Each year in September we go apple-picking with some friends. We used to do this in Oregon, and there were lots of places to go, but then we weren’t strictly organic then so life was easy. Now we’ve gone out of our way to find one of the few organic apple orchards near Montreal. It’s about 45 minutes away and the apples are crazy expensive (as all organic food is here in Quebec) but it’s worth it. The guy who started the place spent something like 10 years JUST PREPPING THE SOIL so that he could grow without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Talk about dedication! We’re happy to pay extra and support his work. And he makes some pretty killer alcoholic apple cider (which of course doesn’t have the preservatives in it that are bad for you but are somehow required by the government here for wines to include, because bacteria just THRIVES in alcohol, right?)
Anyway, we had been tooling around with the idea of buying part of a cow. Again, organic prices in Quebec are crazy, getting organic steak is like $25 a pound, not reasonable.
Let’s just say we ate a lot of chicken.
But a man needs red meat once in a while, can’t just stand by while all those delicious cows go walking around alive and un-slaughtered for consumption (humanely of course). It’s not right. So knowing we could perhaps get a more affordable price if we bought a share of a cow before it was butchered, we decided, on a whim, to ask the apple orchard owner if he knew of any organic farms that sold shares of cows. And low and behold, he did know one, and it was 15 minutes away!
So off we went, three cars in a little parade, off to find this farm.
However it turns out that the instructions we had weren’t as specific as they could have been, and we were in an EXTREMELY rural part of the countryside. Then it began to rain, hard. We flagged down a passing pickup truck and the man inside just happened to know the family farm we were looking for and had their phone number with him (Providence?).
We called the number and asked if we could come look at a cow to purchase. Also, we mentioned that we were already nearby and wanted to know if we could come right then. Because we were already right there, like at the end of their long creepy driveway, and wanted to know if it was ‘safe’ to drive into the woods…
They were very gracious and so in we went, through the pouring rain, into the woods, along a little dirt road through the trees until we came to an aging farmhouse and barn. The farmer came out, and we all hustled into the barn to get out of the rain. Free-range chickens were literally ranging free under our feet as we ran.
There were also a number of free-range kittens that my children tried to crush with joy.
And a multitude of the largest, fattest, meanest looking spiders I have ever, ever seen (and can’t un-see) hanging just above our heads. The urge to duck constantly was irresistible.
Long story short, my kids got to milk a cow (it’s harder than it looks by the way…) and we bought two cows as a group, three-fourths for our family alone. We had to buy a freezer to hold it all, but then we were getting Organic Black Angus for just over $4 a pound, an amazing deal! They delivered the two cows to our house during a meeting, I walk into the basement to find a half a dozen people arrayed in a circle, haggling over and trading frozen cow organs.
Later we bought some pig, and had some of the ground beef made into sausage. This time we had to meet them in the parking lot of a Tim Horton’s at nine o’clock at night. They were already there when we arrived. I flashed my headlights at them as a signal. Not pre-arranged, I just felt like it was the right thing to do. Then we cautiously walked over to their Honda Element, and traded cash for some sketchy looking boxes in the half-light. I looked over to the warm windows of the Tim’s, old folks inside, drinking their coffee, eating donuts, on the phone with the police reporting a drug deal in the parking lot.
We kept our meet-up brief. We’ve already got ourselves booked for another half a pig and two thirds of another cow. Beef tastes all the sweeter at $4 a pound.
NEXT WEEK, ON THE CRUNCHY DUNGEON:
But it’s the other stuff…when little girls are wearing actual dresses, made by hand, without Disney characters on them. Or when you’re at the store in the middle of the day and you’ve got your kids with you because you homeschool. Or when you have dinner guests and they see your symbiotic life form in the pantry drinking tea and spitting out kombucha…that’s when the judgement can start to kick in.