Who knew, butchering can be fun?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Well, I wasn't actually around for most of it. I had just left the house yesterday afternoon about 5:00 with a full schedule of things to do that would keep me and the kids busy until about 7, when Homero called to tell me the boys were there to do the baby goats. He also told me they had brought a bottle of mezcal, and he tried to convince me this was traditional. Maybe it is.
Luckily, one of the men, Crecencio, is a very expert butcher. Homero assures me that each goat kid was dispatched very quickly and humanely, by a sharp knife to the jugular. They bled out in under a minute. Then each kid was hung from the rafters of Homero's shop (no playset this time!) and skinned, gutted, and jointed in about twenty minutes.
Homero is always irritated by the amount of "waste" when the professionals from Keizer meats come to kill the pigs. To me, it doesn't look they are throwing away anything I'd want to eat - ears, hooves, various unrecognizable organs, stuff like that. But now that I have seen a Mexican butcher at work, I totally get it. These guys left nothing behind. Pretty much literally nothing. The only things I saw go in the trash bag were the skins and the full rumen.
They had two giant steel stockpots - much bigger than anything I own, and into one them went all the muscle meat and the bones. ALL of it. The heads. The legs, skinned right down to the feet. The hooves were skinned off and the tender inner part of the foot went in the pot. There was just nothing left of those goats. In the other pot went all the organs, and I do mean all of them, with the single exception of the rumen. The hearts, the lungs, the livers, the kidneys, all the fat. The big sheet of some kind of tripe that hangs off the rumen. Most of the intestine. They kept everything.
It was all quite clean. No mess, no smell. Crecencio was obviously very competent. All the men helped with this or that, but mostly everyone was free to stand around the little fire they built and talk and drink. They had brought some enormous maguey leaves (where do they get fresh maguey in washington state? Who knows?) and were slowly roasting them over the small fire.
By the time I arrived, everyone was pleasantly lubricated. The talk was mostly about food: all the great, remembered home cooking of their mamas and grandmas; which ingredients can or can't be got here; reminiscing about all the weird things that can't be got here, like grasshoppers, chinches, real queso fresco, a bunch of plants I don't know. By the time the butchering party wound all the way down, about ten o'clock, we were invited to the big party tomorrow (well, today, now) and many heartfelt sentiments about friendship and solidarity were expressed. The men all made a point of telling me I wasn't too bad for a gabacha and that they looked forward to introducing me to their wives.
I had a great time, and I can't wait to find out what all those unseen Mexican ladies are going to do with my goats. I bet it's going to be delicious.
I actually haven't seen Homero so happy in a long time.