This past week I learned of the deaths of four different people who made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Tonight I sat down with a leg of chicken, some green beans and a smidge of macaroni and cheese. Even in my sadness, I felt alive as my teeth sunk down to bone. It gave me great pleasure to leave a tidy pile of bones on my plate, and I thought about how the most tender, juiciest meat is always found by the bone. Why do some people leave it?
I've concluded there are two paths: you're either a Bone Stripper, or a Meat Leaver. I am a Bone Stripper, which means when presented with a barbequed rib, leg of chicken or t-bone I leave that sucker clean. I like to think it's indicative of a fearless lust for living, that I truly "suck the marrow out of life." I used to work with a guy I didn't like or respect, but when the two of us were given a plate of ribs it was a bloody carnival. There's something very primal about sinking your teeth into the flesh of another creature until you hit the bone; in our sanitized world of styrofoam wrapped meat that doesn't bleed, I like to be reminded of the wild violent truth behind my dinner. A living creature died to become this rotisserie chicken. I appreciate the chicken's sacrifice for my table; it seems disrespectful to waste any part of it.
Sometimes I judge people who are not bone strippers. I see them as fearful, reluctant to embrace being fully alive. Then I realize I'm judging people, something I try not to do (everyone's doing her best, me included) and I strive to see it differently. Is it possible the Meat Leavers are more peaceful, dare I say it, more evolved than those of us driven by our baser instincts? Perhaps.
Or are there hints of desperation in my determination to ferret out every last tiny bit of food? This preference might've been set by my humble early years: when your family has little money for meat it is sacrilege to leave any behind. We did not have the luxury of acknowledging an 'ick' factor with the soft, too-pink meat at the center of the leg. Hmm, but one of my sisters is definitely a Meat Leaver today. It cannot be all nurture.
To live a lusty and passionate life I must eat with gusto, even in my grief. My best thanks for this time is to be fully, deliciously alive, to savor the juicy, tender meat all the way down to the bone.