Goodbye to an old friend


To Archie we had to bid a farewell. Last night I ate his organs, today I’ll probably make turkey pot pies, and Friday I’m bringing marinated turkey breasts to my friend’s house for dinner. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As you may recall, Archie the male turkey, a beautiful Royal Palm, gobbled enthusiastically. Maybe too enthusiastically. In the past week he made some kind of noise every five minutes. He would stand on our back porch and gobble at the top of his throat to the entire neighborhood. He would preen next to the fence and yell at every passer-by on our street. On Sundays this was very loud, as there’s usually a soccer match down the street. And the mornings, he would gobble in the morning until I came out to feed him. Finally, two days ago, as I was in goaty bliss, our next door neighbors told me the turkey was driving them crazy. On an urban farm, neighbor relations are critical. If they complain, I could be cited, and who knows, they might take my animals away.

So I boiled a big pot of water. Then I got out the tobacco, burned a chunk of it, and grabbed Archie for a death hug. Novella in the garden with a pair of pruners. He made a hissing noise, pecked me, and then his head was off. I dipped him in the hot water, and pulled off his gorgeously and soft feathers. Underneath he had softer white feathers. Then alabaster skin, puffy with fat. In his crop were chunks of corn and greens. He was the most healthy turkey I’ve ever plucked. Underneath his skin, I could see the promise of his dark meat–the color of chocolate.

This British chef I love Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall calls these delicacies plucker’s prizes–the organ meat, not enough to serve, but enough for a special meal for one. I fried the kidneys in butter with thyme and a squeeze of lemon. The liver and the heart I cooked with onions and thyme and pepper. Served on a bed of wild argula and lettuces, and some radish.
Edith is still on the nest, and we hope for baby turkeys in a few more weeks. It’s much quieter now. Goodbye Archie–and thanks.

11 responses to “Goodbye to an old friend

  1. Riana Lagarde

    ah, just when I was saying he really needed an orange plaid lazyboy recliner chair in the yard. good-bye old ‘Arrrrrrchiiiiie.

    ps you are going to freak the vegans out with the offal pictures! har har

  2. Just for clarification, do you mean pruners like rose-cutting bypass pruners or do you mean like hedge shears or like branch loppers? I’m taking notes :)

  3. Good bye Archie!!!! He was very beautiful and had a good life.

    We have wild turkeys in our neighborhood! They are wonderful–they started off as a family last Spring, and now we have a pair in our neighborhood. The male is always courting the female, and he sure gobbles a lot. Yesterday evening, he roosted in a tree by our house and gobbled for hours. We loved it (but then again, we love the ribbiting of all the pacific tree frogs in our backyard pond, too).

    I posted pictures of our wild turkeys here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cristine/sets/72157603787265735/

  4. btw, what was the tobacco for..?

  5. Novella Carpenter

    riana: i don’t think vegans dare enter.
    nat: loppers–big ones, to cut 2 inch diameter branches.
    christine: the wild turkeys are so cool! and more subtle than the domesticated ones, no? the tobacco, which i grew and cured myself, tastes like shit. no one would ever smoke it. so when it’s killing time i burn a little in a dish to let the spirits up there know someone’s coming to join them. it just makes me feel better about killing, about my role as executioner.

  6. Well vegans do tread over here despite the slaughter footage. What bothers me is not the photos of dismembered animals but rather how someone who has such a personal relationship with them can also continue to kill and eat them. I became a vegan because I was no longer willing to put my desire for animal flesh over the interests of sentient animals to live their own lives free from human exploitation. Burning that tobacco would at least suggest you harbor some lingering misgivings about the whole procedure, something which a ritual can help to mitigate. Why have you chosen to raise and kill animals on your farm rather than perhaps raise animals as part of a community petting zoo for children or as a home for rescued and abused animals? In both the latter cases you could derive the benefits of domesticated animals for your plants without killing them.

  7. duane marcus <a href="http://www.facebook.com/people/Duane_Marcus/541048543">Facebook me!</a>

    I never met Archie but am sure he was a fine fellow judging by the beautiful colors of his organs. No doubt they were nutritious and delicious. Farewell fine fowl.

