Lets not dance around the issue. One year ago today I slit a turkey’s throat, scalded it in hot water, used some low tech machinery to get its feathers off, cleaned it, took it home, and I ate it. What follows is an account about all of that, and since I’m publishing this on Thanksgiving I’m going to go ahead and suggest that if you’re squeamish you may want to hold off on reading this post and certainly clicking play on any of the movies, until you’ve had a chance to let the turkey digest or maybe wait a day or two until leftovers are done cooking.
Disclaimer done, lets get to killin. First and foremost, I need to thank my lovely girlfriend Rachel, as without her I wouldn’t have been able to organize this. As I’ve said time and again the hardest part about all of this hasn’t actually been the ethical dilemma of whether or not I can bring myself to kill an animal, but rather the smokescreen of modern society that REALLY doesn’t want to let you get your hands bloody. I imagine if I lived somewhere other than Los Angeles, and knew some friendly farmers all of this might be WAY easier.
That being the case, Rachel was able to track down a place called the Flip Flop Ranch where we were able to take a Turkey Killing class. While not exactly cheap (classes were $150 if you wanted a turkey and $100 to watch, so for Rachel and I we got set back $250 and walked away with one turkey), it was a small price to pay given the amount of time and consideration we got. This was a one on one lesson in Turkey Murder, and out of all of these I’ve done it’s been the cleanest and most direct.
Turkeys need shade too
This is where the turkeys themselves were kept and it gives you a bit of an idea of the surrounding at the Ranch. It was a long drive up there and while we traveled Rachel and I had plenty of time to talk about expectations, thoughts and general nerves. Once we got there we were greeted by two of the folks who work at the Ranch (my apologies to them as their names have long since escaped me). They showed us the Turkeys and walked us around the farm. They showed us their livestock, pigs, goats, ducks, and more that they had there and were raising.
As you can see from the picture above these turkeys are just about as “Free range” as I imagine you’re likely to get. There were a pair of European guys staying there doing what’s called a Farm Stay. This was amazing to me as I imagine it’s like how we in the US go to Bulgaria to tour amazing castles, these guys having their fill of amazing castles have traveled to San Bernadino to shovel goat shit. All that being said, I would absolutely do a farm stay there and I think it was an awesome ranch, I just dont know that it’s worth a trip over from Europe for the experience.
There were also a ton of cats and dogs they had, which they mentioned they didn’t give names to until they had been there a while as wild coyotes would have a tendency to run off with them.
Rachel keeping Captain Thunderpunch safe from coyotes.
At first it seemed really sad to me, but it also struck a weird chord that we were there and sad that coyotes had been eating the cats, meanwhile I had payed someone to kill a turkey in the very same spot. Regardless, the cats kept Rachel company throughout the proceedings, except for when she revealed a hereto unknown superpower of Turkey Wrangling. In order to get the turkeys from the yard into the killing field (I dont know if that’s the right term… I’m guessing not), someone had to “Get” the turkeys, and while I was garbage at this Rachel was some kind of ninja when it came to turkeypoaching. She was basically like The Manhunter but for turkeys.
Once netted like a bunch of overly large pokemans, the turkeys were loaded into some giant cat-carrier looking contraption and dragged over to the road cones of doom. At this point I also learned something interesting which is that only the male turkeys are eaten (except for a few who get to grow old and giant like Turkeyzilla here).
This giant bro was king of all the turkeys
So the next time someone is arguing with you about gender inequality you can bring up the fact that male turkeys are all killed for thanksgiving while lady turkeys get to live a long and happy life. Any fallout from using turkey based logic in arguments is all on you though.
This then lead to the inevitable moment, which was of course the hardest part of the process. I watched as the guy who was showing us the process went through it, but all in all it was pretty straightforward 3 step process.
Load the turkey into an upside down traffic cone. This makes it go complacent and basically zone out.
Extend the turkeys neck and cut the arteries on either side of it
Go with the knife through the bottom of the jaw, up through the roof of the mouth and into the brain, making sure step 2 worked
All in, this was a very quick process and it was mentioned that this is basically the fastest way to handle things, and causes the least amount of suffering. Cutting the arteries rather than the throat prevents the animal from feeling like it’s suffocating (though I’m sure the experience isn’t pleasant).
All that being said. Here’s a video. It’s in color and it has sound and it’s exactly what’s described above so if that sounds like the worst thing ever to you I don’t recommend you watch it.
All things being said you can see in this video I still have the same problem as always which is not applying QUITE enough force, but in this case it’s not too bad. You can see there’s not much struggle or resistance and it’s all over pretty quick. Once that was done the process begins of turning something that was living into meat. This is the step that has always been fascinating to me, because it’s where the empathic connection seems to vanish for me.
The first step is basically scalding the turkey in crazy hot water. This loosens the feathers and makes them easier to pluck. Then the real magic came on a turkey plucker. Plucking the chicken was one of the most time consuming parts of the process, and this giant machine seemed to just batter the turkey’s corpse until all the feathers came off. For whatever reason however, this did 0 damage to the turkey or the skin, just magically made the feathers come off. My buddy helping me went ahead and handled this step since otherwise I was likely to defeather my hands. I appreciated this muchly.
