Life is death is life

A meat pie. Looks pretty delicious doesn’t it? Trust me it was. But there’s a background story. There is always a background story. Most times we never get to hear it, but read on to hear this pie’s background story.

 

We got a message from a friend asking if we’d be interested in taking a rooster off their hands. It’s been so long since I’ve cooked with chicken, in my mind I was immediately setting a menu of gastronomic possibilities. I was set right by Kate who kindly reminded me that we had a clucky hen (which the kids affectionally  named ‘Peacock’). Why don’t we keep the cock and possibly get some eggs fertilised? It fits in with a closed system approach that we’re striving for. It could possibly  mean that we’d no longer have to buy new chooks, they’d just make their own. It might just work, we’ll leave it up to nature and I’ll report on it in the future.

When I arrived to pick up the rooster (which I’ve now named ‘Cogburn’ – any fan of The Duke will understand the reference) I noticed two pair of pigeon flying in the large hen house. I had to enquire about them, just on the off chance they were up for grabs, and it’s a good thing I did. More unwanted animals, and unlike Cogburn, these guys where destined for the pot! The reality is that I had nowhere to keep the animals other than in a pie.

In the old days pigeon was a common meat, as it was easy to keep them in the backyard and cheap to keep. It’s funny how us humans can happily eat certain foods when times are tough but not eat them when times/finances are good. Pigeons sit alongside rabbits as ‘poor man’s’ meat. In my mind it’s still all just meat, and with the added bonus of this species being considered a feral pest. We do have native pigeon in Australia, these four birds are the introduced species.

The kids where all excited of the concept of pigeon pie, I think more than anything it’s the name of the pie that was exciting. In our house the rules are, that if you want to eat it you have to know how it’s made. The whole process.

So after breakfast we all ventured out to the front yard to say hello and goodbye to the birds. The girls loved the soft feathers and the sounds they made, but when it came time to kill them they knew what needed to happen. I was rather proud of them, they saw my dispatch, a second and it was done, a quick twist of the neck, the delicate neck broken cleanly in my hands, the bird shakes in its death rattle, then it’s lifeless. Its now transformed from animal to food.

That’s what happens to every bird you eat, it’s the shitty inevitability, the downside is that most of us don’t witness the process and thus become disgusted when we’re confronted with the reality. But it happens.

Take away and supermarket chicken meat isn’t made from birds that have died of old age. The reality is that they live for 10 weeks in pretty shitty conditions then thousands of them are transported by truck (by pretty dodgy methods in most cases) then they’re all killed and processed and destined for the deep fryer of society’s treasured takeaway venues, where the reality of the carnivore process is hidden from the public.

After the birds were all dispatched (killed quickly) we set about the task of plucking, and the kids all helped, admittedly some more so than others.

Maya, Kate’s eldest, came out with a ripper of a line that I have to share. She said, “I bet no one would be able to tell what kind of bird this is now that the feathers have been plucked”. Such a childish comment really but me being me, I looked a little deeper into it and it reminded me that as adults we tend to be prejudiced against different types of foods, especially the animals we eat.

But look at the meat, cooked and processed ready for pie filling. What do we think of it now? I ask myself these questions, because I was once prejudiced myself. Ten years ago I would not have considered eating a feral bird. Now I think differently.

Add the basics of a good ragu, a low N’ slow cook for 3 hours and you end up with a pretty amazing meat.

It’s all got to do with how you were brought up and how open minded you are about life. When I was a kid I never ate pigeon, I never considered anything other than the Aussie basics of chicken, beef, lamb and pork. As an adult, they’re all the meats I eat the least of now. I’m more of an opportunistic eater now. Cue pigeons.

So we get sustenance from killing the pigeons and cooking and eating them, and the rooster will give us new life when he mounts the lady hens and make a’ de babies. It’s a pretty obvious system. I’m glad my kids understand it. They sure understood the flavour side of things.

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  • November 4, 2012 - 10:15 am

    honeysuckle - looks real good, Rohan..

    May I ask what the black berry like things are you have used in the pie? Juniper perhaps?ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:23 pm

      rohan - Correct! They work really well with this bird too!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:22 am

    Scott - Hi Rohan,
    Firstly let me please let you know how much I look forward to your posts. I first found out about your blog when I read the first edition of Smith Journal and have been silently following you ever since.
    As an inner-west Sydney-sider, it’s difficult to show our little 3 year old girl how we “get” our meat, apart from taking her to our local butcher. I admire greatly the choices that you and your family have made and the way that decent, sustainable and compassionate meat eating can become a “family” activity, all the way from raising through to the dinner table.
    I have had the opportunity, many years ago now, to “despatch” my own chook and it was not very pleasant, although it was quick for the bird….but I probably felt more thankful for that meal than I have for any that I’ve had since….apart from the fact that I’m eternally grateful to have married a lady who is a damn fine cook and encourages my cooking as well!
    Anyway, found this latest post very moving!
    I hope that you’re book does well for you too….
    Kind regards,
    ScottReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:26 pm

      rohan - Thanks Scott. You’re thinking about food, and the process of its delivery that’s a good deal more than what a lot of people do! Grow well brother!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:23 am

