WARNING- Some of the photos are graphic and I am going to go into detailed descriptions...
It started out a beautiful holiday morning. The sun was shining, the family was collected and we had a big Turkish breakfast together with the add of some American pancakes. But the little sheep were standing outside the window waiting...and we were waiting for the butchers to come over. They had three houses to visit before ours. My Turkish family isn't very religious. They don't visit the mosque or pray five times a day but like many Americans are with Christmas it is tradition. It has become a secular holiday as well as religious for some. It is a time for families to come together.
The butchers came and the first sheep to be sacrificed was for Baran from his father. They hog tied the sheep's legs together and laid it on it's side. There has been a hole dug next to it's head for when the throat is slit the blood will pour into the hole and can be covered later to prevent other animals from getting into the blood. The main butcher tried to calm the frightened animal by stroking it gently while another man recites a prayer in Arabic. The man recites and Baran repeats while being next to the sheep. Basically they ask if the want to give this sheep to god in the name of Baran. I was actually surprised by how short the prayers were. Then the butcher slits the animals throat. Most people look away. Even though most Turks have participated in this holiday every year of their lives it is still hard to watch. The sound is what was worse for me...the blood sputtering from the esophagus...blah! It is so disgusting yet so interesting as they started carving the layers and organs of this sacrificed animal.
Being an American of my generation from the city(or suburbs) I think we are quite disconnected from the meat preparation process. We want white meat chicken breasts with all the skin and fat cut off...nice and clean. I have cleaned fish and yes my uncles shoot deer and things but I haven't witnessed the whole process of carving an animal from start to finish before. Jeez, it is a lot of work! I kept thinking of Luther von Hagen's Body Worlds exhibits. Anyways, after the animal stops twitching(blah!) the butcher cut around its hooves. Then they literally used an air pump placed in between the skin and body to pump the sheep up like a balloon and make it easier to remove the skin from the body. The above image is all pumped up.
The head and feet were discarded for now. You have to bury the parts you don't use or else the dogs and cats will get at them. Part of this festival is to share the meat with your neighbors and people less fortunate than you. And almost everyone wanted to use use all the parts. Some neighbor ladies came and took the heads for some dish. And for days after the festival we would see happy dogs running around with feet, tails or parts of heads in their mouths.
This one is pretty intense. They took off the wool and skin. You can sell them later to make what you will, shoes, jackets??? Another blog entry perhaps.
Then it is time to carve the meat up. Everything is used, heart, liver, and especially the intestines are a popular dish in Turkey, Kokorec(sounds like kokorech). The intestines are thoroughly cleaned then wound around a shish stick and slow roasted. Add a little cumin and many(not me though) are loving it. It was so disgusting and yet so interesting to see him take it apart organ by organ, science project. The were professional butchers, very precise. But some butchers were not so professional and lead to many hospital visits this year...read more about the holiday here.
So all of this is done outside which is nice since the weather in Didim has been great. After the animal has perished it is hung on a tree to do the cutting. I mentioned in an earlier post that this carving outside is a problem in big cites so they have to designate certain areas for the mass slaughter. The organs were neatly separated on platters outside, the organs, the fat, the meat. It is a lot of work to cut up a whole animal. We kept joking that this was the work holiday not a relaxing holiday. I've made thanksgiving dinner several years in a row and that is a lot of work too but...different work and you can drink wine while doing it. Anyways after the butchers left we as a family had to divide up and store the rest. The thought of the people we needed to share the meat with but then the rest had to be refrigerated. Interesting to think about the pre-refridgeration age.
I kinda hit a wall as far as what to help with next. Not because I was so grossed out but because I was a little overwhelmed by all the meat and where to cut. But everyone just worked together to get it all cut up and stored. And then of course we had to cook some for eating.
They made a little fire in the yard and first cooked some of the fat down to liquid. then added small pieces of the meat. Normally Birsen cooks it inside but this year caglar did it outside in the fresh air. I really try to like lamb but I just can't. I tried it but lamb just has this certain smell and taste I can't get past and I usually like everything. Caglar's first time cooking this meat and it was pretty over cooked but it was eaten with lots of cumin, fresh white bread and tomatoes(I stuck with the delicious white cheese). Eaten outside in the sun together after a long day of cutting.
Here is the video of Ali's sheep. He has been so sick for months. This sheep was to thank god that their husband, father, grandfather is still alive and doing well. This is a really intense video but I am cutting it just before the actual cutting for respect for Ali. I respect that this ritual has been repeated for years but it is hard to watch. It makes me really want to understand where my meat is coming from. Also made me more aware of my own organs and to stay healthy. One of the sheep was really fatty but they had really clean lungs, nonsmoking sheep. It is another holiday for family to get together and be thankful.