Next was more familiar to me. Cut off the head and feet, and get the turkey neck. This required a bit of work to save the turkey neck and get rid of the gullet (which was a new experience). Then, remove all the guts from the internal cavity of the Turkey (don’t nick the anus!), and rinse everything out. This step was hardly “old hand” but I felt more comfortable having done this before with a chicken. It’s generally surprising how easily MOST parts of the inner cavity come out. This video may or may not be particularly disturbing as it’s a bit more gutsy than the other videos.
That being done the turkey went in a cooler and on ice and we made our way home for the holidays. I ended up brine-ing the turkey because I hadn’t had turkey in like 4 years and so I was super excited, and then I proceeded to totally botch cooking the turkey.
In my enthusiasm to handle all the parts of the turkey from selection and killing to the time it came out on the table, I had neglected to remember the important fact that I have no idea how to cook a turkey. Rachel’s mom helped save it but it was still kinda dry and a bit gamey. Also it was obviously not a giant crazy mutant turkey like we’re used to buying for Thanksgiving, but after all that I was able to re-enter the world as a happy turkey eating member of society.
I’m going to do a followup post on this with a bit more of the empathic and long term feelings I’ve had both as a result of this and everything else but I promised Rachel that I’d put SOMETHING up by Thanksgiving and at least a mechanical recounting of the expedition is the BARE MINIMUM I can provide for you. This was a hugely affecting experience that I still think of regularly up to a year later and I want to thank again Rachel and the Flip Flop Ranch for the experience.
I’m thankful this year to my friends and family, Rachel, that first turkey, and all of you guys who are reading this. Have a great Thanksgiving.
1) MT is a metric ton, or 1000 kg or 2204.623 pounds. A “metric fuckton” is a part of speech without any real measurement value. For some refrence, here are things which weigh 1 ton: An Audi TT or a cow. Detonate 1 tonne of TNT generates 4.184 gigajoules of power. That’s awesome because that would get 3 and a half Delorians into the future. 1000 kg of cocaine is about how much you would have needed to get John Belushi through a weekend. The world’s largest hamburger weighs 2,014 pounds, which if you add on a 190 pound maniac to the scale to start gnawing on the thing, you’ld have a 1 tonne burger.
2) In 2013 an estimated, 5,155,000 MT of turkey will be consumed worldwide. That’s 5 million tons, or 11,364,831,565 pounds of turkey. So, with 7 billion people on earth, and 11.3 billion pounds of turkey. That might not seem so bad, only 1.6 pounds of turkey per person per year on the planet.
3) If we could do a turkey to TNT comparison for a moment. We’re estimating 5 megatons of turkey per year. The total energy of all explosives used in World War Two (including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) is estimated to have been 3 megatons of TNT, according to Wikipedia. If only we can find a way to weaponize turkeymeat, we could be sitting on a gold mine people. A delicious explosive goldmine.
4) Tryptophan doesn’t seem to actually be a) more present in turkeys, or b) make you sleepy when you eat a bunch of it for Thanksgiving. (There was a Mythbusters on this with Alton Brown but it looks like the video has been taken down from any legit source I’d link to ).
5a) EU-27 Sounds like some awesome kind of new chemical.
6) The italian word for turkey is tacchino, making someone who eats turkey a “tacchitarian”? I guess in my case it’s a Tacchivore!
7) We eat chicken eggs and not turkey eggs because turkey eggs are expensive. They cost generally $2 – $3 each, fancy paying $36 for a dozen eggs?
8) The average weight of a turkey is 29 pounds, meaning our 11,364,831,565 pounds of turkey is roughly representative of 391,890,744 turkeys. 391 million turkeys might seem like a lot, but if you remember the Lionfish article I posted in December of 2010. In that article I mentioned that 1 female lionfish could lay enough eggs to 2 years later create, conservatively, 10 thousand mature female lionfish. If the initial guess was correct, our 1 Lionfish from 2010 may not seem like she’s catching up on turkeys, but her 10 thousand female children would have reached full maturity around December 5th, 2012. So right now each of those 10 thousand females has laid another 2 million eggs so far this year, so we’re up to 20 million and climbing. I would suspect our lionfish will be quickly closing in on our turkey. So go eat some lionfish soon.
9) Cooking the turkey was the hardest part.
Enjoy your turkey facts, while I will have plenty of video and pictures for you soon!
Oh man, how great is that word I just made up? Gambertarianism? Well… I’m totally a Gambertarian now. WTF is a Gambertarian?
I’ll happily tell you, but first you’ll have to follow me to paradise…
Welcome to paradise. It smells like fish here.