    Thetwentythree - Awesome blog post guys. Honest and truthful. I am sure you’ll get some flack for that, but I totally get your rationale. It’s a more honest thing you commit to in relation to your food, and I commend you for explaining and not hiding your kids from the reality. Though I have to say plucking pigeons was never on my effort for return high value list, nor quail…but we still do it. Once agin thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:27 pm

      rohan - Thanks, I reckon it’s worth the effort plucking these small birds…..the taste is the winner.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:26 am

    James Thomas - Right on Rohan
    With all the desensitisation on TV to human suffering we forget the reality of of our origin of our meat. We show our four boys the whole process,and now they know the outcome of the three Wessex saddleback piglets we have just got. We all like your bloke very inspiring, we have been moving in this direction of life for four years and know not far from supplying most of our food requirements.
    Look. Forward to your next entry
    JamesReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:28 pm

      rohan - Cheers brother! Enjoy those pigs!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:26 am

    Andrew in Singapore - Rohan

    I know you will probably cop a lot of crap from people over this post, those that follow your journey I’m sure get your message completely. The fact the modern humans are completely disconnected from the way their food is processed seems to many to absolve them from any of the nasty little secrets of the modern factory framing system. Yet they will scream with horror over something as honest as this, all praise to you brother it’s a message that needs to be understood.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:32 pm

      rohan - Cheers Andrew! Yes I’m expecting some flack, but thats the reality of meat. I think some people might just be shocked at the reminder.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:39 am

    dixiebelle - The pie looks delicious. The birds don’t look like they would give much meat off them, luckily you had four. I am pleased to see the kids taking such an active part. Did you use their gorgeous feathers for anything?

    The rooster is extremely handsome, hope you get lots of nice babies!ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:33 pm

      rohan - I thought the same about the meat, but it turned out to be quite a bit! The feathers ended up being used by the kids to attempt flight.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:41 am

    thecitygourmand - That pie looks incredible. I really appreciate the message that you try to get across, it harks back to a life that is simpler and probably richer!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 11:41 am

    brulionman - only disgusting is fact that children were witnessesReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:48 am

      Thetwentythree - And I have to say… That is exactly where you are so so wrong. Children today believe meat comes from a supermarket. That to me is WAY WAY worse.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 1:34 pm

      Andrew in Singapore - Sorry Brulionman, but with respect I completely disagree with you and I think you miss Rohan’s point here. The more informed our children are of where our food comes from, and the fact that something had to die in that process, the more informed their choices are. Modern food production does its best to ensure or kids cannot identify the source of what they eat, and as a result they are completely insulated from how these animals are raised. This generation of children are the first in the history of mankind that are completely disconnected from how their food is produced, and even if it is well intended it is our fault.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:34 pm

      rohan - Why should they not see where their food comes from and the process? Its a totally natural thing.ReplyCancel

      • November 4, 2012 - 11:01 pm

        Brendan - Disgusting? Really? Have you seen the food that they serve kids at fast food chains? Have you looked at what is in kids cereal? Consider old humble tomato sauce, the commercial stuff is laced with salt and sugar, its a farce that its given the name ‘Tomato’.

        But thats nothing compared to factory farmed meat. That my friend is disgusting. Read Johnathan Safran Foer’s ‘Eating Animals’. A very engaging and entertaining book yet exceptionally educational. Once you know how commercial meat production works, you’ll be hunting pigeons of your own.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 9:58 pm

      Bec - I’m a girl, and was once ‘a child’. My dad made sure I knew the realities of the world, including death, from a young age. I did an Agriculture degree. As part of that degree I’ve visited cattle and chicken abattoirs. I’ve also worked in a sheep abattoir.
      Let me tell you that the most traumatic thing in my mind was NOT being rationally and calmly exposed to how we are provided with our meat by my Dad, but seeing, as an adult, the conditions under which chickens are killed and processed. Seeing animals killed with respect and care is a hundred times better than THAT.ReplyCancel

      • November 4, 2012 - 11:45 pm

        rohan - Thanks for sharing Bec. They can be pretty rough at the abattoir, so I like to do it myself and make sure I’m happy with the process.ReplyCancel

    • November 5, 2012 - 1:27 am

      Jeremy - I grew up on a small hobby farm and regularly saw animals slaughtered. I have always been glad about having such an upbringing. Do you know of children that were harmed from seeing animals slaughtered? I don’t understand why sheltering children from the truth does them any good.ReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2012 - 1:25 pm

      Mike - I live in eastern Europe. I was raised by my grandparents in the countryside, as most of my generation at that time. As kids, we always witnessed the whole food preparation process, including pigeons, rabbits, chickens and pigs. And it was a good thing. Where I come from, this is simply life, tradition and great food.

