Monday, October 22, 2012

Heartfelt thanks

It took all day for Aaron to process the three geese. Mostly, I was busy with other chores, but I did take pictures and do some plucking. The other birds I plucked, some chickens for a friends’ farm wedding years ago, had long clear worms in some of the feather follicles, and many little gnat-y, itchy “chicken fleas” that leapt of the chickens and onto us as we plucked. Iggy, iggy, iggy. The geese were pest-free and oddly endearing. I think because their feathers are so soft and because their beaks have a little up-turn at the base, so they appear quite cheerful about the whole affair.
Stop here if you don’t want to see dead-bird and dead-bird innards pictures.

Plucking the birds felt oddly intimate. Ideally, you pluck gently enough not to rip the skin. For a novice, this takes a lot of attention and care—you find the right angle, the right degree of tug—and I came to feel like I was ministering to this bird, a healer not a carnivore. I’m sure if I’d even plucked one entire bird myself, that would have worn off long before I was done. Plucking is endless.
An experienced processer would have had those geese bald and in the fridge by lunch, at the latest. Even so, that is a big chunk out of your day. All the worse, when you are finally getting the geese into the freezer after the kids are in bed. It is sobering to brush up against the time and labor involved with getting food on the table when you take responsibility for it yourself. To be sure, this made me thankful to have supermarket access. But I felt strongest about these birds. Not so much thankful, they didn’t volunteer to be shot, but rather I was catching glimpses of awe. We had taken these lives and were stewarding their bodies from beautiful bird to dinner.  That is some serious shit.
We ate the hearts first. Aaron sautéed onions in butter with some lemon zest, then tossed the chopped-up hearts in. Some pieces were rings, like calamari, others were little nubbins. Four-year-old Forest wasn't interested in trying any, but was curious why the hearts weren't heart shaped. (I like to think he was imagining a plate of meat sweethearts “Be mine!”) Two-year-old Walker, who isn't typically much of a meat eater, was crazy about it. I let him steal almost all of mine off my plate, which was disappointing (and something I should put my foot down about), but I felt it was more important for him to eat it. After he finished mine, and what was left in the pot, he asked to be taken to see the pot. He's never made that request before, but he clearly wanted to make sure we hadn't missed any or that we weren't holding out on him.
 Those few bites I did have were peaceful, even with a toddler clamoring to be in my lap and stealing my food and putting buttery, goose-hearty hands on my fuzzy alpaca sweater. Surely no more than a powerful placebo effect, but I felt an inner stillness, an inner calm with each bite. Three bites worth of inner peace? Not what I would have expected, not what I would believe, but there you have it.

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