Joining me on the adventure (well, she actually architected the whole thing, which makes her more like Morpheus in this alternate reality and that makes me more like Neo. Woah), is my wonderful GF Rachel. You might think it’s a perfectly normal thing for a young(ish) couple to have a romantic date to a fish market to find things to murder. It turns out, however, there is a bit of a hitch here in that Ms. Rachel has a bone rattlingly horrific fear of crustaceans. I blame this on the fact that she’s Jewish, and the bible CLEARLY says “But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you.”. Do Jewish people follow that part of the bible? Rachel finds shellfish ‘detestable’ in the same way that waking up to find a naked guy in your room wearing a mask of your face with a wig fashioned from your barber shop hair clippings as ‘detestable’. Which is my way of saying ‘horrifying’ (if you don’t think of that as horrifying I don’t know what to do to help you).
Incidentally, just a little while in Leviticus it also very clearly states not to eat Camels or Rock Badgers either. Luckily for us, this store did not have any Rock Badgers in it. Unluckily for Rachel, it had one or two giant crabs, lampreys, weird looking fish and other swimming horrormonsters. It also had the reason we’d come down to sunny Rosemead:
Sorry about the horrific grating sound. That’s what Satan’s laughter at the fate of these shrimp sound like. One of the other things I’ve learned about the whole ‘kill your own food’ thing? If you’re not Zuckerberg and you have to find this shit on your own, it’s not the easiest thing to do, then when you eventually do find it, it’s not exactly a cheap option. Here I got 2 pounds of shrimp (I think these might have been prawns technically) for $19.99 a pound. As I was checking out I looked down and they were selling Tiger Shrimp for 3.99 a pound. Life, in this case, is worth $16.99 a pound. I paid an extra $33.98 for the privelage of taking the karmic debt of shrimpmurder onto myself.
We then put the shrimp in a bucket with some ice and drove them over to my friend Gabe’s place who lived nearby. They were thrashing around and I was still a bit overwhelmed from the fish market, so by the time we got down to slaughtering time I hadn’t really been thinking about how to do it. As a result, I end up doing this shrimp ‘backwards’. I tried to kill them the same way as lobsters, which didn’t work so well for lobsters (I know I didn’t post anything about lobster, I’m terrible but I did kill a lobster). I ended up bisecting them and then was forced with the same issue as with lobsters, where the tail portions with the distributed nervous system continue to move once detached from the brain. It’s not too gruesome, but if you’re easily squeamish you might not want to watch. Personally I think the sound is worse than the video (Rachel’s noises here are pretty cute, IMO).
I’ll put up a second post (in theory) at some point regarding the humane way to slaughter shellfish, as this is something that’s not nearly as easy as it sounds like, and to those of you who are offended by the method I used to kill these shrimp, sorry! Most of them had been chilling in an ice bath so they didn’t move much at all. If you’re planning on killing your own crustaceans though, don’t be too freaked out when they continue to move after they’re in multiple pieces, it’s pretty weird the first time you see it. I’ll say that killing these shrimp was much easier than killing a lobster and I didn’t feel anything resembling remorse. They’re too alien and too weird. I think having more people there helped too, because talking about it made me think a bit less about it. This wasn’t like a fish though where I could feel it’s heartbeat. It still felt very much like a weird alien bug that was flapping around. In the video I’m wearing an oven mitt because I didn’t want to get ‘stung’.
Weirdly enough when I was trying to find live shrimp originally, we found a sushi restaurant that would let you eat live shrimp (still ‘dancing’ when they gave it to you) sushi, but in this case when I asked them (and that was a bit of an awkward conversation) if I bought their dancing shrimp meal, if they’d let me be the one to kill it, they were weirded out by this and said no because the shrimp have sharp stingers and if one stung me and I was allergic they could be liable. Now that I’ve seen a shrimp my question is: What the fuck were those guys talking about?
Once I had killed two shrimp I decided the best way to eat them was shrimp sushi. So I deveined them, removed the shells and left the tails on so they’d be pretty. Here’s what fresh shrimp sushi looks like:
Incidentally the knife Gabe had was as sharp as the devil’s balls and it made this whole process much easier. The shrimp themselves were actually surprisingly non-tender and extra flavorful. I suppose that’s not really shocking but I found cooking the shrimp made them much less rubbery than eating them raw. I have one last video of Gabe and I enjoying some very very fresh sushi. I was a little worried about getting sick from eating shrimp after not eating anything crustaceany in a while (see above re: co-star’s horrific fear of anything with a shell, weird eyes or claws).
We tried frying a couple in butter in the more traditional “expose them to high heat” method of killing them. This seemed to kill them much faster (some quick internet reading on the ride over to Gabe’s let us know if the car just got too hot during the car ride over the shrimp would probably die), and the moral of the story was “Shrimp dont do well with heat”. Ultimately the pair we cooked this way were good, but then we ended up bisecting the rest and cooking up just the tails and this really hit the sweet spot for flavor. This was certainly the biggest massacre of them all yet on the site and all in I think I probably ended up killing about 15 shrimp. At the end it went really fast and all in all I didn’t have any moral hangups knifing them. In hindsight though if I could have done this in a way that killed them faster I would have preferred to.
Rachel experienced the same weird issue that I had with killing a chicken. When the animal went from being alive and ‘horrible’, then once it was dead and scaled and bisected it quickly became something else. Our brains categorize food quickly as no longer being ‘this is something alive or once living’ and instead into ‘this is a familiar looking delicious thing that I want to eat’. It’s a very weird mental transformation and you can really feel the change happen immediately.
