FARM TO TABLE:
A GOAT STORY
SANTA CATALINA, ILOCOS SUR, PHILIPPINES
NOTE: THE PHOTOS IN THIS STORY ARE GRAPHIC. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
I journey back to my mother’s childhood home in the province of Northern Philippines, with Alex and my father. Auntie Jean, the only one of eight children still living in the country, took over the family farm and runs it with her husband and two sons. In our family we welcome people with food. It has been eight years since our last visit, so a celebration is long due. And that means: killing a goat.
Bright and early, Cousin John John (Auntie Jean’s oldest son) appears on a tricycle. In a matter of seconds the four of us are speeding down the 1.5 kilometers of road through the coastal croplands back to their house, where we’ll watch our lunch being prepared — from life to death, to fire to table, over the next three hours.
“Without hesitation, my cousins and uncles skillfully puncture its carotid, draining all its blood as quickly as possible.”
Cousin Bryan leads us to the pasture and unties a young goat, merely two years in age and 40 kilograms in weight. The animal is laid on a makeshift wooden table, its mouth gently cupped shut. Without hesitation, my cousins and uncles skillfully puncture its carotid, draining all its blood as quickly as possible. The blood, of course, is saved for later.
We follow the torching of its hair, the scrubbing and separating of its skin, the removal of its legs, horns, head, and innards, and then the cleaning of all its parts before they are made into proper dishes over bamboo fire pits and slow burning coals. The men take their time, gather over the fires, walk to the cornfields and back. There is no rush, nor is there waste.
“There is something special about being here… I have vivid memories of doing the same thing back home when my grandfather was alive.”
There is something special about being here and watching this process at my grandparent’s house in the Philippines, because I have vivid memories of doing the same thing back home in Los Angeles when my grandfather was alive. Here, though, it seems much more humane.
The rest of the morning, as I wander between the yard, the grill, and the kitchen, while the trio of goat dishes are being prepared, I imagine my mother (the eldest of the eight siblings) growing up on this farm; Waking up early to feed the pigs and pull a few vegetables, and cooking
here, just as we are doing. Warm thoughts of a simpler, slower, rural life creep in... and then I’m interrupted. It’s time for lunch.