Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ode to Eid Aloosh

I have never 'really' made the connection between the meat I eat and the animal who had to give its life so I could eat.

In the past, even if I thought about the animal, it has never been personal for me.

This Eid, 2008, I have changed how I look at what I eat. Like the 'slow food' movement in the west, my attitude towards eating has been slowly changing since I moved here even before Eid. The process of cooking a meal takes longer, sometimes over a fire, ingredients are purchased individually from a person who likely grew the food or knows the person who grew it or raised the animal. When I buy lamb or beef, I actually see the parts of the animal - legs, often the head, sometimes looking at the eyes of the animal I am about to eat. This changes a person.

This Eid, I participated in the timeless ritual of the family killing an aloosh (goat). Early in the morning on the first day of Eid, I rode my mobilette to Glissia, to my friends home, with the promised kefta and a container of Canadian/Tunisian version of chili on the back of my bike.

After having tea at their home, Khiria, the girls and me, walked to the palm pen to get the aloosh. I was sad as I walked, having stroked this aloosh many times since I have known this family, and having seen the children play with it many times. The children skipped and jumped with happiness, this was all very natural for them.

After we brought the aloosh back to the home, Jamel put incense on the fire, to bless the goat before it was killed. He hugged it and said something to it. To kill an animal halal, the animal must be happy. This process reminded me somewhat of the aboriginal people of Canada, how they thanked an animal for giving its life for sustenance.

However, I could not watch the aloosh's throat being slit. Jamel had wanted me to take photos, but I could not. So he went to a neighbour's home to ask for help to take photos of it (I did not include photos of the goat just after it was killed, when you are not part of the whole process, a picture is sometimes too difficult to see). I could hear the goat gasp for its last breath. It was not as bad as I thought, but I fought back tears.

Jamel then skinned the goat, its skin coming off like a coat. I made sure I helped to hold the leg for part of it. If I was going to be part of eating this animal, I wanted to respect it enough to be part of the process. I looked at the aloosh, and thanked it, and thanked Allah (God) that this family would again have meat for awhile. At times, the children watched the goat being cleaned and skinned in the yard, at times they played with the balloons I brought for them.

In the afternoon, we walked to the homes of other family members and friends, wishing them "Aidek Mabrouk" (happy Eid), and some people came to the home to do the same.

Much later in the cold dark of the Sahara night, under the winter canopy of stars, Khiria built a fire, and the family and I sat around and watched while Jamel and Khiria carved the meat off a leg very very thinly, placed it in tin foil and barbecued it on the fire. The taste of the smoky aloosh was delicious. I now understand why it is important to eat even the grisly parts. To waste even a part of the aloosh, would be not honouring the gift it gave.

And so, Aidek Mabrouk everyone. May you find the connection and give thanks for the food that sustains you.

PS - there are other photos below of friends I spent time with on the second and third day of Eid
Love, Juanita

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