NPR’s Robert Krulwich examines some data that shows how fish populations have drastically changed in the past 100 years and wonders, do we eat animals into extinction?
Or do we unconsciously adjust? Maybe, deep down, we sense that some foods are no longer plentiful so we make it the fashion to eat less of them? Do we reset our appetites from generation to generation?
Krulwich pulls a couple of menus as examples. First, a feast held by General Grant in 1886 that includes a staggering range of wild meats (many of which are still plentiful, but no longer fashionable). From the roast section:
Loin of Buffalo, Mountain Sheep, Wild Goose, Quail, Redhead Duck, Jack Rabbit, Blacktail Deer, Coon, Canvasback Duck, English Hare, Bluewing Teal, Partridge, Widgeon, Brant, Saddle of Venison, Pheasants, Mallard Duck, Prairie Chicken, Wild Turkey, Spotted Grouse, Black Bear, Oppossum, Leg of Elk, Wood Duck, Sandhill Crane, Ruffed Grouse Cinnamon Bear
Compared to a recent White House State Dinner for British prime minister David Cameron, four measly courses, it’s certainly extravagant. The two menus do reflect two different worlds and perhaps a change in appetites, but what really stands out to me is the menu writing itself. In the 1886 menu, the variety of game itself is a celebration of American bounty and the whole thing is very patriotic–no commentary is necessary.
In the small 2012 menu, there’s none of the variety but there are notes on the provenance of the lettuce, which is of course very underwhelming:
Spring Garden Lettuces with radishes, cucumbers and avocado (greens also From the White House Garden)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 15, 2012