Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old Dairy Cow

I often comment that I grew up eating "old dairy cow" which would actually be grass fed beef by today's standards. The family mythology has us eating a lot of locker beef, supposedly from dairy cattle that had been culled from my Grandpa and Grandma Luedtke's herd.

A look back at my Dad's slides reminds me that Grandpa Bill raised Herefords for beef and, now that I think about it, there were always 5-10 beef cattle on the farm, probably steers being raised for market and for the locker.

I remember, too, that Grandpa kept a bull because we were always warned not to go near the bullpen and to stay away from the cow yard.

When I was in early elementary there was a favorite little calf in the barn that I took a shine to. Later that year, we were eating hamburger that Grandpa and Grandma had brought along on a visit, the kind that is frozen solid in one pound bricks. The calf was called "Tiny" and I found out that that's what was in the freezer beef, that little calf. I pretty much stopped eating meat for a while.

I had already figured out that if I didn't eat chicken, then I had no responsibility for pulling the feathers out when my folks dressed a bird that was given to Dad on his pastoral rounds. Several parishioners often sent a chicken home with him, minus the head, in a grocery sack, and we would take the carcass out to the garden and pull out the feathers prior to readying it for cooking.

I didn't eat chicken until the summer after my freshman year in college. I was working as a lifeguard at a summer camp and the Wednesday night meal was chicken. I was so hungry after a day in the sun with kids that I learned to eat the baked chicken breast entree that the kitchen cooked. I remember that the chicken was served with mashed potatoes, another favorite of mine, but that's another story.

Anyway, now you know why I like cheese so much. It is dairy protein. It is tasty. And it is an almost perfect food that stores well and lasts long even when it is not efficiently refrigerated. Plus it comes from cows and their milk. And the cows get to live to a ripe old age.

So am I a vegetarian? Well, yes and no. Some weeks I stay away from meat totally, but we did raise sheep at one time on Graywood Farm. At the height of our sheep raising days we lambed out over twenty ewes one spring. And we had a ram named Sam who knocked us down many a time.

Yep, we ate him. And tanned his hide. And one of my spinning friends made soap from his fat. So there. That's the end of the Old Dairy Cow story.

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