Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Silence of the Pig (warning: graphic content) - Brodowski

A cute happy baby pig. Not the one in this story.

Before I get started, I have to warn folks. I personally wouldn't read this if I was vegetarian, a huge fan of pigs, or hate the thought of animals actually being killed to be eaten rather than showing up in plastic wrap at the store. I felt ill when my husband showed me the photos (again, that is an "actor pig" above--not the real one). But there are photos here and graphic ones. Real ones. Nasty business.

Okay, so stop reading if you hate death.  Or guts. Or both.

Now, all four of you who are left with me, what is wrong with you? No, just kidding. My husband, as you know, grew up with a weekend farm where animals were raised to be food. There are still chickens and Angolan hens, but the days of the rabbits and pigs are gone. A lot of work goes into these bigger animals. One of the biggest treats that the family makes every New Year's Eve is the suckling pig. Leitoa. It is a work of art that requires very slow roasting over a period of days. If the skin is not crackling and crunchy, you did it wrong. And yes, Vlad's family will judge you for it.

When we lived in Miami for six years, Vlad made the suckling pig himself. It was not easy to find it there--we had to travel across the city to the one butcher who had them. You had to order in advance, and most of the time, they were much larger than the coveted small ones. However, I will say that the pigs were already dead when we went to pick them up. I think you see where I am going.

On Friday morning, my husband invited our sons (age 6) and his parents to go with him and the ranch manager to the pig farm that was around 20 minutes away. I wondered why he did not specifically invite me but I was pretty happy with an hour free to enjoy talking with Nonna (94 years old). I didn't ask Vlad many questions but I had assumed that they were going just to pick up the pig that had been killed prior to their arrival. No.

Two hours later the family came back with the pig. My son Nico was the last to exit the car and he came running over to me with a plastic bag in his hands. He says to me proudly (oh, so proudly) that he got the brains. The what? The brains. Did I want to hold them in my hands like he had? And proceeded to try to pour out the brains on my hands. 

Now let me take a minute to tell you that I really try to be an open-minded person especially around my kids. They love spiders. I would kill every last one I could find. They think cockroaches are cool and want to hold them. I can't even kill them because I hate the squishy noises they make. I hold down my immediate need to vomit when they show me the beasties that they find. I don't even make a face. I say "cool". I take them to the spider and snake museum. But I had met my Waterloo: baby pig slaughter.

Okay, so the brains. No, I did not hold them. I did remark how interesting they looked. Then Vlad took out his cell phone to show me all the photos from the visit to the pig farm. This is where you need to turn away and not see the photos if you are squeamish; you cannot take back seeing them.

First they went to pick out the pig. I swear my husband had a photo of the cutest group of little baby pigs that I have ever seen. They picked out a pig to die!! Aaaagghgh! Okay, see, if I had to kill my own food to survive, I would be a vegetarian. Yes, I would. No, maybe I could kill a chicken (but those feathers are a PAIN!) but cow meat and pig meat--OUT!  Bunnies? Don't even think about it--of course I can't do it anyway after having a pet bunny named Amber.  I could kill a fish. If it wasn't cute or look like Nemo. I won't share the baby pig photo. Suffice it to say, that pig was cute.

At this point in Vlad's story, I literally felt nauseous. I am not a farmer's daughter, clearly. My husband and his parents and the kids are looking at me like I've grown two heads. Of COURSE they had picked out their own pig. You want the chubbiest one. Ugh. Then my mother-in-law proudly told me that she hadn't let Nico and Lalo watch it being killed with a really huge knife. So there's that to be grateful for.

Then Lalo washed the dead pig.

Then the pig farmer (who is wearing quite a chic shirt and hat combo, no?) started the cutting open, the gut taking-out, the slicing and dicing.  So maybe one of the twins will be a medical doctor like their older brother Pedro currently in his third year of medical school and practicing giving stitches on cow tongues. Also a true story. The stomach of iron was the missing link for me to get into surgery.

Apparently the farm cats show up pretty soon after a kill and they were quite literally swarming about the guts on the ground.Yeah, in case you think this is operating room cleanliness, let me just get that out of your head forever.

Kitties in blood
And because if you've stuck with me this long, I'm pretty sure you can handle it, here is Nico with some pig brains for you. Want to hold them?

So a week later, I am able to write about this but on the day of the killing, I sure didn't want to hear about it. I am sure I fell in my kids' estimation that day. To them, this is all a part of the natural order. The circle of life. They dug right in when the pork was served. I did too. Frankly it smelled good. It tasted great. Please don't ever make me do it myself.


  1. Thanks for sharing this post. My husband and I have a farm in the south of Minas Gerais (3 hours from São Paulo) and will be moving there in September. It is a vegetable farm, but because it is so far from anything we have been talking about getting animals. A cow for milk, chickens for eggs, and then the inevitable question of animals for meat comes up. My first response was 'well we can just send it to slaughter, right?' Apparently not! Things aren't that simple and it turns out that if we want to have our own meat we are going to have to kill it and butcher it ourselves. We are still trying to make a decision of what to do...for now we have put it to the side as the thought of killing and butchering an animal makes both of us a little squeemish. We like vegetables, we grow vegetables, and harvest vegetables. Meat is a whole other thing!

  2. My husband says that there are "knives for hire" who will actually come and kill the animals for you. Yep. So that should work. I suggest going far away as apparently older pigs really make a lot of noise when they die. This last bit of information I did not need.

    We have a country house in Joanopolis (it's rented, but feels like ours after five years there). We can see Monte Verde (Morro Selado) from the front veranda...will you be near there?

  3. That's good to know. I will keep it in mind as I have absolutely no intention of doing the killing myself, or being close-by for that matter.

    Yes, we are close to Monte Verde. You reach our farm through Camanducaia!

  4. I am in São Paulo until September or October, but after that will be permanently living on my farm. If you are in the Monte Verde area don't hesitate to get in touch!