Not for the faint-hearted

Thursday, July 22
I am fifty years old and have eaten meat all my life. However, I have never killed my food or seen it killed for me (except a fish my grandfather made me bait, catch and clean when I was nine.) I know that my grandmother used to know how to pluck a chicken or turkey, but I don’t think my mother ever had to do that; all of our meat was butchered and packaged for us. Today my comadre Elena announced she would prepare meat for us; the first meat we have eaten since I arrived. She had her ten year old daughter start a fire and boil water on one side of the clay oven; steam a pot of potatoes on the other.
Then she killed one of the seven guinea pigs that live on a straw bed and underfoot in their kitchen. She chose one of the three mature ones (not the pregnant one) and strangled it within less than a minute. She dipped the body in the boiling water and began pulling off the hair into a plastic basin, paying special attention to cleaning ears and eyes with her fingers. Once the carcass was free of hair she took it outside to a sink and continued stripping off all hairs with a knife. Then she opened a hole in the lower belly and emptied all the guts into a bowl.
She prepared another bowl with garlic, cumin and mint or bayleaf, a little water and a lot of salt which she ground with a fist-sized stone. Once the main meat parts were cut up she dipped them in this sauce and deep fried them on her clay stove. The little girls came to watch.
While all that was cooking she began to deal with the viscera; I asked if these would be for the pig. “No! These are nutritious for us!” she said. She first rinsed the liver, lungs and heart. Then she removed all the pellets from the intestine and took all the intestinal parts and stomach outside to empty and rinse. She would not waste a single edible part of this tiny animal. They are marinating now in the sauce while she fries up the steamed potatoes.
I ate roasted guinea pig the other day and it tasted like bacon. You just have to watch out for the tiny bones.

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