      Great blog and an impressive life story !ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 11:53 am

    Paul - nice one
    your Rooster will look after your gals
    he will be great to watch
    he will show them where the good grubs are and will look out for danger
    he may also father some young roosters
    happy days
    in fact…
    if my hen sits
    could I get some fertilized eggs?ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:36 pm

      rohan - Well if he does his job……;-)ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 12:38 pm

    Fiona - Yes, you are right…I find the killing of the pigeons and the involvement of the young girls disgusting. I am sure you will hear their considered views of this particular type of backyard family fun in the future.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:36 pm

      rohan - It’s not backyard family fun. It’s food. It’s reality.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 10:42 pm

      Kate - This was at no point ‘backyard family fun’. It was purely educating our kids that food starts it’s life flapping it’s wings and not wrapped in plastic on a supermarket shelf.
      That pigeon pie was eaten with the greatest respect by all 6 of us. We were all part of the process and it brought us together as a family.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:04 pm

      Brendan - Do you buy processed foods Fiona? If so, you’ll have far more to answer for than Rohan will in 15 years time.

      You gotta connect the dots. GM foods, additives, asthma, food allergies, depression, anxiety, obesity. You are what you eat.ReplyCancel

      • November 4, 2012 - 11:53 pm

        rohan - Respect brother. Well said.ReplyCancel

        • November 5, 2012 - 2:49 am

          Fiona (the meat-eating one) - As a fellow Fiona who follows and comments on this site – I just had to chime in to disassociate myself from the above comment!

          We have also exposed our daughter to the realities of meat eating from a young age, and I would not do it any other way. My husband hunts venison, rabbit and duck for our consumption and she knows very well how meat gets to her to plate. If you are disgusted by this – go stand outside your local McDonalds and have a go at all the mindless automatons filling their kids up with chicken nuggets who never, ever in their entire lives discuss with their children where their meat comes from.

          Well done Rohan. :) ReplyCancel

      • November 5, 2012 - 1:30 am

        Jeremy - Actually very large scale epidemiological studies are unable to link GM food to any observed negative health impacts, despite huge numbers of people eating GM food for decades. I also note that the leading theory on the rise of asthma over the last few generations is the correlation with increased hygiene. Because we live in a cleaner environments our immune systems are stimulated less often and become more sensitive. There is no demonstrated link between diet and asthma.ReplyCancel

        • November 5, 2012 - 2:09 am

          Brendan - Actually there are many studies linking GM foods to human health. The most recent was a long term test conducted in France which had some rather conclusive results. The rats were fed GM Corn and the cancerous tumors that developed were a little disturbing. This lead to the Russian Gov’t enforcing a ban on all and any products containing GM Gorn.

          There is also a great deal of peer reviewed research that shows GM food being nutrient deficient, to varying degrees depending on species, in comparison to heirloom varietals.

          It is also very critical to research who funded the research. This often provides more answers than the research itself.

          You have a point about the Asthma, cleanliness is out of control.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 12:48 pm

    One Girl's Rant - In the event of an apocalypse I’ll be taking shelter with you. This is a great post. I shared it with my 15-year old daughter. After ‘Eeeewing’ and wrinkling up her nose, she gazed at the pics, fascinated. “People eat that? It looks kind of good.”

    Yes, my love, people do, and it does.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:48 pm

      rohan - Yes! Tell it was the most delish pie! It actually tasted not too different from beef or venison. Maybe it was all the wine I put in the ragu!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 1:02 pm

    Alex - Great story and images – again. To teach your girls how to kill and cook will either turn them into being able to prepare food properly and responsible or turn them into vegetarians but they have the choice and they know where meat comes from.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 1:10 pm

    Amanda - i don’t usually comment so much on one persons blog but i just couldn’t help myself with this one….
    our chicken’s (5) feed attracts a lot of wild pigeons, we found ourselves with way more pigeons than money so we obviously started eating the pigeons. My husband is french and is used to eating small birds so one night he cooked theme sandwiched between two halves of a large potato in an iron pot on the stove top for a dinner party. They looked so pretty with the golden potatoes and bay leaf. I remember how shocked one of our friends was when we served her this beautiful meal but i couldn’t see what makes a chicken delicious and a pigeon disgusting. We have gotten so far away from our food sources.
    It’s wonderful how you have presented the entire process from living animal to pie. It is hard to portray our place in the cycle of life -or what our place could be- this post portrays just that with honesty and beauty.
    keep writing for sure.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 2:44 pm

    sally - Juniper berries? Blueberries?

    In response you the negative response to children being present, I think children should see where their food comes from. It is certainly better than the anonymous chicken nugget.

    As a child I always watched and helped kill and pluck chickens, clean fish, and I always invited friends over for the celebratory hog killing day. If more people saw their food through from beginning to end I think we would all be much healthier in many ways.

    Beautiful photographs.
    SallyReplyCancel

    • November 13, 2012 - 12:48 am

      Brad - I agree. Far from being disturbed by the process the first time my kids watched me despatch and butcher an animal my children couldn’t get close enough to the action, asking all kinds of questions about the anatomy of the beast (including my 4yo girl). Great learning process, not only about where your food comes from and learning respect for it, but also on a purely intellectual level regarding anatomy. They were completely enthralled.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 3:21 pm

