I’m not sure it’s even possible to relate this week to any other I’ve ever had. It seems like I’ve had a years worth of experiences in just a few short days and it’s hard to even so much as get my head around it all let alone put it into words.
Perhaps I ought to backtrack a little. Since the age of 11 I stopped eating meat. I would feel terrible when I ate it. I remember one particular instance when in New Brunswick, our family went out to meet a girl and her family that Lesley had been writing to in school as a pen pal. As any good host, they prepared us meals featuring the best of the local fare, lobster and sole (or was it scallops…) all I remember is just as soon as it went in my mouth, it came out. I was horribly embarrassed but I couldn’t help it.
So then while most of the time I associated the rough stomach rot to meat, I eventually became a little disenchanted with the way animals were treated and how we often ate too much and while I eventually loosened up a bit I still couldn’t handle the way it made my stomach toss and turn. But over the last year or two I worked up the courage to try a bite again. I found if I didn’t eat too much, it didn’t hurt too much and just tried to slowly eat it here and there when I was feeling brave.
Well back in January Wilson and I went to California and we sat at a vineyard with David, Eric and Sue after church and the boys both ordered steaks and as we all shared plates I admitted that while it was probably lovely I was terrified. Actually terrified of sickness. I shared with them all that I really wanted to be adventurous in France and hope that somehow I wouldn’t be too afraid. I think in some ways I wondered if I’d feel free enough to do it and I’m not sure if I had determined whether or not I was capable. My biggest hope these days has been to live more whole, more free, and more slowly. Each of them was so encouraging and I tried to swallow the pill of my nerves and here I am now, in France and what have I been eating you ask?
I already told you about how I ate wild boar and how lovely it was. I was scared then too but I keep trying to take things in stride and not overdo it. Since then I’ve tried a few different fishes some I like, some I don’t care for and most of the time I have no idea what they are.
As my last post described, Olivier is our bread maker. While he’s usually only here twice a week I try to ask questions and nervously hope I’ll understand the response through his thick accent, knowing that eventually it’ll get easier as I’m familiar with it. So the more I asked questions the more I found out, sort of. So what I’ve learned is that he’s actually trained as a pastry chef, bakes bread, owns some vines at a vineyard in the region and tends to them twice a week for his income and he lives in a cave which I’ve now discovered not only has a chicken coup (beyond the one he also has here with a large garden) but it even has a pool. First I was shocked it had heat, hot water and all that but a pool? Seriously? Yeah, crazy, I know. He said he’s hosting something in April or May so I’m totally in (sorry friends, I’m not taking plans! Ha!) He was telling me this week he grew up on a farm so I think in some ways that’s where it all comes from. He lives very simply and is not extravagant but he is very connected to every thing he takes on. So when he received a call from Samuel on Monday that one of his chickens had been attacked and had died he told Sam how to drain the blood and we’d see if it could be salvaged once he had a chance to come in and see for himself.
Sadly the chicken that was attached was small and the only one that had started to lay eggs. Olivier popped into the salon and asked if any of us were interested in leaning how to de-feather a chicken. I’ve always though it makes sense if you’re going to eat meat to know how it actually gets from point A to B so I shrugged my shoulders and responded, “D’accord…” or “alright…” so before you know it he’s showing three of us how this all works. I’d learned a little about it once when watching some television show several years ago but it was little beyond scratching the surface. So he’d boiled a bit pot of water and had also killed the rooster (because we’d planned to have it Friday night) and so together everyone was encouraged to pull feathers and learn about where to be most careful and how long it needs to be in water and then to cool. Sadly the little bird hadn’t fared too well, there wasn’t much meat and he wasn’t going to let us take much of a chance on anything that had been punctured so he cut out bits and examined how much it suffered. It was all very fascinating.
After they were naked he showed us how to remove the insides and which parts were which, removing the foie and asking us if we were interested in the heart or a few other parts I didn’t recognize. After it was washed you seal up the pores and sear any fuzz with an open flame. When all the work was complete he helped us cut up some potatoes, onions and put the chicken in with some olive oil and into the oven for dinner but then what happened next I can’t quite explain.
He went into the fridge and pulled out a dish I’d seen earlier in the day. It was some of his leftover bread bits, green onions, herbes de provence, salt and pepper and all this, covered by splattered rooster blood. It’s hard to explain. I saw the dish and my mind wanted to recoil but the colors, so brilliant, felt more like a painting than what it actually was. As usual, I was terrified because I knew what it was. He was about to put it in a pan with the foie and eat it as an appetizer and he asked if either of us would like to eat it. I admitted that while I was curious I was perhaps too terrified and before I had the chance to run he had already fetched a fork and put a small bite into my mouth. I worried it would taste of iron but it didn’t so much. In some way, I wanted to honor the fact that he took such pride in his work, that he used every last portion of the bird and so it made the experience more inviting. So while I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t known what it was I did have a small serving of it on my plate.
That’s right, I ate rooster blood. I guess I’m not really vegetarian anymore… That being said, I’m probably still going to keep my consumption down. I’ve still got a few reservations on some foods that just frankly don’t appeal at all and I’m not sure they could be dressed up like somehow this felt and still eat it.