  8. Novella Carpenter

    vegan sean: i have vegan friends who see what i’m doing and say that if you have to eat meat, what i’m doing is the best possible way to do this. i think vegans in general have a sentimental notion about animals, though, like your petting zoo concept. who will pay for feeding the animals if i had a petting zoo? what if one of my animals dies of natural causes–do i eat it or just bury it? you probably haven’t spent much time with working animals and regard them as people wearing fur coats; spend some time with farm animals and you’ll see that they have needs–food, water, shelter–but not the kind of needs humans have.
    i totally respect your decision to not eat meat, and if more people did what i did, i suspect there would be less meat eating, not more.
    as for the tobacco burning, this isn’t something to calm my guilt, but a way to acknowledge the way my human ancestors showed respect for life and thanksgiving for this gift of life that goes to nourish my life. though you maybe want to avoid the idea that in order for you to live, things must die–have you ever considered that what you eat (soy products, vegetables) also involves death too?

  9. “i have vegan friends who see what i’m doing and say that if you have to eat meat, what i’m doing is the best possible way to do this”

    I appreciate what people like you do in terms of raising animals “humanely” but one thing to note is that you do NOT need to eat animals in order to survive. There is only one vitamin, B12, which does not come naturally from plant sources and this is only the result of plant breeding and hygiene (that animal products contain it is a function of the bacteria they do end up eating from the soil that we wash off).

    “i think vegans in general have a sentimental notion about animals, though, like your petting zoo concept.”

    I wouldn’t deny that and it is true that a lot of vegetarians and vegans find motivation from their personal connection with animals (or as you suggest the idea of animals which they anthropromorphize to be much like humans). Personally, my objection to the use of animals is based much more on rational, philosophical arguments than on any feeling I may harbor for the animals themselves.

    “what if one of my animals dies of natural causes–do i eat it or just bury it?”

    As far as I’m concerned, it would be permissible to eat the animal in that case though I don’t see anything wrong with burying the animal either.

    “you probably haven’t spent much time with working animals and regard them as people wearing fur coats; spend some time with farm animals and you’ll see that they have needs–food, water, shelter–but not the kind of needs humans have.”

    I can’t say that I’ve helped raise farm animals during any portion of my life but I have lived in close proximity to wild animals in Southeast Asia and less than a mile from a dairy farm in Pennsylvania for several years. I don’t appropriate human needs or desires on animals; you are right in recognizing that they have their own. However, as sentient beings, one of their most basic interests is their own lives, something which I do not have the right to interfere with.

    “if more people did what i did, i suspect there would be less meat eating, not more.”

    I wish more people did as it would necessitate a vast reduction in the use of animals. However, the trends point otherwise especially with the emergence of China and India as world economic powers. When 2.5 billion people suddenly have the ability to consume animal products in greater quantity, things which had been previously forbidden fruit for purely economic reasons, the market will respond to fill the emerging need.

    “though you maybe want to avoid the idea that in order for you to live, things must die–have you ever considered that what you eat (soy products, vegetables) also involves death too?”

    I endeavor to do the least harm possible. As far as I’m concerned, this principle in practice demands a vegan lifestyle. Can I ever escape from having to kill other animals to feed myself? In reality, no. There will of course be small animals that are killed in the production of crops that I eat. I drive a car whose wheels are made with animal by products. Every medicine I might take has been tested for toxicity on mice and other small rodents. We live in a speciest society where animal life is valued much less than human life and in so far as I’m willing to interact with society I must make these types of compromises.

    However, one should also recognize that the vast fields of soy and corn are not being maintained to feed the likes of me but rather to fatten cattle and pigs in feedlots. Brazilian rain forests are being burned not for boca burgers but for black angus steak. People like you have opted out of the factory farming system but you are an extreme aberration, even more so than I.

    I hope you don’t take my comments as ad hominem critiques. I really do appreciate what you’re doing and only wish that more people would take the responsibility for their diets as seriously as you do.

  10. Novella Carpenter

    hi sean;
    i’m so glad we had this discussion! i hope people read your comments and mine and think about what they eat. i do have hope that humanity will come around and change our zombie-like attitudes about our place in the world. and you’ll be glad to know today i thought of you when i ordered a veggie torta at a mexican restaurant! thanks for your comments.

  11. I’m humbled that you thought of my post. I do hope that discussions like these provoke people to reexamine their relationship towards food and come to a more conscious understanding of how they wish to relate to nature, however that might be. Your blog has certainly inspired me to think seriously about producing food at home. I’m in the housing market now and I plan to build a vegan, organic garden on my property to feed myself and hopefully some neighbors as well.

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