    Ginger - As we in Minnesota are at the beginning of our annual deer hunt, I wish I could pass this along to all of our non-hunting friends. Your words and pictures speak to the heart of it.
    My Dad said that when he was a child (this is in 19teens, now remember), he would set up nets and catch starlings by the dozens, which his mother would bake into pies. It was a change from the seafood that his Dad would bring home and kept the bigger animals spared awhile longer.
    I live with a ‘meat and potatoes’ man that I continually strive to expand his culinary horizons. But he still would be happiest with a steak, baked potato, salad, veg and once a week, pizza.
    Arrgh!
    And when will they create ‘smell-o-vision’, so we can partake of the wonderful aromas of your dishes. The pics make me drool.
    Happy spring, and best wishes for your rooster!ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 7:49 pm

      rohan - Thanks Ginger! Good luck for the season ahead, I hope you feed many!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 5:42 pm

    Notting Hill Girl - Pigeon is quite common in the UK. I see it in gastro pubs and restaurants all the time. No idea why Australia hasn’t caught on…although I’ve noticed that Brits in general seem more open to the idea of eating wild meat!ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 9:59 pm

      Michelle - Pigeon is eaten here in restaurants / gastro pubs too, but generally called squab in Australia, @nottinghillgirl, to protect the squeamish I suppose.

      Beautiful pics and words as ever Ro.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 7:50 pm

    Cinnamon - I LOVE this post, the pictures are perfect. I love that you show all the girls how it’s done, and they help too. And I really can’t believe how removed we all are from our food. It’s mind boggling…keep it up Rohan!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:05 pm

    Miss Piggy - Another great post Rohan. It’s beautiful to see the animals you eat are being treated with dignity & respect in their final moments – it makes the meal even more special. I’ve been given the opportunity to go to an abattoir soon to see how our beef/lamb are killed – I’m scared shitless about seeing animals being slaughtered, but I’m going anyway as I feel I owe it to myself as a meat eater and to the animals I ultimately end up eating.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:47 pm

      rohan - Wow….thats very brave! Mel, I really admire you for doing that. I’d like to hear all about it!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:20 pm

    Natalie M - This is exactly why I love your blog Rohan! Posts like this make me squirm a little, not sure I could do the same, but it certainly gets me thinking and makes me face up to the reality of eating meat. Even though it’s uncomfortable when we have been so disconnected from our food sources, i am glad to finally be considering where my food comes from.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:48 pm

      rohan - Thats so nice to hear Natalie. You can come back to WLL anytime!!!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 10:30 pm

    Simon - Good post Rohan. Was wondering how you clean the insides of birds so small?

    I butchered two of our surplus roosters the other month – first time ever and required some fast youtube watching when i realised my scalding pot wasn’t up to the task. Involved skinning a carcass whilst the snow pelted down. Comedy of errors but ended well.
    I wanted to shield my two girls (7 and 4) from the process as i wasn’t sure how i was going to handle it, let alone them. Only recently (last 3 or so years) moved from the big smoke to a country city then to a more rural setting. I needn’t have worried on both accounts. The girls weren’t there for the ‘deed’ but they did see the skinning process and every step from then on to the table. They were quite alright about it. And gobbled down the slow cooked curry we made with gusto.

    They also have a more informed idea about animals and what they are there for – they ask about where our other meat we get from the butcher came from and they also understand that we don’t ‘name’ animals we are going to eat. All our egg laying, permaculture garden making hens are safe. And will most likely go to pasture, to die of natural causes, once they reach the end of their egg laying life.

    Keep the posts like this coming – i have seen a few of these type of blogs coming out of the US or UK but not too much out of Aus. May be from a lack of looking but i think they will start to get more frequent as your word gets out there.

    SReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:51 pm

      rohan - Cheers brother! The pigeons are easy to gut, just cut a hole up the end and place a few fingers up the cavity grab the guts and rip them out, then clean out the rest with running water. It’s a bit easier than chooks really! And they pluck easier then hens too!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 11:06 pm

    Alicia - Way to go Rohan! As a former vegetarian, I completely feel the need to know where my food comes from, especially that the meat I eat has had a good ife and was killed quickly and mindfully. Our food production is getting bigger and bigger on our patch of suburban paradise, and we’re growing in the front yard too, partly so it’s away from escaping chickens, and partly to inspire people who walk past our house. Would the people who have a problem with you dipatching in front of the little ones have a problem with catching a fish and gutting it in front of them? All the same really. Thanks for the inspiration, I’m giving your book to my husband for Christmas (and of course I’ve had a little peak!)ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:54 pm

      rohan - You guys are kicking arse!!!! Alicia and family….all the best to your backyard oasis!!!ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2012 - 11:09 pm

    Brendan - Great post Rohan, I’m hooked mate and will be getting the book for Christmas. I’ve actually been thinking about catching pigeons for this very purpose, we get heaps around the chook run and a mate of mine used to kill them with a sling shot…and incredible skill.

    We’re in Eastern Vic also. Do you run educational days? I’d be happy to pay or bring down a few loaves of hand milled, home baked real sourdough just to trade some knowledge!ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2012 - 11:55 pm

      rohan - I’m in the west brother! Was raised east, then moved.

