Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gift of Meat

The Gift of Meat

I am a city girl. Where I grew up, I never knew the animals I was going to eat before I ate them. They came from grocery stores, pre-wrapped in plastic. Cows come in steaks, pigs come in pork chops and BBQ ribs, chickens come in breasts. Things do not work the same here.

In Samoa, animals are living things before they are dinner. Don't get me wrong, no one is making friends with them or naming them Wilbur or anything. But they start out a living, breathing creature and then turn into food. 

There is no traditional butchery in Samoa. From my experience animals are often cooked whole (pigs and fish in an umu or fried fish) or hacked apart with a machete and then cooked in a soup or put in an umu (chickens and cows). To be honest I am a little uncomfortable with these more random animal pieces. Much like my milk, I have learned that I like my meat more clinical. The killing of the animal doesn't bother me too much (though I was not a fan of the pig strangling during culture day in training) and neither does chopping it up. I just have a hard time with the finished product. I guess I need my meat to be in clean, evenly sized pieces of recognizable food with names that I know: breast, steak, chop, loin, fillet mignon...you know, like that.

Cale and I like to joke that in every pig or cow we see there are cuts of meat we recognize hiding inside. There are hams and steaks and brisket, if only we knew how to find them.

Cale and I were recently gift with a piece of pig from an umu. Our citified senses didn't know what to make of it. It wasn't a pork chop or ribs or even pulled pork. It was an honest to goodness piece of pig. 

The Gift of Meat

Cale and Tetsuya spent some time trying to determine where in a pig this piece came from. We had some information to go on. There was some spine and a blackend area that indicated to them it was part of body cavity (the innards are stuffed with hot rocks before umuing). But other than that, no one could really say for sure what part of the pig this came from. And to be honest that is no different than if I was handed a pork chop. If I had to point out where on the pig it had come from, I would fail that test. However, I would know how to cook it...or at least how to Google cooking it and then shout instructions to Cale in the kitchen, who is always better at cooking than I (and probably already knows how to cook a pork chop and wouldn't have to Google it).

Anyway, Cale and Tetsuya poked at it for a bit, but were unable to determine exactly where in the animal it came from. If you know, feel free to let us know.

— Sara

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi - I stumbled across yr blog while i was surfing ( translation procrastinating working on my novel...) and just wanted to tell u that I love yr writing. I live here in Samoa - a regular mixed up afakasi - and think yr insights are a great read.
Lani

annette said...

looks like a nice piece of meat --- very meaty !

Cale and Sara join the Peace Corps said...

Thanks for the compliments