Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meat Shops in Kathmandu

We do not eat a lot of meat here in Nepal. We were not big meat eaters before we arrived, and lately we have been meat-free due to our 40 Days of Yoga Challenge. In addition, the selection of meat for home consumption is limited in terms of quality and quantity. Beef is rare in this Hindu country, and the safest meat available at places like Bhat-Bhateni Super Market and the excellent Nina and Hager's markets is sold frozen rock solid.

There is another option for procuring meat that we have never considered, but it is available in Kathmandu: the local mom-and-pop meat shop.

Under the table and dreaming

Sprinkled throughout the city are small meat stores that hawk their presumably fresh products from counters along the street. The offerings are usually goat, chicken, wild boar, and perhaps water buffalo.

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Hygiene varies. Sometimes the meat is covered by a mesh dome of sorts to keep flies away. At some shops the proprietor hovers over the meat, swinging a homemade swatter to scatter the bugs. Otherwise, what you see is what you get. I don't know exactly how fresh and safe the meat is at these counters, and I don't want to ignorantly automatically assume that it is dangerous (we do, after all, buy our eggs unrefrigerated here -- something that struck me as odd at first). Still, even if we started cooking meat at home, I do not think these shops are the places Claudine and I would source.

Seeing these shops on the side of the road does not bother me in the slightest, but the squeamish might have an issue getting such a front-row seat to the origin of their meat fix. It is not uncommon to see goat or boar heads on display (and presumably for sale).

At one shop near our home, live chickens and ducks are cooped near the latest poultry kill along with a live, tethered goat with a clear view of his impending destiny. It is in some ways a sad scene ("Escape, little Billy -- you're next!"), but I do not think that factory farms and butchering facilities in America are any more uplifting. The fact is that the living, breathing goat standing next to tonight's dinner is part of the reality of eating meat, a reality from which many Americans are deeply divorced (and so many are divorced from the reality of "food" in general -- what exactly are those unpronounceable ingredients that make up a cheese puff?). Yes, your burger was once a living animal. That the cow is not standing in the tidy saran-wrapped meat section of your grocery store making eye contact with you does not make this less true. I wonder what the impact on meat consumption in the States would be if this greeted you the next time you went in search of pork chops:

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