      I’m thinking of running a few days actually. Watch this space!ReplyCancel

      • November 5, 2012 - 12:00 am

        Brendan - Will be watching keenly my friend!ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:16 am

    Tarah - I love that you go through the whole process with your little ones. Our 4 year old is asking all the pressing questions about meat at the moment. We’re honest & tell her about what we’re eating but I’m not sure it completely sinks in as she just sees me buy it from the butcher. I might have to whip out your blog the next time she asks about about what we’re eating ;-) ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:19 am

    Sally - I will be watching too! A mushroom foraging day would be brilliant! I too agree with kids being involved with where their food comes from. I was as a child…..which led to quite a few years as a vegetarian!ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:20 am

    Justin - Brilliant post Ro. Some vegetarians just don’t seem to get the fact that almost everything we eat was once a living entity, be it a plant or an animal. And spare me the argument, vegos, that animals are “sentient”. Anyone who caught David Attenborough’s Kingdom of Plants should have got the message that even plants and fungi have a degree of sentience. They may not feel pain, but they have a life force and are part of the great chain of existence. Ro nails it with the title of the post – life is death is life. Everything’s connected.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:30 am

    Gerard Reardon - Come to Tassie Rohan and start a village…….I’m in!
    GezReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:46 am

    Kevin - well done Rohan, including the children in the process only helps them appreciate the entire process of farm to table. hard to believe how many young and old can’t even cut up a supermarket whole chicken, much less dispatch and clean a pigeon. your meat pie looks delicious. cheers!ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:52 am

    Cath @mybeardedpigeon - Love this post. I think we often mistakenly think kids will be to shocked and freaked out by seeing the whole process but I thnk the opposite is true. If they are told of the humane way and the why they really get it. We wll soon be getting pigs to grow and eat and we have been talking about it a lot with the 5 year old. She gets it.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 1:03 am

    Belinda F - Hi Rohan,
    Great post!! Really timely too as I am dealing with this aspect of the urban smallholders life at the moment.
    After many attempts to try and ‘euthanise’ my chicken (who is sick), I found that I could not physically bring myself to do it.
    I wholeheartedly believe that if you eat meat, you should be fully prepared to see where it comes from, even as a child.
    Also, I feel that at some stage, every meat eater should be prepared to (and have the opportunity to) kill their own meat.
    When I was younger, I witnessed a lamb and mutton being slaughtered on my grandparents farm. I cried for 4 days and my parents went into damage control on how thats not the meat we eat, we eat from the supermarket and that’s somehow different & don’t worry. What a lie!
    A few years later, I became vegetarian as I felt I’d rather just grow and eat vegies instead (i’m no longer vego but considering it again).

    I feel sorry for children who are not exposed to this truth, that animals are killed for our consumption. Whether they choose to still eat it or not is entirely a personal preference, but being entirely removed from this process teaches kids nothing and diminishes our connection to nature.
    Well done for bringing your kids back to basics- what an inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 1:51 am

    GG from Quieting Life - Good for you getting your kids tuned in to where meat actually comes from. Here in Vermont, US, there’s shitstorm brewing over the imminent slaughter of a pair of oxen at a local college. The pair (Bill and Lou) have been a working part of the college’s sustainable agriculture program, but since one of them was injured, the college has planned to retire and slaughter them and use the meat in the college dining hall. All a perfect part of the cycle of things, until the animal activist crazies got wind of it. Here’s a sampling of the uproar via Google:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=bill+and+lou&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    Sheer madness.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 2:25 am

    Jane @ Shady Baker - Another thoughtful post Rohan. Real life & real living.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 2:44 am

    Emiko - A brave and beautiful post. I posted a recipe for a Venetian dish of sausage-stuffed, pancetta-wrapped and roasted pigeon and someone wrote to me that they hoped I would die of cancer for eating pigeon! Some people are either just crazy or they do not understand (or care about) food. Your story reminds me of my own first experience understanding the importance of where meat comes from – in this case it was fish. My Japanese mother took us kids to a mountain retreat in Japan, where lunch was freshly caught lake fish – so fresh that the sashimi, displayed artfully across the backbone of the fish (head and tails attached) was bouncing around as the nerves continued to move. My younger siblings cried and didn’t want to eat it at first, but mum just calmly explained that the fish had given it’s life for our lunch and that we should honour its life by eating it. Never had a problem understanding what food means and how the world turns – it’s an important lesson to learn as kids I think. You’re kids are certainly lucky!ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 3:04 am

    Ali - You and my father would get on like a house on fire. He farms his own venison, used to breed his own pigeons and quail, he regularly goes rabbit shooting, even better when he gets a hare, he used to love hunting wild duck as well as wild pigs and even went diving for his own lobsters. We also farmed sheep and cows that became food for our family. There was even the unfortunate time that dad served us up our own pet rabbits, but that was taking it a little too far. As his daugher, I was exposed to that whole process and I am thankful that I know the reality behind my food. I will also be teaching my children the realities as it is important that they too understand.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 3:32 am

    Kitty - Another fantastic post.
    It worries me that there are children today that don’t understand where their food comes from, be it meat or vegetable.
    I remember as a kid I helped my uncles dispatch nana’s chickens. I surely wasn’t scarred by it. It was made clear that if we wanted to eat roast chook for christmas lunch, then that chicken was coming from the backyard.
    Your blog gives me hope that this way of living will become “popular” again and society will start to pay attention to the current practices that revolve around the food industry.
    Beautiful images too. You guys are a magnificent team.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 8:00 am

