"Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do." -Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook
On page 205 of The French Laundry Cookbook, Chef Keller describes an experience early in his career that helped him develop his respect for food. He describes the first time he killed a rabbit that was to be served in the small restaurant where he was working in the Hudson River Valley and the impact this had on his career. After reading this page as a culinary student I saw the value in participating in ALL aspects of procuring food. So I caught a large-mouth bass from the pond on my farm and proceeded to kill, clean, prepare and serve that fish to my husband and nephews who were visiting. Each person got one glorious bite of fish and had to fill up on the vegetables and rice I served with the meal.
For some people these kinds of experiences would convince them to adopt a vegan lifestyle. For me, I give thanks and cherish each bite of the animal that gave it's life for my meal. I serve much smaller portions of fish, chicken or meats and purchase them from farms committed to a humane way of raising and killing the animals. This often requires me to purchase serveral whole chickens at a time or plan to purchase half a hog or a quarter of beef and store it in my freezer. Since defrosting the meat takes time and some advance planning, chicken and meat is saved for special meals. My quick-to-defrost, cooked beans have taken a more prominent role in my daily meals.