Facing Your Food
Editor’s Note: Abby is a family friend working this summer in Italy on a farm and at a farmer’s market. It is not her first experience serving local food. For several years, Abby has worked at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market. For many years, she did not eat meat, even going vegan for a few years. Abby started eating meat shortly before leaving for Italy. Soon thereafter, she had the chance to face her meat. Abby agreed to let us publish her account of facing your food (even if she could not face it directly). You can read more of Abby’s Italian adventures at http://carrotsoup.wordpress.com/.
So, today, I helped Giovanni kill an agnello, or baby lamb. I don’t really know how I am supposed to feel about this, but honestly, all I feel is grateful. Grateful that an animal gave up its life for us and just grateful in general. So Giovanni picked a male lamb, tied its legs and carried it to a room in the casaficcio where they slaughter the animals. I was too scared to look it in the eyes so I pet it and stood behind the table where I could only see its back and behind, not the face. Giovanni made two cuts in the jugular, it began to bleed, and the blood went into a bucket. It only needed to bleed for around a minute before it started gagging and jerking around. It gasped for another minute or so, and then the breathing slowed and eventually stopped. The whole process took around 3 minutes, very fast, very painless. Sarah said we took the cowards view by not looking it in the eyes, and I regret not looking at it from the front, because if you are okay with eating meat, you should be okay with killing it, and I was too nervous to look it in the eyes while it died, so instead I listened to it die. After it died, I went around to look at it, and I thanked it.
The minute it stopped breathing, Giovanni made a small hole in the leg, inserted a small hose and pumped the agnello with air, stretching it like a balloon to get the skin to detach from the muscle. He slit down the stomach and around the groin and began to pull the skin off. He cut off the feet and then attached giant hooks into the arms and hung it from a chain on the ceiling. I helped to peel the skin off and take out the insides, and I held its heart. it was still pulsing, not beating, but it was warm and moving and just holding its lungs and heart and stomach and liver was so…I don’t know how to describe it. It was very real and very connected. I got warm blood on my hands, I felt the still moving organs, and I heard the sound of dying.
The meat we eat is so de-animalized. All you see is a hunk of steak or a piece of chicken or just something. You don’t know what you are eating and you are so very disconnected from where your food comes from, from the animal that sacrificed its life for you. Are you thankful? Are you knowledgeable? Are you anything? For us, that meat is just another meal, just another piece of food.
For example, they had rabbit for dinner tonight, which no, I did not eat, and I saw the whole rabbits sitting skinned in the kitchen. The meat we eat actually comes from a real animal, from something that was alive a short while ago, an animal who gave itself up for us. I just feel so appreciative right now, so grateful.
Doing this today really meant a lot to me, and as most of you know, I’ve had a weird past with meat, being a vegetarian for 6.5 years and a vegan for 2 years. I just recently, like literally 3 weeks before I left for Italy, began to eat meat again. I’m only doing farm raised organic, which is everything here. I’m glad I got to take part in this because it’s helping me understand, well, a lot. I apologize to all you readers, which hopefully there are some! But I just can’t describe this.
Well, tomorrow, when we have 30 PEOPLE for dinner, I don’t think anyone will appreciate our meal of agnello as much as Sarah, Giovanni, and I will.