November 22, 2011

thanks mis thanksgiving duck

Well, i finally did it, got personal with my food (no, I'm not talking about eating with my hands, i've been doing that forever.) I culled a duck today...meaning i picked a duck from a batch of six pasture ducks, and brought it home to process for a made-from-scratch thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this means i killed a duck. a cute duck at that, with a little knob on her head. She would not have been bred, and all the ducks were in line for dinner, people dinner.  The killing wasn't even the hardest part, de-feathering, de-gutting and perfectly roasting all came into play.
This duck is the first living thing in the animal kingdom that I've intentionally killed. It's crazy to think just a few months ago i was nauseous at the idea of eating something that was once alive, and now not only am i eating animals (mainly fish and poultry) but i'm eating the odd bits. For example, I'm excited about the brain!
Right after the bird went limp the first thing to cross my mind was...oh shit, did i really do this, can i confess to my yoga teacher and repent? Is there such thing as a born again vegan? But then i remember how sick i was as a vegan, and how fast i am healing now. I remembered how much more sustainable eating this local duck is compared to eating tofurky (which i would never eat anyways) or shaping a bird from rice. I remembered not only am i feeding myself and friends, but i am feeding the community. I remembered that death is life, a cycle, and i am not above it. And i remembered my mind set going into this thing: Someone will kill the animal i buy from the store for my thanksgiving center piece, and if i am going to be eating such a sacred thing i want to be in touch with the whole process. If i am going to be on a traditional diet, i should be familiar with my meals from start to finish, and use every bit possible. I don't want to be my former teenage removed-from-my-food-self, like so many people are these days. I wanted to see this birds eyes alive, treat it with respect, kill it as humanely as possible, offer it's blood back to the earth, and fully appreciate that this creature is now part of me.

so here is how it went down, I'll rate this PG-13, or actually PG-if you dont like reading about death dont read this part. I'm about to get detailed.

A few weeks ago Heather brought up the idea of killing our own bird for thanksgiving, at first thought i was all..yea right, i am so not ready for that...which immediately turned into, yea we should definitely do that. I had made the promise to myself when i took off my vegan blinders that if i ever ate flesh again i was going to have to beable to kill it myself. So, it being November already, farms far and wide were out of turkey's. We started looking for any live bird with no luck. WFT we live in farm country, but i guess birds are popular this time of year. It was getting close to t-day, with no hope of a bird. It started feeling like this wasn't going to happen like so many of our other brilliant projects we have pushed aside. But, 2 days out, Heather found a dude with six ducks for a very fair price, and organic! awesome. We went out to his place and chatted it up a while. Mars Hill is really beautiful. We really had no clue what we were getting ourself into, but eventually picked out the duck with a bump on her head, but her in the cat carrier, and headed home. Minor detour to the kitchen store for a larger roasting pot, totally necessary, where we discussed who would make the incision. Once we arrived home, it hit, this was a living thing and we had no clue what we were doing. up until this point i had turned off part of my brain, but now it was real. where the fuck is the jugular vein on a duck? how do i know i am not cutting its wind pipe? Is our knife shape enough? how are we getting it out of that carrier? We wanted this all to take place on the front porch, but it was dark and rainy and decided on the basement, creepy i know. we let elenore (the duck) out of the crate (a whole task in itself) and kinda walk/chased it around a bit. This is when the second thoughts really started creeping in. Can i really do this? i cant even catch the bird, how will i kill it? Plus it was very pretty, white with a big yellow bill and cute little flipper feet. I thought Heather would catch it since my balls were receding, but alas, i wrapped a towel around its body, grabbed her feet and lifted. She did as Jason said she would and went passive. we brought her up to the porch where the wind had picked up and really set the mood, changed our minds, and went back down to the basement with the blood pot and sharp-ass knife.

 I held her feet tight, I sent her love as woo-woo as that sounds. i just wanted it over. plus, she was kinda heavy, probably scared. Heather had really wanted to to make the actual incision, which i thought i'd be fine doing to until this point of realness. Now i was relieved she was the one holding the knife. I just kept telling her to make it fast, but she kept fidgeting around the light, trying to get the best view. She was worried she would cut in the wrong area and decided she couldnt go threw with it...i would have to do it. shit. shit. we couldnt back out now...could we? no, i was going to eat a bird on t-day, and it was going to be this one. plus it had just been threw a lot. and i can't have a duck as a pet. ok. I took her head in one hand and the knife in the other. she was so real. i felt for her jaw line, i felt for the veins, my mouth started moving..."I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry, It'll be ok It'll be ok It'll be ok...ok ok ok..." i dont think i really knew what i was saying. My breath got heavy and strong, kinda like in uji pranayama during asana, my movements sycronized with my breating. i went into this transe and pulled the knife hard and deep across her neck. Blood squirted out and i screamed but couldn't let go of her head. the blood gushed out and i freaked out. She was still the whole time, until the very last bit, she gave one more spread of her wings, i finally let go of her head and she looked back at me, really, it freaked me out more. I thought wtf she's not dead, but when i touched her again she was limp. We strung her up over the blood pot while we heated a huge pot of water to 160 F. She died in a minute, it was so fast. an hour later we were dunking her and removing the feathers. The first couple of tuffs were difficult, not physically but mentally. I guess the idea of pulling at somethings skin got to me even though she was now dead, but then i feel into a mode,  and before before i knew it this seemingly never ending tedious task was done....

Now the house smells of sage and duck and i feel worn out. Animals in the store should really cost so much more. After the experience of this compared to the poultry farms i recently visited i can see why they had seemed so amoral and impersonally. Although this was pretty hard, and i cant stop questioning myself, and wondering about my vow of ahimsa, i feel like i had to do it. I think it was much less harm and much more love then the store brought bird or soy processed alternative.
tomorrow we shall deal with the rest of the entrails....