Good Wife or Awesome Wife?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

***Warning- vegetarians or squeamish people should skip this post.

 Yesterday, I was a pretty good wife.

 We purchased half a grass-fed steer to last us all year. Yesterday my husband asked me to bring Siena down to the ranch to "meet" the steer right before it would be butchered.  I thought it a little odd, but obliged, and I'm glad that I did.  How humbling to see the cow that will make up most of our meals for the next year. Praise God for this beautiful beast and the wholesome meals he will provide. Knowing exactly where your food comes from is rare in this modern world.

Anyway, baby and I said hello to the steer, soaked in the beauty of the blue sky and grassy plains (tucked oddly enough in a canyon in the middle of suburban O.C.)  It was surreal.  Then we left the ranch before the butcher came.  I didn't want to be there for the killing- that's where I draw the line.  Joe stayed behind to watch and participate in the butchering (as Joe wanted to keep the organ meats that the butcher normally disposes of.)

As I drove away, Joe nonchalantly mentioned, "Oh yes, my coworker and I will be cutting and dividing the organs in the backyard.  Don't worry, we'll use a tarp." 

Hm, a little weird, but that's ok.  I'm a good wife, I can handle some minor hacking in the backyard.  I'll just take Sisi out for a walk while they do it.

Well, much to my horror, this "little hacking" turned into a 3 hour long butchering session on our lawn.  I was busy tending to the young'n, but out of the corner of my eye, I see cleavers, pressure washers, blood, sawing, blood-stained ice chests. The dogs are drooling as they stare through the back window at the horror movie in my own backyard.

I can see that Joe is stressed out and exhausted.  It's completely dark outside and he's still butchering.  It's been a long day for him, and probably very emotionally draining, too.  I want so badly to complain about the mess, to tell him, "This is ridiculous, why is this taking so long? Get this carcass off my property!"

But I try to be a good wife, and I say nothing.  It's now 7:00 and he's supposed to give Sisi a bath and get her ready for bed, but he's obviously busy, so I do it.  I eat my dinner alone, and leave a tin-foil covered plate of food on the table for my cowboy (a ribeye steak from last year's cow.)  I tell myself, "You will not complain.  Don't complain!  That's so not what he needs right now."

Joe's done, and sits down to eat after showering. He tells me sorry for all the craziness.  He didn't expect it to be such a laborious process. Next time it will be different.  

That was my chance to be an awesome wife, and say, "That's ok honey.  Thank you for working so hard to provide this family with food.  Thank you for using your own two hands to make sure this cow's body parts aren't wasted. That was gross, but I respect that you want to use every part of this cow. Thank you." 

Instead, I took his apology as my cue to release all the complaints I was holding in my heart.  "Next time???  THERE WON'T BE A NEXT TIME!  That was so utterly disturbing.  I feel like I need to burn down the entire backyard. Don't you think that was a little over-ambitious?"  He nodded, and didn't get defensive. In a way, I was right.

Yesterday I was a good wife.  I let my husband butcher a cow in the backyard.   But I wasn't an awesome wife.  I was supportive of my husband on the outside while cussing him out on the inside.

Suddenly, I was reminded of all the years he parked his truck on the street so I could turn the garage into a floral workshop. The countless times he cleaned disgusting mildewed buckets, hauled rotting floral trash to the dump, loaded up the van while I bossed him around. All the times he went back to wedding sites at midnight to clean and pick up the rentals just so I could sleep.  The flower business was far from glamorous, and was extremely hard on both of us, and he never once complained.  That business was important to me, so it was important to him.  He was an awesome husband.  He IS an awesome husband. 

Next time I get the opportunity to be an awesome wife, I hope I take it!


Sarah April 5, 2012 at 10:28 AM  

I've always wanted to buy a portion of a cow to last us a while. Maybe when we have 2 kids with more mouths to feed I'll do that. BTW I think you are definitely an AWESOME WIFE for allowing cow entrails on your lawn lol.

- Sarah
A Girl In Transit

Rachel April 5, 2012 at 11:07 AM  

Kris, that would be a lot to deal with, even for such a wonderful cause! And at least it's reminding you of ways you can improve - always a good thing, I think. D is so very patient and I am frequently humbled when I contrast our reactions to various situations. Not that he's perfect, of course! We both inspire the other to work on being better, I think.

Annnnd ... I think I need to pick your brain (or Joe's brain?) about this meat issue. I am not giving up meat but I'm getting to a point where if I don't find a source that is more sustainable/less cruel, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. That said, I am definitely not up for butchering in the backyard, so I would need something a little more prepared. : ) Currently researching what options I have at local farmers' markets or via shipping on dry ice, but I'm curious about your source.

Can't wait to see you Saturday!

Joe Branca April 5, 2012 at 3:52 PM  

Rachel, I would check the local farmer's markets first. I think Santa Monica and Hollywood both have some grass fed meat booths. I believe our guy even has a booth at the Hollywood one. There is also bison at the Hollywood market from a ranch up near Valencia.

The problem is price. If you buy local, pastured sustainably sourced meat by the lb at a stand, it has to be USDA approved which adds on to their cost. That's why I usually stick with ground beef for the local grass fed if I must by pre packaged, since the steaks can be pricey. Somehow this is not an issue when one actually buys the bull or part of the bull (usually not cow), you end up owning part of the animal while he's alive so the USDA Approved-costs are not a factor.

Be careful of what's labeled in the grocery markets, they can all cheat to some degree which you wouldn't know unless you can speak to the rancher directly and he/she is willing to let you visit the pasture.

That said, there are two valid online sources that will ship, and if you buy in bulk the cost isn't too bad. and are two good good sources.

Also, beyond beef, are you adverse to seafood? Shellfish is an affordable and sustainable way to get quality protein, fats, nutrients (oysters for zinc hurray!) Mark Sisson's blog has a great series on all the different shellfish options, their nutrient profiles, how important it is to source them, etc.

Lacey April 6, 2012 at 3:11 AM  

Lovely post Kris - I struggle with this as well. I can spend too much time focusing on what I perceive as the sacrifices I'm making, without considering how I can sacrifice even more. I watched The Passion of the Christ last night for Easter, and was struck with Jesus' perfect sacrifice - it inspires me. x

Rachel April 6, 2012 at 1:11 PM  

Thanks, Joe! I'm making some notes from your comment. I have about 10 tabs open on my computer with different farms and options! I'm most concerned with the meat being as cruelty-free as possible and then with it being local, so I'd be okay with a meat source that is mostly grass fed with a little bit of corn feed at the finish. We don't eat meat more than a couple times a week in relatively small portions, so the expense isn't as big an issue for us and I'm planning to just dedicate a larger portion of our budget to good food.

I love seafood but have trouble feeling confident about sourcing it (with seafood I'm most concerned about environmental impact, and it seems to change every year!), so I'll check our the blog you recommend and see if I can sort it out a bit better. I end up avoiding it just because it seems complicated and I'm never sure I'm making the right choice.

I'm glad to be inching closer to feeling good about my food choices - you and Kris have been really inspirational!

Joe Branca April 10, 2012 at 4:32 PM  

Rachel - glad to hear! Good luck on your hunting and gathering. Here are a couple of links from Mark's site that give some useful info about different seafood options and the relative importance of sourcing them:

Delia June 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM  

Wow...I never knew you could buy an animal like that...very insightful! I will keep that in mind...

emily ressegue June 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM  

I so need to learn to tame my tongue too! I'm getting better but I hope to be awesome someday! ;)

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