Friday, January 29, 2010

Slaughter Day: An Account of Samoan Reciprocity

About two months ago, I was able to witness the slaughter, preparation, cooking, and presentation of a pig. Pigs are only eaten on special occasions, and as Samoa is a culture based n reciprocity, my host father sought to repay a neighbor with a size 2 pig*.

My host nephew, Tuna, woke me during my afternoon siesta to inform me that my host brother, Sefo, was in the process of slaughtering one of a dozen pigs living in the backyard. Hurling towards the Samoan kitchen in the back of the house in my half sleep state, I stumbled upon my host father and brother balancing on a large stick that was placed on the pig's neck, choking the unfortunate thing.

This is the way in which Samoans, without rifles, slaughter pigs. Unfortunately, for the pig, this meant a slow and painful demise. It took a good 10 minutes before the pig finally fell limp. All the while, its icy wide-eyed stare never once blinked and its mouth snapped wide open (I suppose to gather whatever air it could possibly take in.)

Immediately after, Sefo dragged the carcass over a pile of hot rocks to burn off the hair. Whatever hair remained he had removed with a knife. So what was once a black pig was now a pale ghostly carcass.

He then proceeded to gut the carcass. This involved, first, by removing the anus done to reduce the potential for defecation spillage. It is then followed by removing some tube - could have been the esophagus or trachea - who knows. Then, he removed all the organs and flushed out excess blood. This all happened while our two puppies ravaged whatever meat they could scavenger. One dog found the pig's tail while the other found the pig's hooves.

After having gutted the pig, Sefo proceeded to stuff the pig with piping hot stones and leaves. The idea is to simultaneously cook the pig inside and out. After stuffing the pig, he moved it over a pile of more piping hot stones and covered the entire pig with leaves and newspaper.

It is important to note that Sefo did not season the meat. This is true of Samoan food- meat is not seasoned. Something which I will address later, to some, the Samoan culinary experience is exotic and addicting, to others, such as myself, the experience is rather dull. The meat comes out bland and coarse when tasted especially when I know the true free-range organic meat has so much potential!

Anyway, I diverge, after about 2 hour of baking the pig, it turned a bright red and was ready to eat. He placed the pig in a basket weaved out of palm leaves and walked across the street to deliver the pig as a gesture of thanks and reciprocity. We intentionally stayed for a moment before leaving as to avoid receiving a gift in response to our gift. Thus, here is a brief account of Samoa's circle of reciprocity

* Pigs are categorized by their size from 2 to 4. Ostensibly, the best meat comes from the smaller more leaner pigs. Thus size 2 is the ideal size.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw the video of you and Fiaola and I must say that you sing with great accuracy not only in the notes and pitch of the song but with the clarity of the pronunciation and enunciation of the Samoan Language. I am very impressed. Keep up the singing and the good work in Matatufu,also keep up the blog, i will take the time to read your updates, which have been entertaining.
    malo le tauivi, Good luck