Sound - A live goat in the garden

Sound - A live goat in the garden

By
Chui Lee Luk
Contains
4 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742702407
Photographer
Chris Chen

Early one morning I wandered into the garden. Curious things were usually discovered when one slowed down one’s pace and looked a little more carefully, even in the familiar environment of the home: snails hatching eggs (which, I imagined, involved oozy, squishing sounds); fern-like plants folding themselves up almost as fast as the snap of a lock when touched; grotesquely patterned caterpillars feeding on leaves (with what I imagined to be systematic chomping noises).

On this particular day I was wandering past the pink- flowered oleander tree, holding my breath of course (because I’d been told it was poisonous but wasn’t sure how, so thought it best just not to breathe in any of its noxious fumes). There was an unfamiliar sound of grass being torn up rapidly and a surprising bleat. I turned the corner and was speechless at the sight of a huge white goat tied to the fence. It towered over me, champing on the grass. I darted back to the house to fetch my parents.

Why was there a goat in the garden? It seemed that this was also a surprise to my parents. It was later revealed to be payment in kind to my father for his accounting services (for we were living in a Malaysia that still practised the barter system). The goat hung around for a few days. It wasn’t a friendly creature; all it did was tear up the lawn and bleat. We were warned against going into the garden to play with it or to try to make friends. Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the goat disappeared.

Goat meat became a constant at our family meals for a while after that. My sister and I weren’t told it was goat, although we did wonder why we were eating so much meat drowned in strong sauces. When we were told, it transpired that I wasn’t one of those children who was upset to find out where dinner came from.

What did make me squeamish, however, was seeing chickens being slaughtered by my mother or grandmother. I wondered how they tolerated these tasks. I liked chickens (although they had beady eyes); the clucking sounds they made were rather reassuring and calming, in my opinion. A rooster crowing in the early dawn was a sound that I heard every morning of my life in Malaysia. It signalled the beginning of the day’s adventures. There was always at least one family in the neighbourhood raising chickens.

Whenever my mother brought a live chicken home from market, it was quite evident what was going to happen to it that day. I hid as far away in the back of the house as I could, so I couldn’t hear anything (a similar tactic to the one I now put into play when something violent or frightening appears on the TV).

I am anchored by these memories. If I’ve chosen to eat meat of any sort, I’m always mindful that an animal sacrificed its life for the meat to come into my kitchen or appear at the table where we eat. For me, keeping the integrity of the animal is a way of respecting the once living creature. There is something to appreciate in all aspects of living things; I know I can find it if I am persistent enough. One obvious example is the form of the fish. By keeping the beautiful line and shape of a fillet as much as possible and not trimming it down to a pre-determined shape in my head, I feel I’m respecting the living fish. Another form of appreciation is reflecting on the texture of flesh by savouring the raw, or by sometimes celebrating the toughness of flesh through minimal contact with heat. I believe in making use of all parts of the animal, exploring the limits of what’s edible and making the (generally thought to be) less palatable, more palatable. These are some of the tributes I can make to celebrate the animal’s life.

Recipes in this Chapter

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