Sunday, October 23, 2005

goat testicles, anyone?

yeah, so i slaughtered a goat, but let me backtrack a little bit, as well as include a disclaimer. this post may contain graphic material that isn't suitable for young or squeamish readers - blood was shed and when i get to describing it i might choose to delve into details. i'm including this here because it is an integral part of kenyan culture, and as my baba says, 'it's just food.'

on monday i told my mama and baba that i would prepare chicken burritos on wednesday for dinner. this included the purchase of a live chicken for that purpose - my baba went with me to pick it out. he spent at least twenty minutes holding two chickens to feel the weight, then probing their legs to check for what he called 'stamina.' finally he bargained down to a price that he felt was adequate, i paid, the chicken's legs were bound, and we set off for home.

wednesday night i came home with a couple of volunteers who wanted to document the execution, and my mama went to fetch the bird. she held it down on a brick and instructed me to stand on its legs with one foot and pin its wings down with the other - i grabbed its head with my left hand and held a carving knife in my right. at this point i started having second thoughts, so my baba's brother, Nzomo, held my hand while we sliced through the chicken's neck and let the blood drain. it went into a boiling pot of water and we peeled off all of the feathers, quartered it and eventually cooked it. the cooking of it wasn't quite as exciting, although the burritos were pretty freakin good. everyone said they enjoyed the meal, and i'm pretty sure they weren't just saying that.

thursday was Kenyatta Day (the first president of kenya, whose name is just a coincidence), and also my sister gloria's birthday. she was turning 8, and my baba bought a goat for the party. 10am was slaughter time. i'll give you a little rundown of how it happened.

first we tied the goat's legs together - my baba's brother held the legs while i wrapped a rope around it as tightly as i could - i assumed that i was doing it well because nzomo didn't complain. yet once i was finished the goat promptly kicked out of the rope and took off galloping through a neighboring field. nzomo and i looked at each other and then took off running after it. we chased it for about 100 yards and nzomo finally tackled it and dragged it back to the house by its ear, escorted by the neighborhood kids who loved the entertainment. nzomo bound the legs this time, and they stayed.

i was going to go into a detailed explanation of the actual slaughtering, but i decided against it. if you want to hear the story you can call me and i will fill you in. after the life of the goat is drained, it is hung upside down from a tree and skinned and quartered, delicately removing all of the edible parts. i think the spleen is the only part of the goat that isn't eaten. the intestines are cleaned by sticking a broken papaya branch (which are hollow) into the anus of the goat, through which water is poured, and into which nzomo would occasionally blow to get things moving backwards through the goat. a slit was cut at the other end of the intestines for the waste to spill out.

cooking is the final step. this is an all day process, since some is boiled into stew, some prepared with rice, some fried, some grilled. the most interesting part of the day came when it was time to prepare the head and testicles; they are reserved for the wazee (old men) who eat them the following morning for virility. we prepared a charcoal grill and set the head and balls on the grate to singe the hair so that it could be removed. the head is split in half and put into a cauldron with the testicles and part of the legs, water is added, and it is cooked over a fire for several hours. it is eaten just like the rest of the meat, chopped into pieces and salted. the party lasted until well after dark, and all of the family members sat around a grill, passing meat around and telling stories (which i missed completely since most of them don't speak english or swahili). it was a great day in kenya.


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