"Total Drek. Free entertainment. $2.99 a minute."
Given that I am joining another family, I spent a lot of time getting to know my soon-to-be-bride's blood relations. Particularly, I spent a lot of time with her father who, I believe, is beginning to see me as the son he never had. This is more or less true since all of his own children are female. My own relatives can doubtless sympathize- I am the only male in my generation on either side. This is not to say that he would have preferred sons so much as to point out that I think he's enjoying having someone in the house who doesn't know the difference between the color "white" and the color "ivory."* Anyway, as it turns out one of my future father-in-law's hobbies is Asian cooking. This is to say that he has spent a lot of time learning how to cook dishes from China, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and other geographically proximate nations. As a result, whatever he cooks is an interesting and novel experience for one raised with the sort of culinary choices available in my family.
Part and parcel with his hobby, my father-in-law often shops at an Asian supermarket, which is exactly like a regular supermarket except it carries products you'd never find anywhere else. They are simply fascinating places and if you, like me, have never been you really should check one out.** Getting back to my story, while in the butcher's department we came upon all manner of interesting live selections including lobster,*** fish, crab, and shellfish. We even found a live turtle crawling around in a small plastic tub right there in the butcher's display case. What made this particularly amusing to me, however, was the sign posted in front of the turtle. I took a picture with my cellphone since I knew you'd want to see it:
For those of you who can't see it clearly it reads: "Turtle. For pet only. $4.99/LB."
This strikes me as more than a little funny. Obviously this turtle is not "for pet only." It is being sold in the butcher's case at a supermarket mixed in with dozens of other live items, all of which are intended as entrees. Much as one doesn't sell rotisserie chicken in a pet store, one generally doesn't sell pets in a food store. Nevertheless, this turtle is labelled "for pet only," doubtless to placate some animal lover somwhere who can't stand the idea of a turtle being sold live as a food item. This ignores, of course, that (a) if they were selling packaged, cleaned turtle meat instead it still would have originated from a live turtle and (b) none of the other shellfish, fish, or crustaceans have similar disclaimers. Evidently the lobsters are not for pet only.****
As though to drive this point home, however, they are selling these pet turtles by the pound. Now, we might argue that the weight of a pet turtle reflects the amount of food required to raise it to that point and, therefore, the store is only trying to recoup its investment. Fair enough. To that, allow me to ask: does this picture look at all weird to you?
Exactly my point.
I have no problem whatsoever with selling a live turtle for eating but, honestly, there's something brilliantly sociological about this. Perhaps when cultures collide the best shock absorber is, sometimes, a polite fiction.
And perhaps the next time I adopt a dog I should ask the Humane Society what their price is per pound.*****
* Seriously. As far as I'm concerned, they're the same color.
** It's not that I'm provincial, mind you, so much as that I've focused more on Arab and Levantine cooking than on Asian. I'll be honest: there's nothing better than a good Turkish restaurant, and Lebanese food is amazing.
*** As a side note, this picture takes the prize as "least natural looking photo with a lobster ever."
**** Although, as this man can attest, they make extremely loyal companions.
***** Then again, maybe not.