Afternoons with Henri

I often get asked a tough question, in regard to either our pig Henri, or one of our dozen or so chickens. “So,” the person will begin… “Are you going to… you know…” In the beginning I didn’t know, and was aghast when they would finish their query.

“Eat them!??” I would wince. “They trust me.”

With the chickens it makes more sense. They’re not very smart. And after a couple years, they stop laying and then live another 7 or 8. But I wouldn’t be able to slaughter them, and even if I had someone else do it, I’d be wondering which one I was eating.

I came up with a good compromise when my friend Nat, who also has chickens, asked me the same question: “How about if you eat ours and we’ll eat yours.”

The pig is another story. Besides being quite expensive, he is more like a pet. He sleeps in the house. He comes when I call him. He likes to be where the people are and will plunk himself down at your feet. I often spend afternoons out on the property with Henri. I’ll be collecting wood or spreading straw or wood chips; he’ll be exploring, pushing over rocks with his strong snout to see what’s underneath. Sometimes our paths meet and he’ll collapse on his back to have his tummy rubbed.

I’ll admit he’s caught me on more than one occasion gazing hungrily at him, lost in carnivorous thought. His cheeks — the prized guanciale — have gotten large and fat. His hams are looking more and more like proscuittos. And somewhere in there is some delicious organic free-range bacon. But then he comes up to me, nuzzles me with his snout, and scampers off on his little high-heel hooves, and I’m brought back to reality.

Another question people have asked is, “So are you going to stop eating pork now?” I guess they see a conflict between raising an animal as a pet, and yet still eating its kin. I don’t have that problem. In fact, I think having a pig as a pet helps keep me and my family more mindful of the fact that when we’re having a hot dog or some bacon, that it is an animal we are eating. One that, probably like Henri, liked to roll around in the dirt on a sunny morning, or root in the earth for interesting things when the ground was wet and soft. An important thing to remember.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 01:46:19

    Friends of ours used to do the swap thing with their cows, and I thought it curious then but now I understand. I couldn’t eat our chickens at first either. Now I can. (Though if the deed is done here, as it sometimes is, I admit to cowering in the house. Sometimes the heart and the head aren’t quite in the same place at the same time.). “Mindful” is a wonderful word that we should all use more.

    Reply

  2. Andy
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 03:34:37

    Henri….I love Henri….I wish I had Henri….don’t even talk like this.

    Reply

  3. glennis
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 18:20:38

    When we were privileged to care for Henri, he came trotting over to Chris and lay down, presenting his belly for scratching.

    We had friends who raised rabbits for food, and they and their kids were totally unsentimental about it. OTOH, unlike chickens or cows, the only thing you get from rabbits is meat, so there’s not really another reason to keep them around.

    Reply

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