Lindsay Myron
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Knives are for Cutting, Meat is for Eating

October 13, 2009 @ 8:16 PM | Permalink

You can find some talented omnivores in the Mongolian countryside.  The meat from a goat can feed a family for a week or two and all parts are made into some pretty delicious meals.  One meal that I’m particularly fond of is the boiled bones.  For this dish, boiled meat from the ribs, vertebrae, shoulder blades and more is served with a few potato and steamed flour dough. 

I was pleased to find out that I would partake in this feast my second night staying in Khentii aimag.  I had been admiring a Mongolian’s ability strip a bone dry with a knife and I was determined to master the skill.  After herding in the goats and sheep, I ducked into my ger to find my host mother, Delgermunkh, scooping out potatoes and ribs from the pot. 

My host mother and father, my two siblings and I sat down cross-legged on the floor next to the stove and surrounded the platter.  My mother and father both had kitchen knives, my four year old sister had a dulled kitchen knife, my three year old brother had a rib bone and his teeth and I had my pocket knife. 

I have to admit I was slightly nervous.  My knife skills were a bit rusty and I had made a fool of myself already.  In Khuvsgul aimag I had been eating a rib bone for twenty minutes when someone finally just stopped me, laughed and said I could give up trying.  That was not happening today. My mother handed me a vertebra and my challenge began.  As our ger hushed to the sounds of feasting I could feel my family’s eyes watching me. 

I was feeling quite proud of myself as I nimbly carved out the deepest crevices of the bone, eating the pieces straight from the knife.  There would be nothing for dogs when I’m done, I thought.   As I was admiring my bone all of a sudden a drop of blood fell onto my hand.  I had cut my lip.

I tried to hide it from my family, blotting it with my hand as I pretended to pick out meat from my teeth, but with all eyes on me there I had no luck.  My host mother squealed and immediately jumped to her feet to find a cotton ball for me to use, but I explained to her that it didn’t hurt and she eventually calmed down.  I sat back with my knife and nearly clean bone in one hand and a cotton ball to my lip in the other and waited for the bleeding to stop. 

I had failed my mission.  The dogs would eat tonight.  My disappointment must have showed as my mother sat down next to me with a bowl of milk tea and comforted me as though I had broken a leg.  My father was sitting across the ger and motioned for my attention.  When I looked up he was pointing to the leftover meat and said, “this, you eat.”  I smiled and took a sip of my tea.  He pulled out a knife from the kitchen drawer and motioned for my attention again.  Smiling and pointing to the blade he said, “this, you don’t eat.”

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Lindsay, Enjoyed the woven threads of humanity in the family lesson on telling time. Thanks for sharing. TIm

Tim Matthews on Nomads Give New Meaning to the Cuckoo Clock 2009-11-03

Ouch. Not a fun way to finish off the semester. Get well soon and safe travels; look forward to seeing you back on the hill next month!

Matthew Hintsa on I've Never Been More Afraid of Pigs 2009-12-06
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