by Ed Halmagyi


The Brothers Grimm could not have been more aptly named. Grim indeed. Their dark and tortured tales of children thrown into ovens, or of wolves who gulp down grannies are (on any sane reflection) the stuff of nightmares.

No children’s author today would dare to conjure up such images of pain, loss and separation…….and yet these classic tales survive. What’s more, they are celebrated by the very people who would chide a contemporary writer articulating similar adventures.

The Grimm’s enduring spirit a good thing too, because their tales are powerful tools that help young children to express the fears they already have. Natural, normal everyday fears.

Kids who fear parental abandonment find solace in Hansel and Gretel’s plight because it mirror’s their own anxieties. Youngsters with a fear of strangers take relief from the Grimm’s various horrid witches who become expressive caricatures of the very threats they see in the world around themselves.

Indeed, the tendency to use stories as devices with which to explain the world is not just limited to children. We adults do it too.

I was reminded of this just the other day when, as I was talking to a group of keen cooks about the start of veal season, a woman at the rear of the class burst into a hectoring rage about the cruelty of veal. It is, she claimed, a brutal and barbaric technique that involves tying down calves and depriving them of movement and light, only to end their molested lives long before due time.

Sadly, many in the group agreed. It was a Grimm tale of young meat, expressing their fears of all that remains unknown about the processing of juvenile cows.

So, let’s put the record straight. Vealers are simply young cattle under the age of 12 months (when they become yearling). If they are under 4 months, they will be milk-fed and have pale, tender flesh. Like all cattle in Australia, they are pasture-raised and enjoy the wide open spaces before they become part of the food chain. No tying, no deprivations.

One meat or another? All involve the taking of a life. But Australian farmers conduct their business at world’s best practice and should be commended for this. We should enjoy the short veal season for what it is. A refined and delicious part of the fact that we are omnivorous.
Braised veal breast with sage and lemon stuffing