Saturday, November 16, 2013

Killing the fatted calf

I have read the phrase about killing the fatted calf many times while reading the parable of the Prodigal Son, but it has taken on a new meaning to me. This last Friday we killed the campus cow and had an end of the year party. I learned many things, including how much work this entails.

First of all, we don't usually have a campus cow, so there has been a lot of improvising on how to care for it. The most common meat animal in this area is a pig, so many students would have know what to do with a pig. The cow was given as a thank you gift to campus from a village after one of the faculty members gave a sermon there. So through out the semester there has been ongoing discussion about how to care for it and when to it eat. Fortunately there is abundant grass on campus, so for feeding it they only had to move it to different grassy area. I was surprised one morning to find the cow staked out across the road from my house where he was contentedly munching away.

Finally, it was decided to kill the cow last Friday and have it as part of our closing celebration - called Amamas Night. Then came to question as to who could kill the cow. The people first appointed didn't know how to do it. Finally the Year Two class agreed to kill and butcher it. I did not watch, but the fact it happened by the basketball court is quite different then being hidden away in a slaughter house like in the U.S.

The rest of the meal was quite well organized, the leaders having passed out a list of what groups were to cook what foods. This included lots of rice and sweet potatoes like most meals in this area. My advisory group was assigned to cook "cow stew". This turned out to be boiling chunks of beef and then frying them up with cabbage and onions as the vegetables. Fortunately the committee had arranged for fire wood and the food to be delivered to our cooking area. Most faculty members had the groups cook at their house, but since I don't have a cookhouse we went to the house of one of the married students, who had a large outdoor cook area.

Since there is little animal protein available to the students, having so much meat available was greatly enjoyed. Since our students do quite a bit of physical labor they can eat with gusto. Meat is often prepared with lots of fat attached which I don't like. However, there is always someone happy to eat the fat I do not want.

The food was placed in pots on long tables in the Haus Bung or open air meeting house. The pots were protected by banana leaves. Finally they had us divide into our advisory groups and we were given our quota of the food.

We ended with a talent show. I had expected it to be mainly singing and dancing but it was mainly skits and comedy routines. We have some very funny seminarians. Some of them could give The Three Stooges a run for their money.


  1. You didn't mention if the beef was tender, or did you boil it long enough to tenderize it? An organically grass fed beef is pretty pricey here. Congratulations on finishing your first year! Love Byrna

  2. Ann, English has lots of terms that might translate to "cow" as you used it here. Words like heifer, beef, cattle, bull, steer (and maybe BEVO for those with Texas roots) all come to mind. Does Tok Pisin include these sorts of shades of meaning or are they all just "cows" and "cow meat"?