One of the best things about living with a host family is experiencing all of their customs and rhythms of life. One of the things they proudly do is raise their own livestock. Now, if you have an objection to raising and eating animals, humanely, then respect that this is for survival not profit. Furthermore, if you do not enjoy the sight of blood then don't continue reading.
Moving on, the relationship of growing food, raising livestock for your dinner table is direct here. In addition to the pigs and rabbits my family raises, they also have a three to four acre garden filled with peppers, corn, beans, potatoes, some apple trees and a vineyard. They're not unusual as nearly all Macedonian's have a garden of some kind in their yard. It's as quintessential to their life as a well manicured lawn is to ours.
When I first saw the pigs and rabbits I immediately noticed the size of them. Both pigs easily weighed 200lbs, 100 kilos, and the rabbits are gigantic. However, they've never been pumped full of hormones or steroids unlike our packaged beef, but not pork, back home. They've just been well cared for and live in warm, clean stalls.
The Sunday prior to Valentine's Day was the day to butcher the pig. I made sure to watch Goce kill the pig and see if it was humane. I also decided that if I was to eat it at the dinner table with them then I was going to see the entire process. Now, it wasn't a long process but I didn't help cut the meat. Not because I didn't want to but it was too important to let me cut and possibly damage the meat. So I asked questions and moved things around when needed.
|Petar loves trucks and tractors.|
|This is the "air pistol" Goce made specifically for the animals. It's only effective within 4in.|
|The pig was alive only 10 seconds prior to this. After Goce shot it, Daniella's dad, slit it's throat to bleed it out. It was efficient and humane. It's something I won't forget either.|
|Taking it to the house.|
|Here, they're cutting the skin off.|
|This was the first time Lisa had seen this too.|
|Goce got the fire red hot so we could use the coals for bbq.|
|As you can see nothing was wasted.|
|This isn't even half of what was put in the freezer.|
|You can't make a Macedonian smile for a camera but trust me they were happy.|
|Alright, alright, alright I got a smile!|
Several times, Goce and Daniella told me separately how they only used the best feed for the pigs, that they raised them properly and that the animals were completely natural. You could feel their pride at knowing the quality of the meat and that it would help keep them, and me, alive for the next year. I could truly taste why they were so proud of it.
The following weekend we went to the large Valentines Day/St. Trifun's Day celebration. I later found out that the slava was actually hosted by Goce and Daniella since St. Trifun's Day is their nameday. So the pig they raised wasn't just for the family it was for 300 other people too. That's how important one animal is to my family and the village.