What Lies Beneath?
I’m losing my war against field mice. This time they chewed through the power cord to the freezer. So, with the freezer thawing, it’s time for a family cookout.
I’m pulling chunks of hoarfrost-covered packages out and sorting them on the garage floor. The 3, 4, 5-year old labels are illegible. Let’s see, this looks like liver – but lamb, venison, beef, or pork? These round things must be organs. That’s a chicken, or is it the wild turkey our lawn-mower guy gave us?
My worldly wife spent some of her youth in France where people eat much more of an animal than we finicky Americans do, like tripe, trotters, head cheese, veal kidneys, pork cheeks, sweetbreads, and the like. So, when we buy whole animals from neighboring farms she does the butcher’s cut chart. Most people get some 120 pounds of pork from the average Vermont pig. Not us. We get closer to 150 lbs. The unmentionables all add up.
I’m trying to sort the freezer-burned meats into edible piles and setting the nondescript offal aside for disposal deep in the woods where, our bobcats, coyotes, fishers, and turkey buzzards can have at them in prandial peace without being distracted by the chickens gobbling ticks in our yard.
I’m remembering the time I awoke to shrieks coming from the garage one night when my daughter and her buzzed friends were clearly rummaging through the freezer looking for Ben and Jerry pints and came upon a pig’s head staring at them from inside a clear plastic bag, waiting for Kate to simmer it slowly into a head cheese – unmentionable chewy-bits suspended in a gelatinous lump. Another time, I was asked by my son about the four little pig’s feet in a plastic tray in the freezer. Was I planning on making them into bookends? … but I digress.
I now have a large pile of meat that, doused with sugary barbecue sauce and adequately charred over a wood fire, might prove edible to bibulous friends and relatives. The rest I’ve stashed into a barrel to haul off to the critters that usually prefer fresh chicken to thawing carrion. The female bobcat, has become especially brazen, thinking nothing of trotting across our lawn with a spent hen in her mouth as we eye one another.
At the bottom of the freezer was the raccoon my son bagged up and kept to make into a coonskin hat when he was ten. He’s now thirty. The poor animal, surrounded by tufts of loose hair, seems to have developed alopecia. Should my son pursue his project, he’ll have a nice, loose-fitting shower cap.
Finally, at the bottom, indistinguishable from a pork tenderloin, lay a frost-covered bottle of Stolichnaya, which my wife and I enjoyed to celebrate having finally emptied the freezer.
The family barbecue was a resounding success. The heavily-sauced non-descripts were well-charred and tasted more like Dunkin’ Donuts than meat. I’d forgotten, however, the six-year-old mutton, on which I’d gotten such a good deal from our neighbor and assumed it was lamb.
My New York son-in-law asked if I hadn’t grilled a discarded deck shoe by mistake. “Tasty, but unchewable,” was his considerate comment, as he picked the gnarly bits from his incisors. Later than night I got a text from him, “Death by Mutton!”