Here’s a pair of final images of what they looked like once all cooked up and then the remnants of our feast.
Let me introduce you to the subject of today’s blog:
I had never heard of the “majestic” Lionfish until my friend Priya told me about them. I was pretty horrified at first because the way she introduced them to by telling me that her work (as a SCUBA divemaster) instructed her and her colleges to try to kill as many of these fish as they can when they’re out on their dives. Not catch them. Kill them. Stab them in their beady little fucking eyes and let them bleed out. Maybe lean in and whisper through a haze of bubbles into their ear. While they do you can shake them and say “Look at me… look at me… I DID THIS TO YOU”. Achem. I was disturbed to say the least when I found out about it, but on further inspection I’m getting swayed to the “Lets blindly murder them” side.
One of the things that’s been curious to me since starting this project is the sustainability of eating animals. If the average person wolfs down a chicken breast every couple days we’re talking about needing 100 or so chickens a year. I imagine in a farm setting you’ld split one bird for your family but that’s still crazy to image. In David Saffran Foer’s book “Eating Animals” he discusses the ecological damages that can be done by a lot of the fishing we do. All of this started to get under my skin, and then I read that the female lionfish can release 2 million eggs per year. If 10% reach maturity, and 50% of those are female. As it takes 2 years to reach maturity, this means after 2 years one female lionfish will have produced 10 thousand mature female lionfish. They’ll repeat the process and in another 2 years she will have been responsible for 10 billion, and 2 years later, 10 quadrillion FEMALES. I’m not making that number up, literally a 1 with 15 zeroes after it. A quadrillion. That my friends, is a whole lot of egg salad.
So these Lionfish have migrated into the carribeanish areas off the coasts of Florida and Central America, where they’ve started hanging out in reefs. The only problem? Turns out they don’t have any predators there because of their GIANT FUCKING POISONOUS SPINES. As a result you’ve got an exponentially growing population of fish that are devouring everything around them and nothing is killing them. Except for Priya.
There’s a catch to that of course, see it turns out the Lionfish dont LIKE being killed, and while their venom isn’t fatal to human’s, neither is it comfortable. Turns out even after hours of excruciating pain and morphine, one of their stings still doesn’t look so pretty:
The one on the left is the one that got stung.
As a response to the growing population of Lionfish, the United States National Ocean Service has started a new policy that I 100% get behind. They want us American’s to start eating more Lionfish. No Seriously.It turns out once you remove the horrible poisonous spines from them, the rest of their meat is perfectly edible. So for the sake of Priya’s hands, we should all start ordering up some Lionfish and see if we can’t make the world a little bit of a better place by devouring some of its inhabitants.*
I don’t really know where or how I can start devouring Lionfish, but as I’ve heard plenty of Vegitarians throughout my life say “If you don’t eat meat you’ll decrease the demand for it”, I suppose the people at NOAA believe that the opposite is true as well. I think it’s a fascinating idea and while I’m a bit dubious of it’s ability to work, I feel like the alternative is bringing in some kind of sharkmonkey that we’ve trained to eat them… and I know how that movie ends.
*Note: To any alien species currently reading my blog, please do not apply this logic to humankind. Thanks!
You men eat your dinner, eat your pork and beans
I eat more chicken, than any man ever seen
I’ve never understood what that line has to do with banging married guys’ wives (what “Back Door Man” by the Doors is, theoretically about). What I do know is that chicken is what started this whole thing. Chicken, more than any other meat, is the ‘safe’ meat. It’s healthy, it’s easy to splash it on anything “Add chicken for a dollar more!”, and it’s in crazy abundance. It was sitting around eating chicken that I realized these little white cubes of protein were so far removed from being something once alive that I needed to feel the heartsblood of this creature in my hands if I was going to keep eating it. Ok maybe not exactly, but my grandmother who recently passed away visited a chicken factory when she was a young girl and never ate chicken the remainder of her life. That’s some serious dedications to the sights she saw.
My friends have been hemming and hawing at me throughout my journey with this blog to “Hurry up and kill this” or “Hurry up and kill that”, which is A) Kindof fucked up guys, and B) A sign that I’m taking my sweet time working my way through the animal kingdom. As a result people kept saying “When are you going to kill the next thing?” and I kept saying “Soon! Soon!”. Originally I was planning on looking for shrimp or lobster because the feasibility of locating poultry turned out to be freaking hard. I’m sure there’s a good way to find places to buy live chickens for slaughter but Google was winning the battle.
One day my good friend Davy (of http://letterstobourdain.com/) mentioned his fiancée was walking their dog through Topanga Canyon and they crossed by a place that was selling live chickens. Herself had chickens growing up and so while she wants me to somehow butcher a pig for her wedding, she abhors the idea of me killing a chicken. I immediately hit her up and had they following conversation…
Me: “Heeeey… how’s it going? Whatcha up to?”
Her: “Just got back from walking the dog”
Me: “Cool… did you see anything particular interesting when you were doing that?”
