Monday, 7 January 2013
Who are you calling a fat old cow?
If the British farmer doesn't favour his conditions, he leans on the bars of a market pen and grumbles to his equally disgruntled companion, putting the world to rights without telling a soul in authority; yet many support the very root of evil they chastise. The best conflicting conversation I have ever witnessed went like this:
Farmer no. 1: "What about this sheep trade, mate?"
Farmer no. 2: "Ruined."
No. 1: "Know whose to blame, don't you?"
No. 2: "Supermarkets."
No. 1: "You got him. Got the monopoly haven't they?"
No. 2: "They will be the death of farmin' in these Isles."
No. 1: "Spot on."
No. 2: "They drive the prices down and we have to stomach it, in it?"
No. 1: "Too right. Course they're in bed with them buggers in Whitehall."
No. 2: "Never a truer word spoke, mate."
No. 1: "But I bet them in suits and them at the top couldn't go a spud or dag a sheep."
No. 2: "Spot on. They never seen a farm, yet they control every bugger on the island."
No. 1: "Doomed we are." Hand wringing pause. "Anyway, how is the Mrs.?"
No. 2: "Oh, her's tidy. She's just nipped off to Tesco for the weekly shop, like."
Tremendous. The British farmer took the BSE crisis on the chin. Much said, nothing defied. The French wouldn't have 'stomached' the resulting regulations which is that any beef animal over thirty months of age, when slaughtered, have to undergo a lengthy, drawn out process during which the brain is tested, before the meat reaches the plate. Or the pooch. This so perturbs the beef farmer from keeping his animals over the designated age of two and half years. The result is immature meat. The best beef comes from an animal that has had at least three summers grazing. The figures don't add up. The French have no such regulations. They know their beef. They think nothing of consuming an eight year old plus cow. The fat is sweeter and the meat is richer because it has had so many summers worth of sweet grass. The French beefeater is happier.
At Llanevan I'm bucking the immature trend. An old cow usually goes to a live market where she is sold for a measly price. The best cuts may make it to the plate, most go for pet food. Not on my watch.
This week I will be taking Dimplex and Mary Sue, two ten year old cows for a, uh, 'day out' from which they won't return. Time to reach for the Kleenex on this one.
Dimplex is my favourite cow on the farm. She's a quiet old thing, not like Skittish, a five year old cow who once jumped a six bar gate like she was Red Rum in the National. Dimplex sits in the meadow chewing her cud and reading TheAngler's Mail. When the rest of the herd congregate for an anarchical meeting discussing how best to overthrow me, Dimplex raises her cow brow and sidles down to the brook to chat to Thespian the Otter about trout, scout knots and Welsh crafts. Now she is an old woman her stride has shortened and she wheezes with every step, though not necessarily from old age, but the result of heavy smoking during her wild teens. She's a switched on old girl though and she's sussed the inevitable.
"Why you fattening me up?" she asked me last week as I dolloped a bucket of oats into her trough.
"Uh, because, you are my favourite cow."
"Pull the other one Pedro, I know what's coming. Listen fast. If you'll do one thing for me, you'll give me a last meal."
"You name it."
A Hawaiian pizza is an odd choice for a cow, but what Dimplex wants, Dimplex gets.
"You won't have to worry about Mary Sue," she said, "she heard that me and her were going for a 'day out' and thinks were off to Alton Towers."
"I could take you to Alton Towers first," I suggested, trying to lighten the mood.
"Then there would be no point in having my pizza. One go on the Nemesis and the bugger would be all over my brisket." Fair point. "Will it be a quick death?" she asked as she scrawled her will on the shed wall.
"You'll be out like a light."
"Can't argue with that. And I thought I'd go making love." Sadly that is something I can't help her with. Though it isn't all bad news because her legacy lives on. Her daughter, Multiplex, has been added to the breeding herd and will go on to have many of her grandchildren.
"She's a good looking girl is my Multiplex, she'll break some hearts along the way."
"Takes after her mother."
"Cut the charm, Pedro, you're about to stick my arse in the oven." That's what I've always liked about Dimplex: she's a straight talking kind of cow.
Dimplex and Mary Sue's 'day out'.
The process that Dimplex and Mary Sue will undergo, is thus: they will be driven to Alton Towers (the abattoir (French) or the slaughterhouse (British)) and I will speak to the ride attendant (the vet). When he has checked that they are fit for the ride (slaughter) and that they are the correct height (not covered in excrement) I will hand over their ride tickets (passports). They will then sit in a comfy seat (a holding pen) and a safety harness will lower over their necks (ear number check). The ride will then start (a sliding door will open). The ride whirls along (they are led down an alleyway) and then at the summit of the ride (end of the line) they will see God (slaughter man) and it is at this point that they will know they have had the ride of their life....
If you got lost during any of that softening explanation, I'll fill you in: they never got to pick up 'the' photo.
The beef carcasses will be hung in a cold room for two weeks while their brains are tested to see whether or not they are, were, or are indeed, 'mad'. There is a million to one chance that they are, were, or are indeed, 'mad', because they are purely organic and have never been subjected to contaminated feed.
The meat will then be taken off the bone, by knife, and re-hung for a further two weeks. One month from when they visited Alton Towers, they will be ready to eat.
Where to eat Dimplex and Mary Sue during the week of February 15th
You can come round to mine, but James Johnston isn't too keen on entertaining, so the next best thing is too eat the cows, at these fine places in London Town.....
Great Queen Street, 32 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden
Fernandez and Wells, Lexington Street, Soho
St. John, Bread and Wine, Commercial Street, Spitalfields
Anchor and Hope, The Cut, Southwark
The Magdalen, 152 Tooley Street, London Bridge.
Ask for Dimplex. Of course, they will have no idea what you are on about, but, hey, you could end up with something completely non-mental on a plate.
Ta, then. I'm off to spin the pizza dough.