Meat or Poison?


“One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” It is an old proverb that is rarely disputed.

In fact, it has often come to the rescue of a child “encouraged” by well-meaning parents to eat his broccoli, Brussels sprouts and chicken livers.

Some give credit – or blame – to the Roman poet Lucretius for first coining the expression in the first century BC. His version was, “What is food for one man may be bitter poison to others.”

The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman” illustrates this in some quite entertaining ways. Consider a few “delicacies” which are not likely to turn up soon as new Girl Scout Cookie flavors in America. But, believe it or not, these odd bits are actually delicacies to some people Andrew visits.

  • Take Icelandic Hákarl, for example. It is made from the Greenland shark, a meat which is actually poisonous when fresh. Icelanders tame it by letting it spoil underground for a few months and then air-drying it for a few more. They say it is quite good… if you like the taste of ammoniated wax.
  • Cambodians say tarantula tastes great, reminding one of sweet and delicate crabs when they’re fresh. Of course it is useful to defang them first and then scorch them to remove the hair.
  • And how about the Giraffe Weevils of Madagascar, striped and gangly beetles that look like a Dr. Seuss creature? Sautéed in salty water and a little butter, they are said to be tender morsels that taste a lot like shrimp.

But then, some American foods can seem poisonous to people of other lands. Could a dish made with boiled animal bones and hides, colored with garish, lab-made chemicals and served with fruit really appeal to anyone? Why not? We call it Jell-O.

’Nuff said? One man’s meat really can be another man’s poison.

But here’s this week’s twist on that theme from your Jamestown Gazette. One man’s poisonous waste can really become another’s food.

This week we take you to Chautauqua Lake where we have been dumping our untreated waste, poisons and chemicals into the water for centuries. And the weeds, algae and bacteria in the lake eat it up like a grand feast. They grow beyond all bounds, clogging waterways and turning some of the water into a soupy, green sludge for a while every spring.

The odd discovery we bring you this week is that many of us blame the vegetation and bacteria for polluting our beautiful lake. In fact, Chautauqua Lake is an overfed lake which is dining hungrily on the wastes and poisons we feed it in the form of our raw sewage, farm and lawn fertilizers and thousands of tons of rich soil washed into the lake every year from poorly managed land.

If our poison is meat for the things that clog our lake, then maybe it is time we start starving our lake of the pollution we carelessly feed it.

Please enjoy our lake and do what you can to keep it healthy. Chautauqua Lake needs neither meat nor poison, just clean water and healthy shores. It’s a simple diet for a long and healthy life.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.