life as we make it


Followup: Tallow 101
December 8, 2009, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Jana estimates the box of meat and fat that we scraped off the cowhides to weigh about sixty pounds.  It is mostly fat, but we did excise a couple bona fide skirt steaks.  We discarded the idea of eating the larger pieces after considering the wrapping, hanging, and aging involved AFTER rinsing off the ground in dirt and dingleberries of unknown origin.  As haters of waste this decision was painful.  But when even my brother Mikiel turned down the meat (he is a man who does not turn down meat) we shrugged and consoled ourselves that we would at least be rendering the fat for some good old fashioned tallow candles. 

Fast forward ten days later: Jana called me to ask if I reeeeeeally wanted to render the fat as planned.  Well, of course I did!  Who wouldn’t?   She said we needed to get to it right away, as Gabriel (Jana’s main squeeze, my other brother) was getting a little testy about the orc-breath* stench in his woodshop.  

No problem.  Let’s just throw it on the burner and get to work.  Tallow candles for all this Christmas!

Oh, but Jana had done her research.  Jana said we’d have to cut the rancid meat off the fetid fat before heating.  Jana said the finished product would smell about the same as the raw material, as would the kitchen for a long time to come.  Jana asked again if I reeeeeeally wanted to keep this sixty-pound box of past-date innards in our possession for further processing, as tomorrow was trash day. 

For a moment it seemed almost worth it.  My inner rabble-rouser rubbed its hands together in mischievous delight. Rotten-meat scented candles in stockings……Oh the scrunched noses.  Oh the foul looks.  Oh the grudges and revenge gifts such an act would spawn.  My inner earth goddess rubbed its hand together in grievous fret.  Oh the sinful waste.  Oh the broken circle.  Oh the loss of rich and life-sustaining fat to an already gorged landfill.  Then it hit me.  Logic trumped both prankster and conscience.  Those candles would likely end up in same said landfill.  This after I  spent my valuable free time sifting through reeking adipose and permanently polluting my kitchen.  Rationalization complete, I broke it to Jana.  Maybe we should just forget about it.  Sigh.

Jana was heartbroken.  Heartbroken that I wasn’t there to help her schlep that putrid package out to the curb. 

As we continue the tanning process, I am a little haunted by this failure, which seems small and large at turns. My error of procrastination may be of little real consequence, but it is a transgression against my professed ideals.  And it is one of many.   I was born blessed with a guilty conscience that will ruminate, deliberate and comtemplate the spiritual aspects of choosing tea or coffee every morning if I give it too long a leash.  So the fact that I didn’t need those candles to make it through these long long winter nights, or the fact that I probably won’t be giving any Christmas gifts to anyone except my 3yr old doesn’t assuage my remorse at letting part of those two cows end up in the garbage truck.  So what did I learn in Tallow 101?  Specifically: tissue decays quickly.  Generally: so does opportunity, intention, inspiration, idea, ideal.  My babies give me at least two built-in excuses to put off anything that seems too hard, too unpleasant or too idealistic for at least another day.  The brutal sleep deprivation of early motherhood and the always demanding tasks of running a household and homestead can keep me stuck on bare minimum power.  I reserve the right to invoke these defenses.  But as a balm to my shrill inner voice, my overactive sense of compunction, I am prescribing a dose of “do it!”   My new motto:  quit thinking and just DO something! Anything!

In this spirit, I press “publish!”

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2 Comments so far
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I’m sorry you’re haunted by our fat failure. I feel kind of bad about it too. Not as bad as having 60# of seriously putrid grey meat, fat and dingleberries oozing on the garage floor though, and if I learned anything in therapy, it’s don’t beat yourself up about …letting the meat rot. Or something. Hey, let’s make cookies!

Comment by Jana

A toast to procrastination!

Comment by Faith




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