Her: “…. No ….”
Me: “Ok ok ok… so… where were you walking the dog at? Like specifically? Like what part of Topanga Canyon in case I wanted to go walking there too?”
Her: “IM NOT TELLING YOU WHERE TO FIND CHICKENS!!!”
Ugh. I have resigned myself to just not ever eating chicken again.
Shortly after my birthday (in July… *cough cough 5 months of backdating cough cough*), I was visiting a friend of mine’s house when a good friend Frank Romeo stopped by.
In addition to Frank Romeo having a really cool name, and being the drummer in a band with me for all of one show (the band’s fault, not his), Frank has a lot more street cred than most of my friends. He’s the kind of guy that if you were to walk into a dark alley and he was standing there and told you he wanted your lunch money, you’ld give it to him. Am I right?
Frank had been telling me he really wanted me to go to this party so that he could give me my birthday present which turned out to be an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper with “How to kill a chicken” and instructions for killing and cleaning a chicken on it. When he handed this over I realized I was going to have to kill a bird soon since I was now getting novelty gag gifts chiding me for my lack of convictions to my cause.
Then Frank revealed that the piece of paper, was not my gift. The cardboard box that he handed me that felt surprisingly like something inside it was moving around was. Upon further inspection, this box had a chicken in it, and the party came to a stop and I realized everyone there knew this was going to happen except me. I thanked him awkwardly and said I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. Then he revealed that he’d cleared things with the person who’se house it was, and all the tools for killing and slaughtering the chicken were outback, so it was time to nut up or shut up. I think my response was: ”I need a beer”.
With all the other animals I’ve killed (Cause to date it was Fish and Crab… I’m like Charles Manson), I had some time to do a little research on how to humanely kill them, but in this case I just had some cliff notes. I wasn’t psychologically prepped at all, and as a result it was pretty emotionally intense situation for me. My friend Mary (no embarrassing photo included) was really helpful and showed how turning the bird upside down caused it to pass out. I read on the note that you could just grab the chicken by the neck and twist it’s head back, breaking it’s neck. This was my plan, and we had a wooden board with a hatchet as a backup plan.
Not What I'd Planned
No plan makes it past first contact. In this case trying to break the chicken’s neck resulted in me just sortof giving it a weak shoulder massage (me? not use enough force when trying to kill something? You don’t say). Once it started to freak out, I held it down on the wood, took the hatchet and tried really hard to use one clean stroke to cut off its head. It took four, and this was by far the roughest part of the process. I had wanted to make things quick and painless and instead it took a grand total of 5 attempts to kill the chicken before I was able to do so. The first thing I noticed was there was a lot less blood than I thought there would be afterwards. I had expected arterial spray and something obscenely gory. There was blood, but nothing that wild. The second thing I noticed is that it was very much moving still once I moved its body into the tub that we had set out to drain it into. It wasn’t quite running around, but it was still pretty flightly. Gofberg was awesome enough to video tape the whole thing, but the video is pretty big so I’ll need to trim it down and post it in a separate post.
With the tough deed done, I got down to cleaning the bird. This meant removing the feet and neck, and plucking it. Plucking it was a giant pain in the ass, and I can see how tearing off the skin would have been much easier. While plucking it I noticed the heat of the animal fading. That was a very odd experience, but when I picked it up and first began plucking it was very much warm, like most mammals you’ld expect. Still very much alive.
By the time the chicken was plucked I’d lost any empathy for it. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t have any feelings about what happened, but by the time I had a plucked, “cold”, de-footed and de-necked chicken, it looked very similar to many a chicken purchased in the supermarket. I’m not sure when it made the change from living thing to food product, but I think it was somewhere during the de-feathering process. So much of the mass of the chicken went away that there was really considerably less left. When cleaning it I have to stress how much time was spent focusing on the words “Cut around the anus” and “Be careful not to cut the anus”. It gave me a lot of respect for people that cleaned animals back in the day without great tools, where if you did “nick the anus” (my new favorite phrase) your whole family could get sick and die. I guess that’s why you didn’t piss off your wife back in the day.
That done, the guy who’se house we were at (Big ups to Chuck) helped cook up and barbeque the meat, and I took a much needed break for another beer or six to calm my nerves.
As fresh as it gets
After eating the chicken I felt a little bit of nausea. I’m fairly certain that was more from the whole experience, and less from the actual meat itself. I ended up keeping the feet and head to see if I could do something with the bones, though I ended up failing to figure out what to do with them. I’d also like to take a moment to pimp out the place where Frank got the chicken from. The place is called Blacksmith’s Corner and you can check them out at http://www.blacksmithscorner.com/. They even sell Doves. I am fairly certain that according to Viking legend, you’re condemned to a life of war and depravity if you feast on the flesh of the Dove though…
I guess I’m a Pullivore now and can devour many a chicken that crosses my path (since then I have. Check Davy’s blog above for the best chicken I’ve ever had in my life). All in all this was a really interesting experience. I think I could do it again, and I’d really like to do this properly and more humanely and see if it changes how I feel about things. Since Mary essentialy handed me a sleeping chicken there was a good portion of this activity that was a bit lost on me I think, but for the time and place I needed it. Since then I’ve often thought of this when I go out, and I don’t always instinctively reach for the chicken. I know in the grand scheme of things whether or not I purchase chicken on my burrito doesn’t make a damn bit of difference, instead I just find that I can often eat vegetarian and enjoy what I eat (if I’m at the right place), but it’s funny how much easier it is to eat chicken (on a scale of how readily available it is) as compared to vegetarian or seafood.
