... a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four or five kinds of cheese... --A. J. Liebling, "A Good Appetite"
Because the very nature of the Thanksgiving holiday is all about cruelty, gluttony, and waste, it only seems fair to consider a few menu items that have the power to both enliven your feast and add some tangible suffering to the world. The myth would tell you that the nature of Thanksgiving has to do with sharing nature's bounty with our fellow travelers; you and I know that myth is about as vital as the Sioux Nation. This is America, fool. We are cold-hearted and fat, and our collective national Thanksgiving meal is never finished until we have glutted our corpulent gullets with more food than we could possibly need, while all around us people beg for a penny to keep from starving to death. Pass the gravy.
The obvious corollary to this human dynamic lies in the preparation of the food whose bounty we give such thanks for. It's one thing to base one's Thanksgiving on the turkey; they're dull-witted beasts whose entire life seems to be predicated on suffering. But turkeys are too easy. A good first principle might be to exchange your holiday Butterball for a turducken--you'll still be eating a turkey, but it will be a turkey that has been stuffed with a duck, which has, in turn, been stuffed with a chicken. Not for nothing, but each bite you take of a turducken roast represents three dead birds, as opposed to the one dead bird of your typical Thanksgiving feast. Still, a turducken is just three slaughtered animals, no more or less overtly cruel than, say, a hamburger with a chicken patty, smeared with foie gras. If I may paraphrase the late Senator John F. Kerry, we can do better.
When you're talking about vicious, vengeful animal cruelty that yields delicious entrées, there's only one gold standard: veal. The good news for veal calves is that they only live about 14 weeks. Every other thing about their existence is worse than you could possibly imagine. They are kept in crates so small (22" x 54") that they basically can't move, thus guaranteeing muscular atrophy and tender meat. Their only nourishment comes from a high-fat, low-iron milk substitute, while heroic doses of antibiotics keep them nominally alive. The life of a veal calf is not much more than crippling pain, perpetual diarrhea, and waiting for a gruesome death. Braise with butter and garlic and simmer for 30 minutes.
A little further along the food chain, but just a notch or two down the cruelty index, lies a tantalizing crustacean whose presence on the family table will surprise everyone--especially if it's still thrashing. Experts may differ on the relative humaneness of lobster preparation, but even if it doesn't affect the flavor, the aesthetics of Thanksgiving demand a live animal dropped into boiling water. Safety, however, is always a factor. According to About.com's master chef Peggy Trowbridge, the "plunge method" will undoubtedly kill the beast, but "the thrashing tail is likely to cause burns... or at least a mess." She recommends immersing the lobster's head first, the better to kill it cruelly and instantly, while avoiding the tensed muscles--and increased chewing--that full-body immersion invites. Good to know. And a little butter goes a long way, too.
Speaking of butter, it's important to keep in mind that entrées are not the only place to add to the cruelty of Thanksgiving. Consider the sides. The obvious first step is a serving of pâté, whose preparation demands the force-feeding of cute little ducklings until their livers are engorged. But why stop there? A dish of fresh clams, a bowl of shark fin soup, perhaps some nice saucissons--there's no shortage of ways to raise the stakes. And as you wash down your indefensible feast (with, one assumes, a glass of milk, the cruelest of all beverages), recall the sacrifices of those who came before, who killed and died so that we could do the same. Bon appétit!