Last week I received my first ever invitation to an event I’ve gawked at for three years. Questions have fluttered through my mind in those years’ past. “How do I get invited to that thing? Would they let me kill the goat? Will it taste like mutton?”
My good friend, Kristiana, slid a square of paper that looked like an undesirable mail advertisement in front of me at lunch. Anything but! On the paper was a cartoon of a goat and instructions to fill it out with name and ID number and return it to the International Office.
“I’ve arrived,” I thought. She did not know how long I’d been waiting for the chance to attend the famed goat roast—a subject garnering great curiosity.
Walking into the Stevensons’ backyard, I found myself in an awkward, non-belonging conversational limbo that comes at the beginning of unfamiliar parties. I’m convinced it was the hot chai, though, that melted away the knot in my gut—that and Matt Dye’s happy charge to eat the choice pieces of goat meat.
“Dinger, have you had any goat yet?”
“Well no. Not yet,” I responded.
“Here’s a piece of the heart. And the liver’s there,” he pointed at the piles of heart and liver that lay on the plywood table—perched on two sawhorses and stained brown in spots from the roasted dripping meat.
There between the table and the fire, several boys had swarmed into a team, one person pulling another piece of raw goat from the bucket of Coke and laying it on the grill, another nipping at the sizzling pieces with bare hands to turn them on the grill, yet another picking the done pieces from the grill and tossing them onto the table where he would cut it into bite-size pieces with a pocket knife. The team kept the meat coming, serving each of the diners—some MKs, some outsiders like me—all ravenous for goat meat.
On the left was the heart, now browned pieces of meat with lines of hard white fat. I popped it immediately into my mouth, chewing deliberately and noticing the change in texture from pliable fat to springy meat to slick artery. The liver pieces were on the right. I took a piece and a handful of the less distinguishable pieces, likely from the leg or a shoulder.
When I made it back to my group of friends who brought me I was prompted to eat the piece of liver by my friend, Kristiana.
“It’s the best part,” she said.
Though I saw another friend of mine who has likely eaten as much goat shaking her head in negation right next to her. I ate it gladly and found that it tasted of cooked blood and minerals.
I couldn’t help but think of the story I had heard of one of the boys. I watched him now poking at a sizzling piece of goat meat on the pit, he who on his high school senior trip in Kenya drank the hot blood of a goat, slaughtered in his group’s honor.
Did helping to prepare this meal in an Irishman’s Arkansas backyard transport him back there? Kneeling down to receive the foaming lifeblood of the newly dead goat? Was there a smell now hanging in this air that reminded these boys of their homes? Did something about this fire’s heat remind them of other fires they’ve stood around to roast fresh goat? Was there something in the chew of the meat that transported them? Leaving me to stand and look across the yard at merely the chewing, smiling body of a boy whose spirit is far removed—now gazing out over the Great Rift Valley or standing in a camp of the Samburu.
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