Tag Archives: slaughterhouse

…or if you want blood: Slaughterhouse slides 14-21

Slide 14: (slide 13 is missing, it just felt like pimping the pigs)

Slide 15: This is how you bleed a pig: you slit its throat the long way, and you let it hang over a plastic barrel or a trash can to catch all the blood.  This particular blood will not be saved to make blood sausage, broth, or anything else that people will eat.

Slide 16 a: When you hold a knife like this, it is doing work.

Slide 16 b: When you hold it like this, it is violent.

Slide 17: This pig is taking off a mask, and the mask is his own skin!  It even has eyehole cut-outs, just like THIS mask.

Slide 18: Do you ever feel like you’ve just been split in half?  This pig was truly just split in half.  And this is either the climax, the most revolting, or else the pig has made the sharp transition from animal-being-slaughtered to the more palatable MEAT.

Slide 19: Did you do dissections in biology class?  I don’t mean for the blood spots to be upsetting—please try to focus on the organs, on identifying and labeling them for a moment.

Slide 20: This picture is meant to be very straightforward and to-the-point.  This is the result of a day’s labor, almost completed, you can even see the squeegee in the background and know that this place is kept clean: that pigs come in and pigs go out, and the floor is rinsed and squeeged each time.

Slide 21: I hid in the cold storage room.  I didn’t know I was hiding at the time, but after a while I noticed how cold it was, that this wasn’t really the most logical place to be spending a long while, that it was strange to look to these halved cows for comfort, and stranger still to find it there.

Slaughter: Slides 8-12

Slide 8: In Austin, Texas I saw my first slaughter.

Slide 9: I didn’t know what to expect.

Slide 10: I put on a lab coat and hair net over my yellow dress.

Slide 11: I was on the inside looking out.

Slide 12: The slaughterhouse was beautiful.

Slaughter post-game report: part one

The truth is, the slaughter was beautiful.  yellow tile, bare rafters, simple, well-handled tools, a photo spread of a room laid out for working.

I promised Jo Sugar, my semi-permanent home in East Austin, to show her only the architecture first.  The images I need to close my eyes to (just in case) are these:

Not so solo

Up until sundown of the night before the slaughter, I imagined I would be going alone. Waking up early, putting on a version of drag that is in between suburban Texas day wear and stage-ready Honeysuckle, listening to the same five hip hop songs on loop on the local station, and driving my little rental car up to the slaughterhouse. That all changed, as things do in East Texas, in a backyard over a six pack. Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily Farm and Farmhouse Delivery in Austin sat next to me, and the moment she started talking, I started taking notes. It was the first of what I hope will be many interviews with local farmers, cooks, and lovers of food on this adventure.

I’ve spent the last few days thinking a lot about death, the grit of raw, clawing living, and what it means to have people to lean on, to process with, to take care of you, or just to be beside you. It now seems foolish to have planned something that could be so emotionally intense without plans to have another human there, and I am so glad to get to have Stephanie’s company on the trip tomorrow. Even if the process just makes me crave steak even more, or feel instantly more connected to and more appreciative of the beef jerky backup stash in my glove box, it will be wonderful to experience it with another person, and with someone who is phenomenally passionate about meat and change.

I’ll plan to complete and post the interview with Stephanie promptly, and of course to report out on tomorrow’s fieldtrips as soon as humanly possible. And then, at the request of a reader, to try to document the aftermath over the next several days.

There is something about writing and posting the experience though, I am realizing, that makes it all feel not so solo. Thanks for following along, and please do share your thoughts if you’ve made it all this way.

1. Anticipate the Slaughter

Slide 8: In Austin, Texas I saw my first slaughter.

What’s funny is I haven’t seen it yet. I am writing down a future imaginary, I am committing it to real.

I have no idea how I will respond to the experience. It could be incredible: uplifting, transcendent, or terrifying.  I might run, vomit, cry, shit my pants.

I might gasp out loud, make some sounds involuntarily, and only realize afterward that I was the one who made them.

I might not be able to watch.

Will the animal look at me? Will I be looking in its eyes at the exact moment of death?

Will I ask to take a cut of that meat, of that animal, will I be able to fathom the connection, life to mouth, to actually walk the whole path?  Shit.

Will I be able to watch hanger steak ground up to become a burger? Will taking the steak as a Steak feel more respectful?

What if there is still meat in the grinder, what if the burger isn’t just my animal anymore? What if it is tainted, disrespectfully mashed together with some other meat from some other animal, what if the meat becomes JUST MEAT?

And maybe that moment, the moment of death, won’t be the climax at all. Maybe it will be the sound of the door as I leave, or words spoken by another human, living. The thing about trying to imagine and predict what will come is that we can’t know. Which has not yet stopped me from trying, ever, or from making up stories, or spending days at a time living in them.

In five days the infinite possible imaginary moments will all be killed. I will wake up that morning with a knife in my hand and run around killing all the ways that I THOUGHT the day might go. Then I will do what we always do: take it step by step, drive a mile at a time, and wait, and see.

cow/blood

(excerpted from our Passover Haggadah-2009)