I haven’t always been a vegetarian. The final step to become one was after a yoga retreat in Portugal where the food was strictly vegetarian. After a week of delicious food I figured it could be done without having to eat tasteless tofu for the rest of my days.
You don’t have to suffer really, as a vegetarian. As a matter of fact, an entire new food world opened its doors for me as I was searching for alternatives. First I turned to the Mediterranean kitchen that has a huge tradition of tasty vegetarian dishes. Living in Brooklyn, NY at the time, no matter what ingredients I needed I could always find them. After 4 years we moved to Italy, that has a thing for meat and fish, especially Umbria where everything evolves around the maiale, pork. And wild boar.
The Italian country side still has a rough edge. Umbria with only one million inhabitants is not densely populated and there’s still space for mainly oak woods that house abundant wildlife. Wild boar, deer, foxes, porcupines and badgers roam our woods and sometimes our gardens. I was fairly unhappy with the many excavations by wild boar in my own garden. Staring disappointed at my completely ruined flower beds, my friend and neighbour Valerio pointed out that we might have truffles in our territory. Since the price of truffles is about 6.000 euro’s a kilo we’re on a potential goldmine, if it wasn’t for the swines that dig them up while we’re asleep.
I’m not eating meat for various reasons and I’m not going to try to convert you, not to worry. I’m no fan of the impact of the meat and fish industry on our planet, animals are like us; they are equipped with an intelligence that allows them to survive, and I just don’t like the idea of them suffering to land on my plate. But I expect them to behave when they encounter animals that I love, especially when that animal is my late Brooklyn tomcat Bébert.
After Bébert was put to sleep last summer we buried him in our garden under a tree. This proved a challenge for it hadn’t rained for months and the thick clay earth had turned into an impermeable stone-like mass. Maybe this is the reason we didn’t dig deep enough or maybe we were too upset. We covered him in his red and white striped blanked, closed off the grave with the clay dust and put heavy stones and his drinking bowl on it, as we didn’t want foxes to dig him up as a nice late-nite snack.
Our life went on and close to his little grave we started our vegetable garden. The summer being exceptionally hot called for ample every day watering of my first crops. One morning I set out to water the vegetables and almost tripped over Bébert’s water bowl. My eyes followed its path back to the grave and I couldn’t help but seeing Bébert’s red and white striped blanket that had been torn out of his final resting place. I gasped in disbelief, and ran into the house for help.
Some pretty strong animal had tried to dig up Béberts remains but apparently had not liked them as I found a little piece of his tail in the grass that the perpetrator had chewed off and then spat out. The thought of it sent chills down my spine.
This couldn’t have been the work of a fox so I turned to my Italian friends for advise. They were unanimous. It must have been wild boar that don’t kill for meat but can’t resist a dead corpse if they find one.
So that was that. Let’s not forget we’re in Italy and in Italy you don’t mess with family, dead or alive. If you harm a member of my family I will retaliate. And so I did. This Christmas the main course was wild boar.