Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lola becomes a vegetarian

Warning: This is not a pretty post. Seriously. If you have a weak stomach or a fondness for cows or chickens, don't read this. 

Part 1

Lola has declared herself a vegetarian. She has also asked that I be one with her. Here's why.               
Some things ocurred on our visit that are really only reserved for special occasions. I'll take no credit for being the reason for any of it, nor would Elmer, but he really is the reason. Elmer's dad's birthday was on November 12 (which happens to be my mom's birthday too). But they wanted to have a party for him, even though it was the odd year of 67 years of age, they decided with the grandchildren and the son's return a celebration was to be had.It was a pretty big deal for Elmer's family that he was home visiting. Of course now as a parent I can't comprehend the idea of only seeing my son once every 4 years. Or at least his family as Elmer was in El Salvador 2 years ago. And Heriberto, (a.k.a. Abuelo, or Elmer's dad), had his birthday while we were there. So the only logical thing to do is to kill a cow and celebrate. Right? Makes sense.

So this is a pretty big deal. Even though Heriberto has cows that he buys and sells every week, to kill one, is an occasion only for celebration. 

So I will regress for just a moment. There are many practices that I see in El Salvador that I don't agree with. There are many ways of life there that I would never chose. Thankfully, I am given that choice since I was born in the US. But these things are mostly it is due to the lack of formal education that the people have. There are many dietary customs (some relatively new) that I don't agree with. Mostly being the extreme amounts of high fructose corn syrup that is consumed, and the amount of non-traditional foods that are being shuffled into the diets of the Salvadorans. Thus making them gain weight more like Americans than the way they are traditionaly thought of. But like I said, I regress and I'll return. When it comes to eating meat, at least in and around Dolores it appears that the animals have it pretty good (for ones that will be consumed). There are no meat factories and every cow is pasture raised and grass fed and has lots of room to roam. The chickens are all free range. None are left in small cages and they generally come and go as they please. They are kept close to home and given enough to make them plump and happy and they never really stray far. They lay their eggs, eat their food and they go about their lives.

Early morning friday, the day before the before the party, Elmer left for the farm (which is about a 5 minute walk away) with his dad and two other men to take care of business. So I'm told, they called the animals, chose their bull and the man designated for the job, walked up with his machete and slit the cows neck. It took about two minutes for the cow to bleed out. I asked Elmer if he cried in pain during his death. No, not at all. Then I realized that he couldn't, his vocal cords had been cut. I'm glad that we weren't there for that.

So meanwhile the kids and I are finishing our breakfast and swinging on the hammock when Abuela, (aka the original Lola or Elmer's mom) comes calling for us to get ready to go to the farm. The celebrating was beginning and they wanted us there. I had NO idea what was in store. And now maybe this is part of the reason my pics got erased, so I wouldn't have forever documentation of this event.

We got ourselves together and walked to the farm. Past the cemetary, past the mango trees, through the gate, down the path, across the stream, through the first field and to the spot under the tree where everyone was gathered.

At this point, all the families of the each man was there. Except for the man hired and paid $10 for the most gruesome job we watched him do.

At first the kids and I focused our attention on all the others that had also come. In total there may have been 20-25 people there. Kids and adults. A party in itself. While we knew the body was there, we tried our best not to allow our eyes to lay gaze upon the mass of blood on the ground. The cow had been decapitated with his head upside down on the ground laying next to the base of the tree. It's face was out of sight. The body was completely skinned and layed on the ground like a blanket surrounding the remains of the body.  Even the tail on the animal had been skinned and layed stretched out in the grass. Intestines and stomach parts were removed and set aside. The heart was placed to the side. Each of the four legs had been cut off and were hanging individually from the tree by their hooves.  

One very odd thing I found through this even were that the other cows were hovering around the sight. At first I had this eerie feeling that they were going to fight back and rebel. Ok, that's ridiculous, but sometimes I'm crazy anyhow. So I went to my main source of all things related to cows in El Salvador (and golf, and quite a few other things) and asked Elmer what the deal with them was. Apparently they were waiting for us to finish up so that they could try to get at anything that might be left behind.


Lola leans over to me and says "I am never eating meat again."

We then went to go ride Tequila the horse.

Part 2

A few days later we woke up early in the morning to what sounded like pigs squealing. This wasn't that unusual as there were pigs that lived in the yard across the street. The previous morning they were have a good ole time squealing away. But this particular morning the sound was particularly loud. I was waking up and needed to go to the bathroom so I scooted out of the house we were staying in to head to the "privy". Just outside I saw Abuela at the all purpose sink which is across a small concrete courtyard but really no more than 30 feet away from me. I questioned her what the noise was, asking if she got pigs. But no sooner than the words stuttered out of my mouth I looked to see between she and I were two fat chickens hanging by their feet trying to flap their wings and hollar. I try to be as non-chalant as possible about the situation. Oh right, of course there are two chickens hanging upside down right in front of me making noises that sound more like hogs. But then again, a creature that senses it's demise might make any sort of noise imaginable.

Uh-oh. Here comes Lola asking what that crazy noise is. But first she has to run to the outhouse too. Oh great. So she runs to the outhouse, and Abuela apologizes for all the noise. Elmer's mom is really so polite. Although we are her house guests inconveniencing her for two weeks, she goes way out of her way to make sure we are ok. I can tell she doesn't want to bother us this early in the morning with the sounds. So she does, what any old school rural Salvadoran woman might do. She steps over the chickens and twists their necks one by one and kills them just like that. I can't watch so I turn to walk away. Just then Lola walks out of the outhouse and in plain view she witnesses as she says "the untwisting and the feathers flying" as the neck unwinds. Sweet Jesus.

"Mom, I am soooo not eating chicken ever again."

But Elmer's mom, just looks at me with her sweet eyes, apologizing for the noise that they caused. Not for killing them right there on the spot. But she was worried they woke us up. 

There was plenty of blood and feathers. And well I had to watch her hand pluck all the feathers off the birds. The same way you can't look away from a traffic accident.

Ok, so if you eat meat then I agree that you should be able to do this. That animals are food. And you should be able to accept that this is how they live and die. And their death is your survival. But, yeah, I'm not so in touch with this farm life and the animals. Maybe Lola is on to something.

Part 3

Really, should there be a part 3. Aren't 2 episodes enough...

Tigo: "Dad, why is there an iguana in the kitchen?"
Elmer: "Really, where?"
Tigo: "It's in a bag hanging, can I have it?"
Elmer: "Oh no, that is for Abuelo and his friend. They are going to have it in a soup for their lunch later today."
Tigo: "Can I play with it first?"
Lola: "GROOOOOSSSSSSSS!!!! I am so not ever eating any kind of meat ever again. Gross."

Lola asked me to become a vegetarian with her. I told her once we returned home back to New Mexico I would join her in not eating meat. I figure I don't really eat much to begin with so it shouldn't be too hard. But while living in someone elses home, where they are providing the food and well... preparing it also. I will eat what is given to me. So far we haven't eaten any meat since we've been back. But we've still had talks about it. Whatever she ultimately decides is fine. That is a pretty hard thing to do when you are 9 years old and your favorite food is Orange Chicken.

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