Sunday, December 11, 2011


Yesterday was a butchering day. Ron (my husband) and Justin (my son-in-law) went out into the cold foggy pasture, sugar coated with ice crystals, and killed a steer. The pool of scarlet blood melted the silvery frost. Steaming crimson on a patch of green, vibrant against the grey and white landscape.

How many people even know what it means to kill their own meat? How many know the heat of the blood and the smell of the gut? Or the work involved? The sweat, the effort, the time... Do they know the sense of sorrow, gratitude and humility, or the sense of connection to the universe that you feel, when you kill your own meat? Hunters and farmers do. They still retain their connection to the land, the life force, the cost... Something that urbanization has taken away... Humility and sacrifice.

Gordon, a poster on DFA, talks about raw meaty bones, for dogs, and feeding them on the ground. I wonder what he would think if he saw a steer butchered on the pasture, grass bits clinging to heart, liver tail, tongue, and scrap, when it's brought to the house? What would they think if they saw the blood up to the elbows, the cutting, the cleaning. Would primitive feelings awaken in their souls? Is there some deeper stirring that arises, like that same call of men around a bar-b-que: flames and meat. And here is meat, raw and steaming. The guys gut it, quarter it, and bring it down to the house to clean. Then wrap it in clean sheets and take it to the butchering plant, to hang in the big cooler. The hanging weight is 644 lbs.

I've been presented with the choice parts. They are still warm and very bloody. Not at all like meat from a store. Each piece is washed, rinsed, drained and dried. The liver weighed about 15 lbs. As I wash it, I inspect it for flukes, a parasite. I did not find any, though there was a bit of damage. I wonder what my own liver must look like. Last year, my liver was so damaged that my abdomin was distended above my waist like a 6 months pregnancy. It's almost flat again. That's a lot of healing. I wonder how my liver tissue looks as I cut out and discard the two tiny damaged spots on this steer's liver.

I cut off the lobes, thinly sliced them and set them in a bowl of saltwater. Then went back to dividing the rest of the liver into freezer portions: human and dog. Rosie and Sonia are riveted to my every move. Sonia, being, 13 knows how the game is played. She takes herself off to the living room, out of sight. We play a game in this house. The dog farthest from the food gets the prize. She has positioned herself at the far end of the living room, perky pom ears straining to follow my movements. Rosie is only a year old. Her nappy black body stretched out at the kitchen door, inching forward, testing - learning. When she figures it out and retreats she gets a prize. No dogs in the kitchen.

I move on to cutting and grading the heart meat, while the scrubbed tongue soaks in brine, to remove the slime. Even doing this, I still have to cook dinner, so I break long enough to scrub up a few potatoes and sweet potatoes and start them cooking. Justin and Ron had come in and cleaned up earlier. Cleaning and caring for the organ meat takes nearly as many hours as the slaughtering. Ron started the slaughtering at 7:30 and finished at 3:00. I started my part at 1:00 and finished at 6:30. While I cut up the heart, I ask Justin to slice a couple of onions for dinner. Yep, liver and onions and spicey plank fried potatoes.

When dinner was nearly ready, I called the kids to set the table. I told them to put every condiment on the table we owned. It's been a long time since I've eaten liver and with my heightened sense of smell, I wasn't sure I would be able to choke it down. Justin was thinking along the same lines after spending all those hours working over the gut pile. We hadn't been eating the organ meats the last several years. Too any toxins from the neighbor's spraying. Toxins are processed in the liver. If the animal has been exposed to toxic substances, they'll be accumulated there. So we had been discarding it. This is the first year I felt it would be safe enough. I was a little worried that it wouldn't be clean enough and I thought about it as I sautéed the liver and onions, and turned the oven fried planks.

Spicey mustard works better than ketchup as a liver condiment. How could I have not known that all these years. I ate 4 pieces. Liver is chock full of glutathione. That's why it's so healthy for you. Justin amazed himself and ate 10 pieces, my daughter, Alex ate 8, and Ron, amazed us all by eating 10. Ron is not known for a large appetite. Justin finally owned up that he'd expected that having participated in the process, that he'd have lost his appetite. He surprised himself, and was even looking forward to liver sandwich for lunch.

So, the liver was clean enough, of toxins. It did initiate a cleansing crisis. I was awakened at 4:00 a.m. With acute lymphatic pain. I had to get up to treat it. I'm waiting it out and typing this to keep my mind off the symptoms. Sooo itchy!!

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