Sunday, September 23, 2007

Catskill Animal Sanctuary + Saugerties = 4ever

Brian and I had a wonderful time in Saugerties, NY. We came for the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, and our visit did not disappoint, but we also fell in love with Saugerties, a very charming, small town chock full of antique shops and adorable restaurants and storefronts (and not a little bit spooky to drive through on a very foggy night). We started our day by unwinding in our Hojo's hotel room before venturing into the downtown area in search of snacks to tide us over before our dinner reservations at New World Home Cooking. We weren't out and about for but an hour when a huge rainstorm hit. We ate the bananas and nut bars we picked up at Mother Earth Health Food Store under an awning and ran into a bookstore right before the skies opened up. The owner gave us shelter and, when he told us about all the places he traveled to as a food writer, we told him about the humble little operation you're visiting right now. We didn't get the friendly owner's name but Brian agreed with me when I said he looked like a Bartholomew. He just did.

We ran off to dinner only to find out that the thunderstorms had knocked out power at New World Home Cooking. Very hungry, we drove back downtown and settled on dinner at the surprisingly veggie-friendly, Pig Bar and Grill. Seeing a pig cut as a restaurant out is usually not a good sign but it actually worked out. Brian had a delicious coconut tofu sandwich and I burned my mouth on the blackened fish (the pros of pescetarianism continue to wane). But my mojito was good. We were going to go see Halloween or Hairspray at the old-time moviehouse, the Orpheum but I hate horror movies and neither one of us wanted to see Hairspray so we passed on both. We attempted a night drive to the Saugerties Lighthouse and turned around after the fog and dark winding roads has us feeling like we were in the middle of our own horror film. Like the elderly people we are quickly become, we went back to the hotel and nodded off while watching and making fun of the phenomenon that is High School Musical (but Disney wins because we actually voluntarily watched this swill, which I would have loved when I was nine).
The next day, we went to Miss Lucy's Kitchen for brunch. I was looking forward to drinking a mimosa when our waitress informed us they could not serve alcohol before noon. So I settled for the delicious challah french toast with strawberry compote while Brian dug into some tofu scramble with home fries and salad. We tried taking pictures but my camera was refusing to take pictures. Trust me. Our plates were very pretty and tasty. Miss Lucy's is not veggie-friendly at all for dinner, however, where bunny is heavily featured. Gross. But their brunch is nice and hanging aprons and country-ish air is appealing.
We window shopped a bit before heading to the farm sanctuary. I was so excited to be going. Just seeing the sign made me happy. We were greeted by one of the friendliest (read: doggiest) cats I've ever come across. She came over to us purring and cuddly. We made our way to the HUGE pigs sunning themselves in the mud. One pig put his snout through the gate and let me pet his big, wet nose. They didn't oink; they growled like my dog.
We wandered into the empty visitors' center, where there were vegan flyers, pamphlets, and recipe booklets galore. Another couple came a few minutes later before our tour guide, Betsy, finally came. She put on a short film about the sanctuary and its reasons for existence. She warned us about a portion of the film that showed factory farming footage and assured us it was short but urged us to watch. I never watched the last few minutes of Fast Food Nation, which is the scene that shows real slaughterhouse footage of cows being killed. I won't watch Earthlings. I can't even stand to watch a dog be sad in a fictional movie. But I tried to steel my courage to watch the sanctuary film in its entirety. Watching the pigs being thrown and jostled was heartwrenching and seeing the calves in their veal stalls was awful but what actually set me off was watching two chickens looking sad, sick, and scared holding onto one another while cramped in the cage. That's when I started crying. The camera zoomed in on their faces and there was no denying that not only were they terrified but they were trying to protect and comfort one another. When Betsy came to turn off the film, she saw me crying and acknowledged how awful it was.
After the film, the fun part began we went into the stall to meet all the animals. There was the blind horse, Bobo, who had furry prosthetic eyeballs and was kicking his stall for more oats (it was feeding time when we arrived). We met a mother pig and the cutest piglets but my camera was acting up when it came time to meet them.
Perhaps our most memorable host was Rambo, the ram who, when he first arrived, was so hateful towards humans that he threw three of the farm workers into his stall. A year later, he is not only recovered from having been abused, he is one of the most peaceful and gracious of all the animals we met. In fact, he was so peaceful, we were told he rarely needs to be in the stall and basically roams around, checking in on the other animals who may be more scared or shy. He alerts the staff when anyone is sick. He reminded me of my dog, Luckie, when he came towards me and nuzzled me with his head then gently kicked me when I stopped rubbing him.
After hanging out with the goats (who I can only describe as regal and proud), horses, and some pigs in the stalls, we ventured out to meet the ducks, the chickens and pigs bred to be so abnormally large that they have the same cardiovascular and respiratory problems that a morbidly obese human would have.
Then we were off to see the former dairy cows and cattle. The cows were so huge. It was impressive to be so close to just their enormous heads let alone the rest of their big bodies. They were so gentle and their tongues were sandpapery like a cat's when they licked me.

After that, we headed over to some more horses. We got their at an opportune time because one of the female horses unloaded an impressive stream of urine before flapping her vulva in front of all of us to see. Quite a show.
While walking with Betsy, I told her that I had given up eating land animals but was still eating fish, eggs, dairy, and especially that crack cocaine of dairy, cheese. She said she had a cheese issue herself and then told me how she doesn't eat any meat except for tuna a few times a year when her hunting husband brings some back for her. Huh? Brian asked if the sanctuary housed any sea creatures and she responded with, "No. Only farm animals." Well, fish are definitely animals and nowadays they are farmed ones too. Betsy was awesome as a guide and is doing great work but it was interesting to note how you can work so closely with animals and in a facility that actively promotes veganism and still have blinders on about certain animals (present blogger included).
We ended our last day in Saugerties by visiting Opus 40, a quarry museum where Brian was in his glory.
Then we finally had our New World Home Cooking dinner. The white bean dip and herbed bread they give every table is amazing. In fact, it was better than my dinner of rubbery and bland penne and calamari arrabiatta. Brian got the blue-corn crusted seitan with collard greens and yams. I had one too many apple martinis and we shared a slice of vegan and spelt chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. After being stuffed, we headed back onto the highway towards New Jersey and, though we never got lost once in Saugerties, we did in New Jersey . I blame it on the overabundance of food and relaxation. We didn't want to come back.

1 comment:

Sky said...

I SOOO want to tag along on your travels one of these times. Thanks for the wonderful animal shots, and insightful writing as usual. Can't wait to see you in December!