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Goat's Head Soup

Tosh Bulak - Kyrgyzstan

One morning we headed up the valley from Tosh Bulak with Kenjibeck for a hike in the hills. He flagged down a passing van filled to the brim with folks singing annd laughing. They were going to have a goat feast and invited us to join them. We piled in and found a place amongst the arms, legs, blankets and baskets.

The van struggled up the canyon. Each swerve around a pothole elicited shreaks of glee from the interior. Beyond the last homestead we pulled over and parked. Everyone carried the provisions down to the riverside and we began to install ourselves under some shady trees.

* * *
Samedi matin, Kenjebeck nous invite dand une randonne en montagne vers des cascades. Sur la route nous avons rencontre une van remplit de vacanciers de fin de semaine qui chantaient a tue tete leur bonheur et nous ont invite a les joindre. Sans hesiter, car la route etait longue, nous avons pris place entre les jambes, les bras, les paniers et les couvertures.

Le conducteur prenait plaisir a produire chez ses passagers des reactions de surprise a chaque obstacle qu’il evitait de facon plutot acrobatique. On s’est finalement bien rendu a destination et avons pris place a l’ombre des arbres longeant la riviere avec le reste du groupe de fetards. Un besh birmack se preparait et on etait invite.

A small car, equally stuffed, was tagging along with our group. After unloading quite a bit of gear from the trunk, they finally hoisted out a goat, looking a bit road weary. The lead him over to the assembled group. Cupping our hands in front of us we symbolically received the blessings of his life and nourishment. We then washed these blessing over our face, in effect anointing ourselves with the bounty of life.

This ceremony has Moslem roots and is known to all rural Krygyzs. It took place without orchestration and other than the thrashing of the glacial green river next to us, it passed in complete silence.

Our focused intention was clear to the goat. He now knew his gig was up. He immediately emptied his bladder. As he stumbled to the water’s edge he emptied his bowels. He then collapsed right where we planned to slaughter him.

* * *
Une petite voiture nous y a suivi, remplit de vivres et appareils culinaires de tout genre. En ouvrant le coffre, on y a decouvert une chevre quelque peu ecorchee par la longue route. On l’a rapidement guidee vers le groupe qui s’est rassemble autour et en ont recu la benediction. Une ceremonie toute courte qui n’a prise qu’une minute et qui prend racine dans la religion musulmane. On joint les mains comme pour recevoir une offrande, cette fois-ci le don de la vie de la chevre, qu’on mene vers le visage comme pour s’en laver, tout en disant Omin. Un mot qui ressemble etrangement a Amen. Ce rituel est pratique a chaque repas par les Kyrgyzes. Un rituel auquel on aime bien se joindre.

La chevre a paru tres bien comprendre le but de cette priere. Elle en a vide sa vessie et ses intestins de peur, d’apprehension, juste avant de se laisser tomber a l’endroit meme ou on avait prevu la sacrifier.

Two men knelt next to him. With efficiency of movement his legs were tied, his muzzle held and his neck was slit open. I saw no resistance or struggle.

The blood pumped from his neck, streamed down a short bank and then entered, mixed and dissipated into the churning water.

The goat remained still, as if in a reverie. Perhaps watching his life pass before him. His eyes faded.

Less than a minute passed. The blood was now only a trickle, the body still. Suddenly a wave of spasms passed over him… once, twice, thrice. Then it was over; he had given up the ghost.

The two men set to work and dressed him out. His organs were separated and cleaned. The meters and meters of intestine were braided together. Everything was destined for a giant cauldron.

* * *
Deux hommes d’experience lui ont attachee les pattes et tenu le museau, alors qu’on lui tranchait la gorge. La chevre n’a offert aucune resistance. Son sang s’est vide et a coule dans la riviere verte descendue tout droit des glaciers. En moins d’une minute, il ne restait plus qu’un filament sanguin. Soudainemem trois spasmes se sont empares de son corps et elle avait finalement rendue l’ame.

Les deux experts se sont acharnes a la deshabiller de ses organes. Les metres de long de ses intestins se sont fait tresses avant de se faire ajouter au chaudron de soupe.

The one exception were his testes. They were skewered on a stick, rolled in salt and roasted over a small fire. When ready the men gathered around and drank shots of vodka between mouthfuls of the succulent meat.

This male virility ceremony engendered good feelings and brotherhood. It is an ancient ritual found in all cultures that have not lost their roots.

* * *
Il y avait bien une exception. Ce sont ces testicules. Ces dernieres coupees en rondelles se sont faites salees puis griller sur brochettes. Une fois bien cuites, les hommes s’en sont gavees entre deux petits coups de vodka. C’est une ceremonie de virilite masculine qui a engendre une fraternite entre les participants, selon les dires de Christopher.

The women, still laughing and singing, were peelingt and dicing piles of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Samovars were fired up to provide the ubiquitous chai, or tea.

Another fire was set to scorch off the fur and flesh from the goat’s head. Afterwards it was placed floating in the center of the cauldron. The guest of honor.

* * *
Les femmes n’avaient cesse de rire et chanter tout en s’acharnant a la coupe des carrottes, patates, onions, tomates et concombres. Les Samovars etaient deja allumes afin de pourvoir l’inmanquable chai (the).

Un autre feux, un peu plus loin, servait a scalper la tete. Une fois le festin servi, la tete est devenue le centre de table. L’invite d’honneur.

Tosh Bulak
Shepherd's Life
  Wylie and Helene - List of Journals
  Kyrgyzstan - Intro Average Rating of 29 Viewers
Chapters of Kyrgyzstan
  Tosh Bulak
  Goat's Head Soup
  Shepherd's Life
  Hikes around Kol-Ukuk
  Yurt Erection - Part 1
  Yurt Erection - Part 2
  The Story of Kymys
  Vitaly Gergert
  In Memory of The Cold War
  Torugart Pass
  Kingdom Come
  Closing Thoughts

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