WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE VEGETARIAN POTENTIALLY DISTURBING IMAGES OF NASTY COW FLESH! Okay, y’all have been warned.
I heard through the grapevine lately that I missed meat. This made me laugh because not once in my Peace Corps experience have I missed meat specifically. Sure, I might miss certain types (lean ground beef, turkey bacon, honeybaked ham, etc…) but meat itself has never been a rarity for me. There are many PCVs out there for whom meat is a luxury, so I do consider myself blessed to pretty consistently have chicken, beef, or goat in my diet. I have even participated in the killing of a chicken. There’s one for the Bucket List.
One of my favorite things to buy when traveling is what I call “meat on a stick.” This is a technical term. People kill a couple animals, set up shop with some skewers and their little stove and roast strips of meat and sell them for around 5 meticais (less than 20 cents). On the way to Mabote, there is a place where you can get gazella (don’t think actual gazelle… more like a rodent creature the size of a small bulldog or something). Is there anything better than watching a 20-pound animal get completely skinned and gutted and then roasted, and then sticking it right into the lunch you brought with you? Definitely not. I will miss this.
Despite the greatness that is meat on a stick, there are times here that I am ready to swear off of meat all together. And that is when I experience the Meat Market.
In general, meat is killed when it’s needed. You want a chicken for dinner tonight, you tell the restaurant, they go kill one and cook it. Pretty simple, and much more humane and healthier than the feedlot animals that we consume back in the States. These animals lead their chickeney or goaty or cow-y (okay that one doesn’t work) lives, and then become dinner. But it is the part in between “alive” and “dinner” that makes me want to go Vegan and never look back.
Meat is sometimes frozen and sold that way, but often an animal is slaughtered and then hung up in still-bleeding chunks on the side of the road to be devoured by flies as the man hawking his carcass tries to find a buyer. Kind of fun, in a way. “Do I hear 500 meticais for the cow head? You can still feel the pulse!!!”
That you can kind of ignore. But I have been lucky to get to share a house with some cow pieces for about a week. And when I say cow pieces, I literally mean cow pieces. Imagine having to step over this while making your oatmeal in the morning:
Very few things can suppress my appetite, but that is up there.
My personal “favorite” up-close-and-where’s-the-ecoli? Experience came a couple weeks ago on a drive home from a rural town, where meat is supposedly cheaper. Cashing in on this deal, several coworkers decided to partake at the local butcher shop, which advertised its wares superbly:
The meat was then left in the backseat of our hot car, in the sun, to, um, roast for about three hours before even embarking on the three-hour journey home.
Passengers included an entire cow head and a liver the size of the (open) cooler it was in.
I should probably mention now that I was in the backseat with this meat. Funny until up around hour 5 when even the colleagues were admitting that it was definitely rancid by now and I, ever the culturally insensitive crazy white girl, had a capulana (African cloth) wrapped nearly completely around my head in attempt to completely block my sense of smell (and consequently most of my ability to breathe). It was a survival tactic. Add in two more hours of bumpy roads I was about to pass out, which probably would have been a better alternative looking back. But eventually, I got home, washed the dead cow carcass off of myself, and went on with my normal life. TIA.