    Denise - It seems that anyone distressed over the childrens’ involvement are probably not thinking it through.
    Sure, to take a city raised child and make it his or her first exposure to where his food comes from the death of a bird may be traumatic but Rohan’s kids are well aware of the food chain and I’m pretty sure they’ve been raised learning all aspects of food production – not just forced to watch animals being slaughtered. There are many societies in the world where this is the norm.ReplyCancel

    • November 5, 2012 - 8:19 am

      rohan - Thats pretty well much the case. Well said. It would be good though if city kids had access to see the truth too.ReplyCancel

      • November 5, 2012 - 8:36 am

        Fiona (the meat-eating one) - A bit off-topic, but reminds me of that fabulous piece by Elizabeth Kolbert earlier in the year. As she point out, children the world over are exposed to situations that require skill and maturity. They are also exposed to ‘the hunt’ – and learn very early on how to dispatch an animal to feed the family, and how to prepare and cook it as well.

        To think we have de-evolved to a place where our children are sheltered from the ‘cruel’ reality of real food, and instead corralled into the industrial food system without a blink of an eye, where untold horrors take place but are hidden away, to be served up as a ‘happy meal’ – the ulitmate irony.

        Anyway, before I get too cross, I’ll just post the link for those interested :)

        http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert#ixzz1zrVx53uVReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Pam - Just showed this post to my son and asked how he felt seeing animals killed for food. His response – ‘if you’re going to eat meat that’s what happens’. Sums it up really.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 9:19 am

    Gavin - Thanks Rohan.

    I don’t see this as any different from taking the kids fishing and then cleaning and eating your catch. It makes you appreciate your food that much more, and both my kids (10 and 12) read this and were fascinated. We keep chooks here in Sydney which attracts a lot of doves and the kids are now thinking about them in a different light. Not sure anything will come of it but you never know.

    Thanks and Regards

    GavinReplyCancel

    • November 5, 2012 - 10:32 am

      LOG - Well done !!! Nothing at all wrong with showin the kids how to kill and clean what ya gunna eat. My earliest memories are of following my Papa around the traps and bringin the bunnies back and despatching, bleeding, guttin and skinning them thats just how it is. I now take my son hunting and fishing i thought he would be a bit squeamish about the whole thing but not once has he bauked at killing or cleaning fish or animals. You have inspired me to make some pigeon pie with the help of my son. Might take a landing net down to the Melb CBD and bag a few !!! Waddya reckon??? hahahahaaReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 11:25 am

    Cate Keane - I grew up a vegetarian. Although my mother didn’t cook 2 different meals in the house, she didn’t stop us from cooking our own meat meal (that never happened) or eating meat when we were out. (this happened) We grew our own eggs in our suburban back yard and we grew lots of Vegetables. I have many stories about gluts of different foods that a single mum in the 70s buying her own house could not leave to rot so we ate (long before the rotting stage of course) Plum jam that lasted 7 years, still am not a fan of plum jam. Or the Pumpkin soup, pumpkin roasted, boiled, mashed and even sweet as pumpkin pie and then there were the Zucchinis……..and the baked beans that went crunch. Any way I always knew where meat came from, that water doesn’t just come from the taps and that money doesn’t grow on trees, that’s fruit and it can ‘save’ you money. I now live on a small plot and the circle of life is very much a part of our life, the kids enjoy all aspects of our small farm lot. I am so grateful that we are not living on the shoe string my mother did but that I can still bring my children up to understand the Birds and the Bees and the Chickens and the Lambs and the variety of fresh vegetables out the back door that they take pride in as much as I do. Thank you for your Blog, I am a new reader and am looking for better ways to deal with the glut of seasonal foods than my mother had privy to. Thanks Rohan for opening a doorReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 11:58 am

    Zelda - It IS hard to witness the death of a beautiful creature, trusting and vibrant one minute, lifeless the next. But, as many other posters have said, it’s an important lesson for the children to learn, that whenever they eat meat, an animal has been killed.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 12:06 pm

    John Alexander - Great blog Rohan,I have been reading them for some time and am looking forward to getting your book.We should know where all our food comes from.I read in todays paper there are companies now that people pay to buy ingredience,prepare,cook and then deliver the meal to there door.People are becoming so divorced from the joys of actually preparing,cooking and sharing meals.I despair sometimes but your blog gives me hope.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    Turling - ““I bet no one would be able to tell what kind of bird this is now that the feathers have been plucked”. Such a childish comment really but me being me, I looked a little deeper into it and it reminded me that as adults we tend to be prejudiced against different types of foods, especially the animals we eat.”

