Yesterday (Friday) I did a bundle of things for the first time. I’ll go through them one by one (with pictures – click for large versions), then go through the things that have been going through me.
Here are the firsts:
08:00 – Went to collect the head and offal of our boar.
08:15 – Talked to the butcher, who skinned the head for me.
08:30 – Took the head, kidneys, heart, liver, trotters, & ‘mountain oysters’ (testicles!).
09:00 – Bought a meat saw.
09:30 – Laid out plastic bags to catch blood; sawed the pig’s head into quarters; cut out the tongue; chopped off the ears; extracted the brain.
10:30 – Ate pig-brain for breakfast (w/ scrambled egg, parsley, & rocket/arugula).
12:00 – Put all the bits of pig-head into pots and boiled them up for a few hours.
16:00 – Scalded myself with boiling pig-stock; spend 45 minutes icing my stomach.
17:00 – Put all the bits of meat and stock into dishes to make brawn/head cheese.
And what I want to talk about is:
a) The process of an animal becoming food.
b) Why it’s important not to hide from the gruesome stuff.
When does ‘pig’ become ‘pork’?
Mr Pig was a nice boy: no hassle at all, and liked to lick my boots for some reason. On Thursday lunchtime I gave him an apple and said goodbye; on Friday morning I saw him again, post-butchering, and his face looked just the same. It was still Mr Pig. Even when skinned, the head was very familiar (see top). Two hours later, I was eating him.
[By the way, a skinned head is very slippy, and I discovered that the best way to hold it still is to grip the eye-sockets.]
Mr Pig is now meat, but from my perspective he didn’t cease to be Mr Pig at any specific moment: he turned into meat gradually. While the moment of death was technically when he ceased to be him, it didn’t feel like that for me. It was only when all the meat had long-since fallen off the bones and I was actually pulling out the teeth (I want to keep them as a kind of memorial) that Mr Pig genuinely ceased to exist in my eyes, yet even now the meat he has given us is completely distinct from any other food I’ve ever consumed.
What relationship do you have with your food?
I have a lot of respect for people who have chosen to do without meat because of the way in which animals are often bred, raised, transported, culled and so on. Vegetarians may get laughed at and stereotyped as ‘bleeding hearts’ or whatever, but they’re far more in the right than most of us, who are happy to eat meat as long as we can forget that what we’re chewing was once a sentient being (who very probably had a crap life because that’s what suited us). I don’t want to be that guy, any more than I want to be the guy who demands cheap clothes, yet is horrified when confronted by the sweatshops in which they were produced. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to do it with integrity.
So farewell Mr Pig. I know what he ate, where he lived, and how happy he was when we scratched his back; I know that we treated him well, that the culling process was as stress- and pain-free as possible, and that he didn’t exist just for money; and I know that we are not taking him for granted now we are eating him. If I had known all of the biographical details of the last pack of suspiciously cheap bacon I bought, I doubt very much that I would feel too good about it.
[I’ve intentionally been a bit ‘explicit’ in this post (in pictures and descriptions). That’s because this process has left me exposed with no place to hide, and I wanted to share that uneuphamized nakedness.]