Me: Alright, does everyone have everything they need?
Pai: Looks like it.
Hank: (mouthful, nodding)
Molly: (fists full of black beans, screeching victorious)
Me: Wonderful, bon appetite.
Hank: How was you day, papa?
Pai: I ran around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.
Pai: It is an expression.
Me: When you kill a chicken, if you don’t hang on to them they run off, sans head.
Pai: Yup, hence the expression. I have seen it once and it is not very nice to see.
Hank: So how do you kill a chicken so that it isn’t so messy?
Me: You hang on to their bodies very tight and cut off their heads with a sharp, quick knife or when you are killing many chickens at once you can buy a special metal cone from the agriculture store and that way they are stuck, less scared and you can be a fast as possible so they don’t feel any pain.
Hank: That would be the way I’d do it. Is that they way Tia Alice does it?
Pai: Nope, she hugs them tight and snaps their necks.
Hank: And why do they need a fire-gun when they kill pigs?
Me: Still remember that day, do you?
Hank: Not very much, but I remember the gun.
Me: Well, on the day when you were three and got to hang out with the men slaughtering all the pigs in Alentejo I learned that pigs are covered in hair, like the hair on your arms only thicker and no one likes hair on their bacon so it is best to burn it off.
Hank: How did you not know it was the pig killing day?
Me: I was very new in Portugal and I didn’t speak much Portuguese and I remember your Tia Alice telling me that you couldn’t go over to her house that afternoon because she would be cleaning the tripas (intestines) all day, but that didn’t register with me that they would be killing all of the pigs in the village. So off you went to play and just followed everyone out into the fields and when you came home for lunch you announced that all the pigs were fine because they died very sleepy and happy and that you got to stand behind the man with the flame thrower.
Pai: Bit of a culture shock for your mother, because where she is from meat comes from the supermarket all sliced and packaged.
Me: True Story. A lot of American’s don’t understand that their meat was once an animal because they are so far removed from the source.
Hank: Like Gabe (Hank’s good friend), when he came to visit and went to see Tia’s chickens then didn’t want to eat their eggs we collected, because he said they were too stinky.
Pai: That isn’t because Gabe is American, like you, that is because he is from the city.
Hank: I forget why the pigs were sleepy.
Me: Because the men fed the pigs oranges soaked in aquardente (Portuguese brandy) until they were properly drunk and asleep that way they weren’t scared before they kill them.
Hank: Oh yah.
Me: Garvão (our village in Alentejo) has taught us a lot about life, hasn’t it?
Hank: Mostly about food and family.
Pai: As it should be.