Kurban Bayrami Bloomington’da!
A week or so ago, it was Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. This holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son before God, and as such, it is traditional to slaughter a sheep and split it among friends. Generally, one third of every sheep slaughtered goes to charity.
Thinking back on the past two years, the last Eids have seen me in the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Graen, where I slaughtered sheep with the family of Ali Abu Sheheta, and in Yemen, where Rach and I spent Eid in the hospital arranging a med-evac to get us the hell out of Yemen. So I imagined this Eid would pass rather quietly and uneventfully here in rural Indiana.
My friend Yasin, a fellow grad student in the philosophy department here at IU, invited me to come along with him and his four (also Turkish) friends as they celebrated the holiday together. It was so much fun, and a much welcome change of pace for me, as my Wednesdays are generally spent in a little room learning Russian grammar. Just to get outside was a treat.
Around 4, we drove west to a farm called Patterson’s Custom Slaughter, owned by a fellow called Steve Patterson. Mr Patterson doesn’t have a state license to sell packaged meats, but does have one to run a slaughterhouse with all the proper safety and hygiene requirements, so basically what he has is a do-it-yourself slaughterhouse. What that means is that if you know the rules of Halal or Kosher slaughter, you can purchase a sheep ($1.50/lb, alive) and kill, skin, and chop up the meat yourself.
The place was absolutely packed for Eid. It was a group of mostly Arabs and Turks, and I found myself wondering what this rural farmer thought of the cacophony of languages that suddenly swarmed his farm for two days every November. He told me that in the two days of Eid this year, he sold 60 sheep to local Muslims. The word was most assuredly out among the Muslim community of Bloomington and the surrounding areas that this was the place to come. When I mentioned my experiences to my Uzbek professor, a 60-something Samaraqandi who has only been in Bloomington a few years, he immediately knew the place I was talking about, and pointed to its general vicinity on the map.
Yasin and his friends purchased four sheep. The facility was a concrete-floored room with hoists hanging from the ceiling so as to provide leverage when skinning the animals. Each sheep was brought in separately, layed down over a grate, and its throat was quickly and efficiently slit with an extremely sharp knife, which was sharpened between animals. In the Negev, Ali’s brother did the slaughter, and he simply said “Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem” before cutting the throat and that was it. Here, my Turkish friends chanted a low, slow, and beautiful, albeit haunting, nasheed of Allah-hu Akbar…. Allahhhh-hu Akbar….” prior to the slaughter.
Also in contrast to the Bedouin experience was the presence of modern technology to aid in the skinning process. A 50-gallon compressed air tank sat in the corner, and after the animal was dead, a small incision was made in its ankle, and a compressed air hose was inserted, and as air shot into the slit, the skin was separated from the muscle and bone. The skin came off rather easily, and within 45 minutes a live animal became a series of meat cuts in a hefty bag.
By 7 we were done, so we went back to Yasin’s friends house. They live in a housing complex in Bloomington that seems to be Turk-ville. Upwards of 9 Turkish families live on the block, and since a major component of Eid is visiting with family and friends, we made the rounds around the complex, visiting with other Turkish families who were serving authentic Turk Cay, still-warm homemade baklava, and other gentle reminders of home. You could tell the Turkish homes, from the piles of shoes sitting outside the door on the stoop, the Evil Eyes hanging from a corner of the window.
We grilled the meat in the backyard, and I remembered again what truly fresh meat tastes like. Ain’t nothin like it.
I brought a severed sheep’s head home, mostly to see what Sanani would do when I plunked it down on the kitchen linoleum. He did NOT like it. He ran into his crate with his little tail between his legs, and started barking. I put it on the deck outside and he just stood at the glass door barking at it.