I’ll have more thoughts for you later. For now I decided to upload a cut down, sound off, black and white clip of the act itself. Again I should caution this is pretty straightforward me cutting off a chicken’s head with an hatchet, and not doing a particularly clean job of it. I won’t blame you if you don’t watch, but I think you should. It’s where those little white clumps in your Caesar salad come from after all.
Sidenote: I’ve now gone 555 days (the number of the beast’s nosy neighbor Gertie) without eating Red Meat. That’s one year and six months…. and 10 blog posts. Jesus I’m sorry guys, I’ll write more I promise.
I know I know I know, it’s been for-fucking-ever since I updated. I apologize and promise I’ll make it up to you. I didn’t want to leave you (yes YOU) hanging for too long without an update though, so I shot a little bit of video for you. It’s probably ok to watch even if you’re squeemish (unless you’re REALLY squeemish), and there’s a bit of language in there… nothing quite sailor worthy… probably just more like what your creepy uncle says to you.
I figured this video was apropos for (holy shit did I spell apropos correctly?).. for Halloween, because not only does it involve murder, viscera and an automobile… it also has a cliffhanger ending! (Not really). I’ll post the follow up video in a bit. As a sidenote if you haven’t downloaded Windows Live Essentials and their Movie Maker thing, it’s free and basically like putting your digital penis in a tub of cocaine then putting it in a digital stripper. I don’t really know what that means, but it’s fan-fucking-tastic.
Incidentally the phrase Pescetarian comes from the Italian word for fish.
Ok so I’m going to gloss over the fact that it’s been 5 months since I’ve updated this blog. But for what it’s worth, there was a MacDonalds in Richmond that was robbed 3 times over the course of 5 months. Some Company in Sunnyvale went through 4 CFO’s in 5 months, and some company called Medscape doubled it’s members to 200,000 in 5 months.
To be honest, Googling for ’5 months’ was pretty underwhelming. And luckily for me, as I was writing a draft of this entry originally it’s been two full months since then… so instead of a month mark, how about this… according to WikiAnswers, every day 138,240 people die. Which means in the time I wasn’t updating this blog 33,868,800 people have died. That being the case, even if I had managed to butcher a goodly deal of turkeys, pigs or other godfearing animals, way more people would have died (albeit, not at my hands) than animals. That being the case I think my meager moral victories are somewhat dubious. However I did manage to kill 3 animals of the same species since my last post. That’s me, keeping up with mother nature on a 1:11289600. Bring it on you frigid bitch!
According to wikipedia’s article on Pescetarianism (Eating seafood, eggs and nuts… don’t ask me why they have to specify nuts), it is often used as a transitional diet for people moving from Omnivore-ism to Vegetarianism. I was sortof using this backwards, going from Vegevoreism (Cancivore specifically) to deeper into Omivorousness. It’s also worth noting that my built in spell-checker doesn’t know or like the word Pescetarianism and wants to replace it with either Vegitarianism (rightfully so), Sectarianism (All Hail the Fish), Libertarianism (All Fish Should Be Eaten Because the Constitution Says So), Egalitarianism (All Fish Should Be Eaten Equally), and Utilitarianism (We Eat Fish, Because We Can). All -THAT- makes me think of those old school shirts which explain various religions either in terms of weed smoking, or fecal matter. Man those shirts were awesome.
So since I’m talking fish, I’ll cut to the spoiler.
I murdered a fish, and ate it’s delicious flesh. Well three fish, and ate all of their delicious fleshes.
I suppose I can give you some setup. I’ll admit that it’s been long enough now that I don’t remember the exact day, but it was a Sunday in August and I went to the Ventura pier. I did a bit of internet research ahead of time to figure the best time to go and the best kind of bait to use. I took the salted anchovies that I had left over from when we went spear fishing. Who knew dead salted fishmeat kept so well in the freezer, I was expecting WAY more stink.
When I got there I noticed it was cooooooooold and I, being the prepared boyscout that I was, didn’t actually have a sweatshirt. I dug around in the car and found like 4 dirty t-shirts (who says you should keep your car clean) and put them all on, grabbed my fishing pole and a handfull of frozen sardines and made my way onto the pier.
Turns out I didn’t actually need a license to pier fish (though I heard conflicting stories on this one) because the idea was as long as you were standing over where there was sand, you were fine, but if you went off the end of the pier… you werent?
