(Aug 18, 2015) Staying in the yurt of a kazak family for a few days. Formally nomads now settled in a village by order of the government. The yurt on the ridges above Tianchi lake. A stunning body of water now drowning in mass tourism. The yurt was enough away from all that.
We sat with the family on a raised eating platform which doubled as their bed. The yurt plan included three squares a day. A guest is family. So we ate like one. All circled the tray that was placed at our center. Taking food communally with fingers. On this day the meal was a boiled sheep over 3 inch thick noodles. The sheep was whole minus its hide. Legs, head, innards and hooves. Dad picked up the skull and carved off the cheek. And handed it to me. I ate it. Then he pulled off the ear. Again he offered it to me. I blinked. Then to Fumiko. She demurred. So mom popped it in her mouth and had at it. It looked to be a challenging chew. Dad stayed at the skull. The eyes he didn’t offer but kept for himself. The brains he split with his son. They were black with yellow synapses. The daughter seemed surprised that the son was honored with half the brains.
I focused on the meat and fat. Which there were equal proportions of and no desire to separate. Eating large pieces of pure fat is novel to me. The innards were indentifyingly confusing. So I ate them without selection in great quantities. Along with the noodles saturated in the animals grease. The bowled drink was a broth made from the animals juices. Dad plucked various choice bits and handed them to me shouting “kazak style”. I ate from his hand. Mom was all encouragement. Ji, Ji (eat, eat) every time we slowed. A first in my life, to be embarrassed by my limited eating capacity.
The meal went on for a long time. The family good with each other’s company. Dad grabbed a foreleg. He bit the joint off. Clean. Then split the femur length wise with a knife. He shared the marrow with Fumiko. She pronounced it fruity. By the time dad finished with the skull there was nothing but calcium and teeth. Gradually the goat itself was reduced to the same. I recognized a respect to the animal itself. If you’re going to kill and eat an animal, then eat it all. Every possible calorie. I thought of the west. How far we are removed from an animal when it is eaten. Then I got to thinking about vegetarianism…
Alot. As we spent the next 48 hours simultaneously vomiting and shitting.