Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lambs and Sheep ~ Goats and Kids

At the age of 9 years old I became a member of 4-H.

"I pledge my head to clearer thinking.
My heart to greater loyalty.
My health to better living and my hands to larger service for my club, my community, my country and my world."

At first I was involved in the sewing and cooking aspect of the local club. I made cakes and sewed prize winning aprons. (I still have the apron....somewhere.)

But soon my parents agreed that I would raise a lamb. I named my first lamb 'Puffy.'

Puffy was sold at the San Diego County fair that year. As tears of sadness streamed down my face the price per pound went higher and higher. Who wouldn't want to buy a lamb from a cute, crying, blond 9 year old? At least I didn't have to worry about eating my precious pet.

Each year I purchased another lamb in the early spring. In 4-H you attend classes that help you know what to do to train your lamb and prepare it for show. What they DON'T prepare you for is the fact that lambs become lamb chops so I really never put the two together. Sure I was selling my lamb to the highest bidder but surely the buyer was taking my cute little pet home to his or her family to love and enjoy at much as I had over the last few months.

Oregon became my home once I hit adolescence. 4-H was a lot different in Oregon. And although I added equine to my repertoire of 4-H animals I did not lose my interest in raising sheep. In fact, in high school I purchased a ewe that I ended up having bred and she delivered a fine set of twins that first spring.

Living in the country with four kids our parents felt that we should expand our barnyard. My brothers acquired hogs and we added some goats as well.

I should really ask my mom about this but at some point she decided we should start eating our menagerie. I am sure I objected to the family feasting on my precious little lambs but I don't remember exactly how these protests occured.

What I do remember is hauling the goats and extra lambs to market. Some days later returning to pick up frozen, white paper wrapped packages marked 'veal.' Now today, I would not be so eager to eat veal. But back then, my ignorance and naivete clouded my thinking and better judgement.

I am sure I partook of those pieces of meat. In fact, I know I did. Thinking they were veal: whatever the heck veal

My memory does not render an explanation, but somehow (this is what I need to ask my mom) I discovered that those white, paper wrapped packages of veal were actually my precious little lambs. You might be shocked to think that a mother was trick her children in such a manner. Trust me: this is normal for my mom.

But somehow, despite the deceit, along the way I discovered that I liked lamb.

Lamb meat is good. In fact, 'mutton' is good! Goat is good! I am most definitely a carnivore. I love the strips of fat that are attached to lovely pieces of meat. I love the word gelatinous and the texture of it in my mouth attached to various cuts of meat. As I child I cleaned a drumstick clean, even biting off the tips to get to the bone marrow.

I LOVE it when Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain talk about eating meat that has a gelatinous texture with sinuous membranes and connective tissue - although it does make me very hungry. I've had it before and I want it again: braised bone marrow. Yum!

Here is a list of foods with sinuous membranes and connective tissue:

  • Chicken wings
  • Tendons
  • Fatty flank
  • Cartilage
  • Shank
  • Hock joints
  • Beef fat
  • Pork fat

It's all good to me.

Now take a long look at the picture of the head of this goat or sheep. Even though I love the idea of eating the parts of this head - cooked - each piece of connective tissue and cartilage, the sight of this animal uncooked, staring me straight in the eye is going to be tough for me.

But this is what I have to look foward to when Ruth and I go to Nouakchott. I'll admit that while I love the idea of eating parts of an animal that are considered rubbish at my local grocery store, I think I will have a hard time dealing with seeing the animal go from hoof to fire pit - or however they cook it. If it looks at me, I'll have trouble.

I'm just saying: I'm gona enjoy the experience but it may be wrought with complexities associated with my love of animals. But I'll pledge my best to find favor with the people who host me. That's the least this old 4-H-er can do. :)

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