Saturday, March 08, 2008

terror tenderizes?

When I came across “The Deer at Providencia” reading Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk I remembered it immediately. I don’t know where I first read it. For a class? I don’t think so; no memory of having to write about it. Maybe it was some anthology.

[H]igh levels of lactic acid, which builds up in muscle tissues during exertion, tenderizes.

The assertion stuck with me. Basically, Annie Dillard describes a situation in an Indian village (Ecuadorian Amazon) wherein a tiny deer has been captured alive (having been hunted down by dogs) and is tethered to a tree at the edge of the village. The deer struggles to escape, the strap wearing a wound around its neck. But it hasn’t the strength to free itself so in the exhaustion of its fear and effort, ends up tangled in the tether, gasping on the ground. Torture improves the taste of the meat, Dillard suggests.

Describing the stew made from a deer that had been slaughtered the day before Dillard says, “It was good. I was surprised at its tenderness.” This is when she lets drop the lactic acid as tenderizer idea.

I don’t know whether she’s right. I recently read a book by Temple Grandin, the high-functioning autistic who has designed a large number of modern slaughterhouses. She does her best to design the killing system so the animal enters it without fear. At one point she describes a kosher slaughterhouse where the animal is restrained via a pneumatic device that holds it firmly (& comfortably) while the Rabbi nicks the vein in the animal’s neck and it peacefully bleeds out. Tough steak?

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