didn’t require weapons. This perked up their ears.

“How can you kill an animal without a weapon, Dad?” Quinn inquired.

“Well, the plains Indians were able to do this quite easily. They were very smart. Like cattle, buffalo can be herded, and it’s even easier to create a stampede of them.”

“What’s a sampede, Daddy?” asked Jordan.

“It’s when animals are all hanging out together and something spooks them. They just start running. When a few take off, the rest follow. They call it a herd mentality. And once they start running, they keep running. They imitate what the others are doing. Many animals do this: elephants, water buffalo, wildebeests, elk, cattle, and so on. So the Indians would create a stampede and direct them toward a cliff, and they’d all run off the cliff!” I said.

“They ran off the cliff? Really, Dad?” Quinn questioned.

“By the time the first buffalo at the front realizes he’s at the edge of a cliff, it’s too late to slow down, and if he does, all the others behind him don’t get enough warning, so they bump into him, and the one behind him bumps into him, and they just all start falling off the cliff. It’s a chain reaction. And guess who’s waiting below at the bottom of the cliff?”

“The Injuns!” Jordie bleated.

“You’re right. The other tribe members would work hard and fast to skin and butcher them. Natives were smart people who never wasted anything. Almost every part of the buffalo was used.”

The kids were fascinated.

Of course, I got into detail about how these plains Indians skinned the animals and used their fur for blankets, clothing, or making tepees. I told my sons of the respect and gratitude the Natives had for the buffalo. If not for them, the Indians might have starved or frozen to death in the winter.

It was soon apparent that there was a total disconnect between living animals and the boys’ meals. I felt a lesson coming on. When breakfast was ready, I called them over and handed them a slice of bacon each. I then held up my piece to admire it, before taking a sizable bite. I chewed on it ever so slowly. I groaned with utter delight.

“Mmmmmm! Is this ever good bacon. Do you guys love your bacon?”

“Ahem! Yeah. It’s sooo good, Daddy” came Jordan’s instant reply.

“And you, Quinn—do you love that tasty bacon, too?”

“Yes, I love the taste of bacon,” he replied.

“Well, then, what does it feel like to be eating Babe?” I asked.

Several weeks prior, when I’d had the boys over at my house, we’d watched a fantastic movie called Babe, about a small pig called Babe. Babe seemed to have a way with all the animals at his farm. He also had a special relationship with the sheep and was able to herd them. Normally, farmers used sheepdogs to do this, so it was quite unusual. The long and short of it is that the farm owner developed a relationship with Babe, and because of the pig’s amazing sheep-herding skills, he entered Babe into a sheep-herding competition that was dominated by border collies. The kids just loved the movie and all the talking animals, and in the process, they fell in love with this cute little piggy called Babe.

Okay. You’re up to speed.

“Babe! What do you mean, Daddy?” Jord asked.

Quinn took a moment and stopped chewing. The bulb was lighting up. He was thinking about what he was eating.

“Yeah. Babe. You know, Babe from the movie we saw a few weeks ago. You’re eating Babe!”

Jord looked at me in shock. Quinn came to the same realization at about the same moment. There was this double jaw-dropping sequence, and the chewed-up bacon still in their mouths weighed heavily on their tongues. I made a loud gulping sound and sighed.

“Well, this bacon is sure Babe-alicious to me!” I hammered home. “Have you guys lost your appetite? Or did you not know that bacon is from pigs?”

It’s amazing just how trusting kids are. They’ll try pretty much anything you give them to eat. That changes over time—eventually they develop individual tastes and will refuse to eat certain things—but when they’re really little, they’ll eat most things you offer, without a thought as to where the food comes from.

The kids got over the shock of eating Babe bacon, but they became very curious about animals and eating meat. My stories of how some cultures respect and honor the spirits of the animal meat they ate likely had an impact on their awareness of the treatment of animals. When they learned that beef jerky was actually a form of native pemmican, they liked eating that, too. They also soon learned about free-range chickens. The idea that some hens never see the light of day or that they can’t stand for too long was too cruel for them to support or accept. They were concerned about growth hormones in animals. Even before they turned ten, they were reading ingredient labels on everything I bought. And so it was that their eating habits evolved.

Before Quinn turned nineteen, he became a vegetarian. Apparently, he was greatly influenced by a controversial documentary called Food Inc. The inhumane butchering process, profit-driven industry, and steroids and chemicals the film depicted were enough to turn Quinn off eating meat. It appears that the Babe-alicious bacon incident forged a greater food consciousness for both boys. It has served them well.