Saturday, July 2, 2016

Dead things in the kitchen

When I was a child, or during my growing at home rather, I became familiar with the carnage in my kitchen. It was little a mini slaughterhouse, filled with all sorts of animals, being butchered and packed away for the winter. To some families, this was common. Our family, however, was obsessed with carving and gutting and eating every single portion of an animals body.


We ate filets, whole tail ends of fish and even the head. The eggs were fried in homemade batter and given to the children. Fish bones made stock and guts were great for the dogs. Scales were dried and could be made into things like...earrings.

beef and pork

These animals were butchered down to the last drop...of blood. Pig ears, snouts, tails and intestines were packed away, pickled or boiled. The entire head was boiled and ground into tiny peices which was then formed into souse or hog's head cheese. Beef tongue was delicious, or we learned to appreciate the acquired taste of it. Fat was congealed to form strange cakes. My grandmother would eat spoonfuls of fat while laughing at the dinner table. The freezer was packed full of various animal parts. Sometimes we picked a mystery package and cooked a meal.


Venison was a traditional form of protein. We could butcher as much as 6 of them during one winter...maybe more. Their back strap would be sliced into the most delicate and savory steaks. Battered and smothered in gravy, they were perfect at breakfast with buscuits. Hind quarters were good for stews and roasts, as long as you removed the bullets and bone fragments.

Squirrel brains were treats for me, mostly. I was teh cute little girl and it was fun for my father to watch me crack open the squirrel skulss with a spoon and eat the brain and tongue. The brain tasted like liver and the tongue was springy and tasty. Legs and breasts were battered and cooked slow in a pot with gravy. This could be done with rabbit too.

Turtles were for soups mainly, all but a few peices which were fried. Possum and raccoon could be portioned in the same way and preserved for the winter months. I didn't really have a taste for those animals but I loved to keep the raccoon tails and wear them in my hair.

My kitchen was used to butchering things and the huge freezer in the corner was always packed with a smorgesbord of animal parts. Once, someone left the freezer unplugged and the meat went bad. It was one of the worse smells I have ever encountered.

But we killed more and we butchered more and we cleaned the freezer.

Then it was as if nothing ever happened. We were rather self-sufficient.