I doubt that I'm the first person to wonder where it is they're coming from, when the cows come home; you don't see a lot of cows, not at home. If there's grazing to be had and fellow cattle to cluster with, most cows seem content to just be right there wherever. They don't appear to be a migratory or roaming species, and they are definitely not hunters. I doubt even the liveliest cow could catch anything much faster than a barnacle. Maybe a banana slug. They don't appear to have much going on in the way of extracurricular activities, the bovine curricula being grazing, plodding, chewing, pooping, tail switching, and watching cars go by. Not like some animals I could name. Bees and beavers, the very apotheosis of busyness, with their finely engineered, labor-intensive homes, come to mind. And cats, calmly going about the business of murder as if they were getting paid for it. Wolves form complex societies and have cooperative hunting practices. Prairie dogs build underground cities and use a sophisticated communications network. Dolphins have been known to rescue humans lost at sea, and orangutans regularly out-act Clint Eastwood. Not cows, though. Like their spiritual brethren the sloth and koala, the cow feels that if you got your friends and enough to eat then all's right with the world.
Still, though, we have that expression: "Until the cows come home." Whenever I hear it, I imagine the farm wife tipping back the curtain peering out the window, saying, "Best wrap it up, Ed. They're on their way."
I do like the idea of cows having some business of their own to attend to, and a home to go to afterward. I like cows. They're solid, placid, calm gravitas I find very comforting. Their very mass is reassuring. If you've ever had the opportunity of leaning up against a cow, you'll see what I mean. Try it sometime. If I may be forgiven a bit of anthropomorphizing, I'm convinced that whenever I approach a cow and they stop what they're doing to look at me, jaws methodically working the cud, they're saying, "Oh, hello. Didn't see you there. Have a graze, if you like." Friendly, deferential — not fawning like a dog, or standoffish like a cat. Accepting, equable, and gracious.
This is why I don't like to eat them. Nor pigs, nor chickens, nor sheep — all have their specific charms and share with me the biological imperative to survive and reproduce. It is my natural inclination to allow them to go about that business unimpeded and uneaten. Who am I to say that whatever pointless human endeavors I might be engaged in are more meaningful, important and worthy of protection than whatever whims the fellow creatures we refer to collectively as "livestock" might care to indulge in, given the freedom to do so? Even taking this comparison to an extreme — are the aggregate accomplishments of, say, Stephen Hawking, more important than a chicken spearing a centipede and gulping it down? Surely all depends on one's point of view. To the chicken, it's no contest.
You will notice that at the beginning of the last paragraph I said that I don't like to eat them, not that I never do. Given an ideal living situation in which I were solely responsible for my own care and feeding, and supposing a consistent and attentive attitude toward my own health and well-being, I wouldn't. Sometimes I just have to eat what's put in front of me, and sometimes — like after two weeks existing on nothing but Gatorade, Skoal, and chewing gum — the desire for animal protein is less a craving and more an atavistic shriek originating at a cellular level. My body demands meat, specifically hamburger, and I am forced to obey the dictates of my inner caveman and indulge it for a week or so before returning to my rice-beans-tofu regimen.
Now I could head south, cross the bridge and go to Mickey D's for some corporate gut-bombs, and it's probably no more than I deserve. You certainly get more bang for your buck there. But consider — by the time I have attained my condition of temporary carnivorousness, I've been weeks, perhaps months, shoveling toxic, corrosive chemicals into my system and depleting already scant fat reserves. To introduce such indifferent, mediocre people-fodder into this sorely depleted organism is not only adding insult to injury but a slap in the collective sweet faces of all those noble cows who gave their lives that I might continue my questionable activities.
No, I am going to honor their memory and my dessicated tissues by heading north for a pilgrimage to the ne plus ultra of Northcoast burger joints, Jenny's Giant Burger.
To start, the aura and ambience are profoundly comforting. A time traveler from any of the past six decades could materialize here and wonder if his machine might not be broken. The food is simple, classic, timeless and perfect as burgers go. I'm not sure what alchemical processes are in place there transforming the mundane into the sublime, but the good folks at Jenny's erect monuments to the memory of each dearly departed cow in every surpassingly savory burger they craft. When I bite into one — and yes, I suppose this could be partly attributed to the malnutritive state I've descended to when I do — I feel myself and the bovine spirit comingling as I am transported into a state of gustatory beatitude. Ringing hosannas emanate from my famished cells as my essence is replenished by this flawlessly executed and perfectly presented burger.
Advances in hamburger technology have been both rapid and revolutionary in recent years, producing such aberrations as 24 karat gold leaf covered patties and truffle and caviar laden monstrosities. Exotic meats from the antipode can be found along with beef culled from spa-raied, college educated cows who provide written affidavits stating they have willingly given their lives in order to indulge the culinary extravagances of young celebrity super chefs.
I personally prefer more standard fare. Jenny's does it simply, they do it old school, and they do it right. There is no room for improvement on a Jenny's burger, giant though it may be. They have achieved that rarest of plateaus in the culinary (or any other) world: perfection.
It is the very Platonic ideal of the hamburger and if just one death row inmate somewhere reads this and requests a Jenny's giant burger for his for her last meal I will feel I have done my job communicating to the world their utter raditude.
I do not know if there is a Jenny yet thriving but if so, bravo to you and your establishment. If not, I salute your memory and honor your work in establishing this landmark institution.
I do feel that as a mostly vegetarian, I should give the opposing position opportunity to rebut. So I say: Love the animals. Don't eat them. But if you must, by all means keep it real, keep it local, and keep it Giant.