    I thought it was going to be the rooster from the first picture. And, not telling anyone who was eating it what it was and they probably wouldn’t have known any difference from a meat they’re used to.ReplyCancel

  • November 5, 2012 - 7:24 pm

    la domestique - The meat pie looks so good and I think it’s great the way you’re teaching your kids about where their food comes from. I often think of how much my eating habits have changed (as a kid I never had any idea where my food came from). I’ve got a much broader understanding of what food is now, and value using the whole animal, nose-to-tail. Even with this change in my heart, sometimes it’s difficult to develop a taste for certain things that my mind believes are worthy as food (kidney being one). It’s fascinating for me to consider the roots of these feelings, and the difference between an adult making a conscious decision to change and a child who knows no other way. Great post!ReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 4:31 am

    Irma Vega Bijou - what a delicious and inspiring experience!
    here is San Francisco Bay Area(California) there are stories about people
    getting the ducks and pigeons from the city parks, and cooking them (of course).
    I am intrigued to taste the famous pigeon pie. yet perhaps my closest experience will be to try and make it with the good old chicken style .
    I don’t want to be caught with an illegal pigeon pie,it won’t taste right.

    Thanks so much for the story.
    IrmaReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 5:24 am

    Shawnie - That’s a pretty pie Rohan… and a great post – [SMILE]ReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 7:15 am

    Claire @ Claire K Creations - Wow. I just discovered you blog and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I am so terribly embarrassed to admit this as an adult but until I started researching last night I didn’t know that most of the pork in Australia is raised in factory farms.

    Teaching children where food comes from at a young age is wonderful and so important. I really think that it should be part of the school curriculum. It’s so terrible to think that kids think meat, fruit, veges and milk come from the supermarket.

    Good for you!ReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 8:38 am

    Dad Berry - Maya is cute.

    x

    GrampaReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 2:40 pm

    kate - Rabbit and pigeon are food staples in deepest, darkest France. From field to pot – just like you guys way down there at home.

    Still loving your blog.

    xo KateReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 6:43 pm

    Karen - EXCELLENT post!ReplyCancel

  • November 6, 2012 - 8:49 pm

    librarygirl - Rohan, borrowed the library copy of your book from work ( a public library) and just love it. Going to buy a copy for myself, but I’ll be fighting my hunting, shooting, fishing husband over who will be reading it properly first. He loves your work too.ReplyCancel

  • November 7, 2012 - 5:46 am

    mz - Thank you so much for this.

    I am a vegan. Committed and unflinchingly so. If given a choice between veggies and what you’ve plated up here, I wouldn’t eat that pie. But if given a choice between that pie, and one made from generic, factory-farmed beef, I’d go your pigeons any day.

    What you’ve done here for the public, and for these kids is deeply important. I strongly believe that if you’re going to eat meat, then to be as intimately familiar as possible with the process of its life, slaughter and preparation is imperative.

    I don’t believe in a flat-out absolute “no-one should eat meat” argument. I believe that we should all get as amply informed as possible, and then make wise, mindful and considered choices based on what is available to us.

    I grew up in a meat-centric restaurant kitchen, and on a hobby farm. Death and the preparation of animal cadavers for food was a regular part of life for me. After digesting a stack of reading on the matter, I chose to become vegetarian and then vegan relatively recently, simply because I one day recognised exactly that – that I had a choice.

    Eating sustainable and honestly, and as compassionately-as-possibly prepared animal products is a solid, positive choice that I hope more and more omnivores will embrace.

    “In our house the rules are, that if you want to eat it you have to know how it’s made. The whole process.”

    You flat out rock, Rohan.ReplyCancel

    • November 7, 2012 - 8:15 am

      rohan - I’m really touched by this comment. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

    • November 7, 2012 - 8:52 am

      thetwentythree - I think you say it all..if it’s ethics we are looking for, you answered it. If its taste you answered it, if it’s honestly, you answered it. We are omnivores. Our diet is our choice. But a more honest approach to our food is what we need. I’ve said it before, studies done on nutrition the last century found that humans in Europe in the 30′s and 40′s were much healthier..there was a war on and they grew and raised and caught their own food…more so they were on rations for sugar etc etc. That, apart from the sheer joy, of feeding yourself, and the respect that brings for the animal and plant. So, I have a daughter who’s mother (ex-partner) is a staunch vegan, who taught my child that all meat is bad and made my little girl a vegan, (not her choice at 4 years old). I think that is as morally wrong, my child had no rationale as to making choices with that kind of dogma. She was taught that all meat came from factory farms..not wild happy natural food as an option. I am lucky, I was brought up with feeding myself, catching rabbits with ferrets at 10 years old, shooting and priding myself at a quick painless kill. I still flinch at taking life, I respect life. But I do what I do. My partner is a chef (very successful, I wont mention names, but top 5 restaurants on the planet) and she loves and prides herself on our choices. Love this blog..it’s like my mirror. Respect for all, but none for cruelty or exploitation.ReplyCancel

  • November 7, 2012 - 11:39 am

    leaf (the indolent cook) - I’m all for education on where meat comes from and it’s cool that your girls take it so well. Also, pigeon meat is actually super delicious, I’ve never thought about it as a poor man’s meat.ReplyCancel

    • November 7, 2012 - 8:45 pm

      rohan - Leaf…..it’s a good meat right! Delish!ReplyCancel

  • November 9, 2012 - 8:53 am

    Peta - Hey dude. I think it’s better to grow up knowing exactly what’s going on and seeing it happen at the hands of someone who cares, than growing up and finding out exactly what’s been going on in the factory farms and slaughterhouses supplying your food for the last 20 years. I can look at photos of this and be ok, but I couldn’t watch it and then eat it. Which is why I don’t have any place eating any meat. And maybe one day one of the girls will decide that for themselves too, but it will be from a way more informed place than most modern kids, and supported by some pretty amazing parents xReplyCancel