I don’t quite get how that works. Is the idea I’m only catching the retarded fish if I’m fishing in the sand? I’m sure that has some bureaucratic backing somewhere, but the important thing was that I did have my license and it seemed like fishing off the end of the pier was obviously the better place to go fishing as that’s… where all the people were. Anyways there were way more people at the Ventura pier at 10 o’clock at night than I expected them to be there were various gaggles of teenagers and a few older guys. There was a pair of thuggish looking weathered dudes who ended up helping me as I realized I had no idea whatsoever how to even start hooking dead fish to lure in more fish (though that makes me realize fish are totally cannibals).
Eventually I had managed to stick my dead fish in the water and proceeded to engage in what is the time honored tradition of sitting on one’s ass. Staring at the black abyss of the ocean, in the middle of the night in the freezing cold, hoping by happenstance to take something’s life.
Eventually, by some freak miracle I managed to catch a fish. I really need to point out at this point that this effort came about ENTIRELY as a result of the guys fishing next to me giving me the 4-1-1. I pulled up some gross looking rockfish and wasn’t really sure if the thing was small, or if this was what I should expect. The guys told me it was right on the cusp, and I was pretty anxious to murder something so I decided I wouldn’t throw it back.
I figured this was going to be pretty easy, except once I got the slimy writhing mass untangled from my fishing line, and was going to put it down somewhere, I could feel it’s heart pounding inside it, and see it’s lips pumping trying to get oxygen. Even now thinking back on it makes me wince a little bit. In this particular instance though, the thing was now sitting on the side of the ocean, out of it’s home, had been stabbed through the face and was suffocating so it was time to end it’s life.
I reflected on how terribly I’d done the first time, so I took “Gofberg’s Gift” into my hands and brought it down on the thing, whacking it hard right behind it’s eye (I heard this was sortof the ‘kill spot’). It still writhed a little, so I whacked it twice more for good measure.
El Pescado Muy Muerte
BTW, Gofberg’s gift is a sword my buddy Paul Gofberg gave me. I’ll post pictures of it later, I used the flat bludgeony part, not the sharp pokey bit. I’m pretty sure people at the pier thought I was a maniac for clubbing a fish with a sword. It’s bad enough someone was doing their best Aragorn at 2 AM in the dark, but I think the fact that I was using the sword WRONG only made it worse. But after a few more whacks, this seemed to pretty much have done the fish in so I chucked it into my ice bucket I had with me, and fueled with the bloodlust churning inside of me, I grabbed my hook and line and turned back to that sweet yielding whore we call the ocean and waited for her to put out for me again.
And then I waited.
And then I waited.
Eventually the guys next to me who still hadn’t caught anything offered to trade me some of their dead squid for some of the frozen sardines I had. I made the swap and within 5 minutes had caught and butchered another fish. I laughed with glee and then.
And then I waited some more.
By this point I was covered in fish ichor, freezing cold and had been sitting on this pier for hours and caught a grand total of two pitiful fish. I stopped briefly on my way out and dropped my lure in the shallow water where the sand and dumb fish were and got one more on my way out. I don’t know how but this was the laziest bit of fishing I’ve ever done in my life.
The Grand Haul (I didn't eat the sharpie)
I stumbled back to my car, and didn’t even have to pay parking since it was now rediculously late, and I blearily drove home and wanted desperately to take a shower, but I also didn’t want to just put away the fruits of my labors. After all I’d spent HOURS getting these fish. I was prepared for the tastiest meal of my life.
After a bit of poking around on the internet, I found the best way to clean and cook the fish. I was disturbed by the number of different methods of cleaning a fish I found that said “Insert the knife into the fish’s anus” or descriptions of how to find the fish’s butthole. Eventually however I removed the heads and butts and guts of the fish and was left with their “fillets”. I also ended up having to cut out the backbone on the largest fish, but for the two smaller ones they recommended not even de-boning them (did you know that deboning and boning a fish are the same thing? And neither one will get you sent to prison in the state of California?).
I noticed that throughout this process, as I prepared the fish to be consumed, what started out as ‘small fish’ became ‘WTF?’ fish. These things got smaller and smaller, and cooking them was rediculously easy. Get a ton of butter in a pan. Wait till the butter was sizzling and popping, and drop the fish bits in. It was basically like deep frying, but with butter and they turned out pretty awesome.
Im pretty confident that whatever normal food there is, can be cooked by dropping it into a pan of bubbling butter and taste delicious. Whatever moral issues I had previously melted away as soon as I had removed the heads and guts. It was somewhat like magic. Once it didn’t look like an animal, it was like every other time I’ve cooked fish (which I’ll be honest is pretty rare).
It got me wondering if eating other foods is going to be like that too. Troublesome up until I get it into a familiar shape “Oh wow, it’s just steak now” or if it’s going to stick with me. I haven’t noticed any difference eating fish since when this thing began, and I havent really found myself thinking about fish, even when I’m in the supermarket, but when I think back to this exact experience, I really do find myself feeling bad about feeling the fish’s heart beating in my hand as I held it. It made me realize I might be running out of animals I’m capable of murdering fast.
After brutally murdering a member of the crab family (called “Local Crab”… which I’ve certainly never chowed down on, to the best of my knowledge, at yea olde crab shacke), by my rules I’m now able to eat crab. More on the dead itself but my first priority in my new life was how to appropriately label myself.
