Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Accidental Vegetarian, VII

image linked from memories.loc.gov

Most of our society lives far from that place now, most of us ignorant of that quiet land where we nourished the animals we would kill and eat.

Acquainted, yes, and careful, but nevertheless an entirely unsentimental process.

My grandparents killed hogs and chickens, mostly, steers providing too much meat to preserve in those days before nearly every home had a freezer. Chickens killed and eaten, one by one; hogs killed, and canned, smoked, or salted.

Gandhi, their contemporary, said "To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body." Mawkish words in the ears of hard-worn country folk, surviving dust storms and depression, with no time for peaceful coexistence with the animals upon which they were utterly dependent. Dogs and horses and mules and dairy cows might work to inspire affection, but chicken, rabbits, and hogs waited only to become God's gift to the table.

My maternal grandfather, work dwindling in the Great Depression, raised rabbits and chickens in the backyard to put meat on the table. My paternal grandparents, trapped under the Dust Bowl, had room to raise hogs as well as chickens. No ax necessary at hog killing. A quick, hard hammer blow between the eyes, and the hog was hoisted by the heels. Sharp knife, lanced throat. Save the blood. Use everything but the squeal. No refrigeration. Hams go to the smokehouse. Grind the sausage, cook and can it. The backbone, fresh, for dinner.

Life from life, blood sacrifice in the powdery soil along the wood fence near the garden. No pristine carved parcels clad in clear shrink wrap, skinless, boneless.


To be continued.

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