*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by my mother who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
As far as dates go, this was one of the worst I’ve ever heard.
When my parents were young newlyweds, my father bought my mother a cow.
It wasn’t a pet. The cow was for dinner, many dinners, in fact.
My father had ordered a cow to be slaughtered and quartered, and he decided to bring my mother to visit the animal before it was dispatched.
So my mother, who wanted to do nothing less than visit a cow she would cook in installments for the next six months, put on her prettiest Sunday dress and climbed into my father’s convertible. They rolled the convertible top up when it started to rain.
My parents went to visit the cow.
“What happened when you went to visit the cow?” I asked.
She is sitting approximately six feet to my right as I type this.
“We looked at the cow,” my mother replied, “and the cow went ‘moo.’ We got covered in mud. It was such a rainy night.” She paused. “It made no sense.”
My father, whose idea it was to purchase and then visit the aforementioned cow, had nothing to add when I asked him.
“How did you get the cow home?” I asked my mother.
“They delivered it,” she replied. “It came all wrapped: steaks, ribs, hamburger, all in neat packages.” She turned to my father. “Do you remember?”
He didn’t answer.
She continued. “We didn’t like it. We had to give it all to your grandfather. He made out like a bandit.”
My parents are from the Azores. They grew up in different villages on the same island. Their families rarely had enough food to eat. They weren’t wealthy enough to have the luxury of fresh meat.
This didn’t happen in the Azores. It happened in the United States. My parents lived in the City of Providence, Rhode Island, the last place where you’d expect to see someone lug an entire slaughtered cow to their second-floor apartment, but they did it not once, but twice.
The second time my father ordered a full cow, they also had it delivered, but they didn’t have it butchered into more palatable portions. Nor did they visit the cow in advance.
This time, they received the whole carcass, and my mother set about butchering it herself. She even made sausages. At least she didn’t have to slaughter it herself.
My mother refused to eat a single bite.
Once again, my grandfather was the lucky recipient of a cow’s worth of meat. He couldn’t have been happier.
My mother put her foot down the next time my father talked about ordering an entire cow for a family of four who didn’t enjoy farm-fresh beef, as my father learned the hard way.
Today, when my parents want beef, they get it the way nature intended, at the grocery store in cellophane and styrofoam packages that don’t leak blood on the floor. My mother wouldn’t have it any other way.