I have to apply a bit of the ole’ logic to what my new “Name” is. First I was a Vegivore. I assume Omnivore and Carnevore are easy to discern how people came up with the names. Vegivore is from Vegitable… a common misspelling of a delicious chlorophyll-phylled treat, and carnivore comes from, of course, the latin root word Caro for flesh. So for Crab I had to go to
the Latin root of the word (which incidentally matches up with my astrological sign) of Cancer. So I’m a Cancivore. AKA, A cancer eater. Sorry grandpa, if I’d been quicker I would have been able to help out a little bit more.
So how did my life as a Cancivore begin? Well after a somewhat botched attempt at fishing I managed to murder a disastrously small crab that really wasn’t worth eating, and spearfishing had done nothing to sate the growing pain in my belly to consume animal flesh, so I was forced to turn to fresh farm raised crab instead. After doing some investigating of the Huntington Beach Pier (and seeing a really cool looking, and probably very sick and dying Pelican)
I am a pelican!
I found several places selling live crab. Dungeoness crab was like $15 bucks a pound, and each crab weighs anywhere from 1.5-3 pounds. I wasn’t quite prepared to spend $45 bucks to murder a crab that I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t horrifically mess up. So instead I shopped around a bit more and found someone who was selling “Local Crabs” which looked big and gnarly and I therefore assumed their meat must be also bountiful and delicious. After making my 10 dollar purchase (Yum 2 pounds of crab!) he was thrown on ice for me so he’d go into hibernation and stay alive longer so I could draw out the macabre ritual as long as possible. Then I threw him on ice, drove Neil home and went to my own home. The whole thing took like 2.5 hours and I was worried he was
going to be dead by the time I got him home since I certainly felt half dead and exhausted, but nevertheless I had a dead to do. And as eager as I am to cook it up, something about cooking it after it was already dead would make me a carrionvore which isn’t really what I’m looking for yet.
I am Jack's bagfull of Crab
I pulled him out of the ice and looked him over and at first he looked rather dead, but as you can tell from the video I posted previously he woke up slightly before long. I got my sister’s fiance’s help with some video for all of 4 seconds before the battery died, but I didn’t want to wait along and prolong the deed. So after performing what Neil described as a “Weak Crab Knock!” where I think I just pissed him off more than actually knocking him out, I did a bit better, got him unconscious, then pried off his shell with a giant knife and cut him in half. I then cleaned him (Which was surprisingly
easy) and cooked him up in several spoonfuls of butter and garlic and while the original recipe I was working off of called for some Pino Grigio, given the somewhat gutterpunk method of his demise I decided to go for an old bud light I found in my fridge instead (Like I have Pino Grigio in my house…)
Ok so it wasn't a Bud Light
So he steamed up nicely while he baked for 20 minutes in the oven and the finished product is below. I really didn’t feel even the slightest tinge of morality set in when killing the crab, other than a desire to not prolong it’s death any more than I had to. I think that’s mostly because he has an armored carapace, giant claws and is totally alien and weird looking.
I was probably equally parts hungry and scared of the thing as I was hacking away on it. I really don’t think in the future I’d have a problem murdering another crab to give me it’s sweetmeats for consumption.
Here's the cooked and finished product
A few notes. If you ever decide to do something along these lines (cooking a live crab) you really should watch this youtube video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmDorauP5Ag and the followup by the same author. It was really informative. A few other notes… when getting knocked out my crab had one of it’s claws fall off… I’m guessing that’s a defense mechanism to try to protect the body if a predator is trying to get at the goods. It’s kindof surprising and mildly gruesome, but something to be aware of. Also for my crab, I REALLY should have cracked the shell ahead of time. Since I baked it instead of boiling it the shell was REALLY hard still and it certainly wasn’t “crackable” with a fork. This thing took a few whacks of a legit claw hammer from my garage before I was able to get at the goods. Also the meat itself was VERY stringy. My local crab would have made an awesome crab salad, but wasn’t so much a main course in it’s practicality. I don’t know if that’s a result of the cooking or the actual type of crab itself. Further investigation is required. If I actually do this again with a live crab sometime I’ll throw up a video to give people an idea of what it’s like. It was very much a strange and new experience and I did feel connected with what I was chowing down
I will give a longer and more in-depth post in the next few days with the further consumables but as a quick aside I wanted to mark my first big fuckup! While hanging out with friends over the weekend I almost consumed sausage on a pizza (but avoided… Damn Meatpushers!), but then today while poking through the fridge I found some amazing greek food that was left over from when my mom, cousin and I had a VEGITARIAN FEAST. As I chewed my way through some sort of filo-dough and spinach I hit something chewing and delicious that at first gnaw I suspected of being eggplant. No sooner had I swallowed however than I realized I had consumbed the most tasty of greek flesh… LAMB!
I feel betrayed, my cousin snuck her lamb infested goodies in with my veggie surprise and now I feel as though I’ve betrayed my morality (though, not really all that much). Though I somewhat feel obligated to move up butchering a lamb on my list.