Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem
There are some things which never change about a person. A social or religious programming you have received as a child, or a characteristic you developed or were born with. No one persons unchangeable factors are necessarily the same, but for sure everyone has something that is unchangeable about them… Or at least something pretty much certainly unchangeable.
Over the years living in the desert I have made many changes to my way of life and changed as a person from living here. Changed as a person from practising Islam (Insha’Allah for the better). I have in many ways adopted the Bedouin way of life and I have tried to raise my children as true to their fathers upbringing as I can (more on my failures in that department another time).
Recently though I came to realise there are some things about myself that are unlikely to ever change…
We have a handful of goats that I do my best to take care of. We would have more but my husband keeps sacrificing them – I quietly complain we should build them up first, he complains that me and the children are too clingy over them, as if they are not for eating what are they for?!
I like the idea of raising your own animals for meat. I am not really a fan of meat but I think if you are going to eat it, eating an animal you took care of yourself and raised in a healthy, kind way, and slaughtered in the halal way is billions of times better than buying packages of meat that you don’t know what happened to it. For sure what happened to it was horrific, if you know anything about the meat industry. I’ll spare you the links : D.
- I have learnt to cut their hooves. I got instructions from my father in law and managed somehow to pull that one off (pats self on back).
- I cut their hair (or 1/2 of them at least so far) with my pathetic and inappropriately small scissors. When I am a proper Bedouin woman my husband might deem it worthwhile to invest in proper goat hair cutting shears – I am sure he thinks I will tire of them soon.
- I learned to milk them. Even the feisty one I have to wrestle, or milk when she is eating to get anywhere with her.
- I learned to unblock an udder so a newborn goat can nurse from both sides when they are having difficulties (figured that one out myself – I have a lot of personal experience with nursing ; P).
- I learned to put olive oil down their necks with a pipe when they get constipated (because I overfed them again : o).
- I learned to put onion and garlic in the water when they have a cold (this Bedouin remedy applies to chickens and people too, lol).
- I learned to make a funny sort of “errghh” sound to get them to move along nicely please.
- I haven’t attempted to take them to the mountain because I am afraid I will loose one.
- What I also didn’t learn is how to not get at least a little bit attached.
My husband was away for a month earlier this year and when he came back the family had a big welcome home dinner. Well we bought a sheep, but it was a small one so it was decided we needed another animal. Our three adult females had young babies so it couldn’t be one of them, then there was another young female who was not pregnant but it was decided she was too small too.
That left our billy goat.
I have to admit I was a little in love with our billy goat.
- He was shiny (his hair).
- He was friendly. He would put his forelegs on the wall and call me and the children to come and scratch his head and nose.
- He liked to hang out with us. He wasn’t afraid of us, but didn’t headbutt us either.
- Young and lively. He would jump around and my oldest son loved to play with him.
So when my husband announced that he would be going in the pot (1 meter x 1 meter btw) along with the sheep I was, to say the least, a little dismayed.
I told myself and the children we had to be happy because when you sacrifice something you love for Allah to show you are grateful (for Baba coming home) then the reward for the sacrifice is even greater.
I said after all. What is better. Our billy goat. Or Baba being home.
My five year old sulkily said
Our billy goat is better
But he didn’t mean it really. Once the deed was done he quickly forgot his earlier sorrow.
I did too.
And I did tuck into the meal.
But our billy goats head (and the sheep’s) was not cooked because it didn’t fit in the pan.
I put him in the freezer and thought my father in law will probably make off with it.
However, my father in law went off with the sheep’s head and thoughtfully left me with our billy goats head.
Time went by and he sat in the freezer.
Then one day I wanted to cook but didn’t have anything in the house, and no one around to go to the shop. I did have some Jameed (the sour milk used to make manseff) and the head. I had seen my father in law cook the head like this so I thought why not me too…
I said to my 3 yr old son (who is fascinated with gross things) shall I cook our billy goats head. He said:
Yes. Yes Mama, lets cook the billy goats head.
I took his head out the fridge. Looked at him. Some of the fur still around his nose. The bridge of his nose I knew so well from scratching. The shape of his forehead.
Then and there I knew I had hit some unchangeable fact about myself. The Vegan me was still in there, inside me. Wholly un-Bedouin like.
I realised I couldn’t bring myself to cook him.
At least not the part of him I could recognise.
I put him back in the freezer. My son objecting all the while.
There he stays in his icy grave. I can’t bring myself to waste him and throw him away.
I can’t bring myself to cook him…
and I can’t give him to anyone now as I am worried he has been in there too long (including defrosting and refreezing a few times due to power cuts) and will make them sick.
Anyone in my Bedouin family that I have told this story to roll their eyes at me and deep belly laugh at my ridiculous sentimentality.