  • November 10, 2012 - 6:29 pm

    Justin C - Awesome post and AWESOME blog. Very happy to have found it :-) It is sad that a majority of people seem to close their eyes, plug their ears, and sing la la la la la la la la when it comes to knowing where their food comes from. Most think it is disgusting. What is disgusting to me is when you compare the vibrant red meat of a freshly killed animal/fish to the faded and slightly grayish meat of it’s supermarket equivalent. Anyway, excellent blog and excellent book!ReplyCancel

  • November 10, 2012 - 8:22 pm

    Erin - An incredible story, a beautiful photo essay, and a wonderful perspective on life and death. Thank you for sharing.

    I’ve nominated you for a Beautiful Blogger Award on my blog (littledutchwife.com), so head over and check it out for more information. Congratulations and keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • November 11, 2012 - 1:19 am

    Dawn Suzette - Found my way here from Kathreen’s interview…
    I could not agree more that everyone, kids especially, should know where our food comes from. Thank you for this post.ReplyCancel

  • November 11, 2012 - 10:23 pm

    Mr Piggy - I cannot begin to express the full extent of my respect for the way you are raising your kids, and the way you have dedicated your life to providing for your family within reasonable means.

    I believe more men should hold to the motto of just try to be a man, not a great one. In my eyes you have become great in your willingness to be just a good man.

    Cheers from stateside.ReplyCancel

  • November 13, 2012 - 12:25 am

    Brad - Great looking pie Ro! I’ve never previously thought of keeping pigeons for meat, I think that is about to change!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2012 - 4:20 pm

    Luna - When I was a little girl, about 8 or so, my brother and his buddies from the neighborhood would go to the “bird bush”, a place where they just ran around hunting birds with slingshots. At the time, I idolized my brother and would do anything to be in his company so I was always tagging along for the adventure. I couldn’t tell you today what kinds of birds we were hunting, killing, and eventually eating, but it was gratifying to sit down with some salt and pepper and enjoy what we felt we worked very hard for. Thanks for this post!ReplyCancel

  • November 23, 2012 - 11:00 am

    mia - Pigeon is actually one of my favourite types meats! (Although you can’t find it in Norway sadly!). I will probably try this pie with different meat though. Oh and btw, those pigeons had a much more human (and quick) death compared to all those poor chicken we put in small cages in farms/factories. Plus there is nothing more satisfying that eating the meat/fish you hunted/caught yourself!ReplyCancel

  • November 24, 2012 - 4:51 am

    Raia - Hi Rohan,
    I have made the choice to not eat animals products for ethical reasons & because I cannot myself make the kill. If I was to eat meat I feel I would have to breed, raise & slaughter them myself. As I cannot bring myself to do that I therefore eat vegetarian, growing my own.
    I know that life is death is life but personally cannot get past the reality that every time I am hungry an animal loses its life, ‘you have to die because I like the taste of your muscles/flesh’, ‘I want to live [on meat] so you have to die’ …. Especially when we can survive on vegetables.

    I still enjoy your blogs & applaud your whole-animal respect – a great step up from the pre-packaged supermaket ‘products’ so divorced from reality.
    Cheers
    RaiaReplyCancel

    • November 25, 2012 - 9:33 pm

      rohan - Thanks Raia,

      I respect people like yourself that have made that choice. Raising small animals for protein isn’t something everyone has access too, and the next best thing is growing most of your fruit and veg if thats applicable. For me, I embrace the biology, the evolution of humans. The fact that we have such large brains for us to be able to make choices like yours is because we are a species of animal that is an opportunistic omnivore. I embrace that very innate part of me. But it’s not for everyone!

      Enjoy!

      RoReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2012 - 10:44 pm

    Dayla - I have caught and killed the introduced doves that would venture into my chook house to steal their food. I used to just drop them into the compost bin, wonderful compost activators along with any Indian minors and English blackbirds I caught too. But then I thought why not eat the doves.
    I found then too fiddly to pluck and gut for so little meat. But I plucked the breast and removed that. Wow the flavour was so strong, like liver almost. But I ate it and felt it doing me good. The rest of the family wouldn’t go near it. Disgusted they were. They are just caught in conditioning.
    Where we live now there are very few introduced birds and I have chook food dispensers that keep them out.
    Your plymouth rock rooster should do well, they are a good all purpose bird and they taste excellent. Crossed with light sussex I believe is the ultimate bird. Goodluck with it I hope he is not viscious.
    DaylaReplyCancel

  • April 20, 2013 - 6:53 am

    Carly Findlay - Hey Rohan
    I recently saw Matthew Evans speak at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (which I wrote about) and he mentioned that the worst thing about farming produce is death. I think it’s so important to be mindful and appreciative of how our food gets to our plate. Though your photos are confronting, it is important we see them. Thank you.
    Aside – I bought my parents your lovely book for Christmas. They are fans.!
    And congrats on the Voices of 2013 finalist place – I’m stopping by from that site.
    CarlyReplyCancel

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