Opening the fridge, the black garbage bag was the first thing I saw. I'm all about slow food, but this garbage bag contained more than I was sure I could deal with.
But dilly dallying was a decision in and of itself: maggots, or bacteria, or some more motivated life form would beat me to it. If I was going to turn what was in that bag into dinner, then it had to be done soon.
Inside that ominous bag was all that remained of our goat, Latte, who had met his end on Friday night. Husband Joe and two other guys had slaughtered him, collecting pretty much everything ? blood, innards ? at the request of the family that had bought him.
It was hard to say goodbye to Latte. He was among the first group of six goats on our farm. But we're learning fast that there's no room for sentimentality on a farm. Handsome though he was, he was pocket-sized, and now that we were getting more serious, he was not the one buck we'd choose to breed our does. He did, however, have an impressive pair of testicles: "pelotas grandes," our Latino customers had noted, nodding appreciatively.
But the family that bought the rest of Latte didn't want the hide, to which those pelotas were still attached. So we put it in a bag and stuck it in the fridge. There it sat, slowly migrating toward the back of the shelf, where it wasn't so obvious anymore. If we forgot about it for another day or two, the only thing left to do would be to dump the contents into the compost.
But what a waste that would be. Testicles from a grass-fed goat have to be about as nutrient-dense as food gets. I've been getting deep into nutritional literature lately, and organ meats, particularly from animals that grazed on grass ? liver, brain, heart, kidney ? are unmatched as super foods. You can buy these things online; but here we had fresh organs from a healthy, pastured goat in our fridge. They belonged to an animal we had worked hard in caring for, whose hooves we'd trimmed and whose hair we'd brushed of burrs, an animal we had fed every day through the winter, sometimes getting to the barn on snowshoe. To dump his organs in the compost and then go order other organs with my credit card was lazy at best.
5 a.m. Monday morning. I don't know why I was up, but I knew it was now or never. I slipped out of bed, grabbed the garbage bag out of the fridge, a bowl and a knife, and headed outside. I hosed down the hide to get rid of the leaves and debris that were clinging to it and went to work. I will spare you too many details. Suffice to say that once I'd exchanged my smooth knife for a serrated one, the job ? while it required focus and persistence ? was neither particularly gruesome nor strenuous. I came back inside just as Joe and toddler Kai were waking up, carrying two smooth, slippery ovals in a bowl, along with a couple of other pieces I'd been able to salvage.
When I got home from work that evening, he had the testicles marinating in garlic buttermilk to get rid of some of the gaminess, a trick he'd picked up from his dad, a hunter.
Joe cut each oval in half, then in half again, for a total of eight pieces, which he sautéed with green garlic and curry. I don't know whether chopping up a pair of testicles is a disturbing thing for a man to do. I got the sense that, although good smells were wafting, the mood was not particularly jovial.
Kai seemed to have that sense, too. It was one of those nights. She was overtired by the time we sat down, and at first, wouldn't sit at the table, much less taste the entrée. Joe and I both nibbled between attempts to calm her. Some of the pieces were chewy like calamari, others were squishy like liver.
At some point Joe went outside with the disgruntled Kai. There I was, sitting by myself eating goat testicles. Had I become a zealot, I wondered blackly? Maybe I should just stick a broom between my legs and gallop around the yard, muttering about duck hearts and rabbit giblets.
"Well," I said lamely, when they came back in, "it's supposed to be super nutritious."
Eventually, Kai deigned to slurp some of the buttermilk broth. Feeding the baby was the whole point. I felt a little better.
While I regret to report that goat testicles did not turn out to have the rumored aphrodisiac effect I'd read about, I do feel like we did right by Latte. And nutritional zealotry aside, I like testicles better than liver. They may not become the new family staple, but if a pair comes our way again, I'm thinking we'll prepare them as a side dish or an appetizer. Less pressure.
Becca Tucker is a former Manhattanite now living on an upstate farm and writing about the rural life.