Publisher’s View: How the sausage is made
About 20 years ago now, I went to my first hog slaughtering. It was a traumatic event for me—not because I am against the killing and eating of animals, of course. I come from a long line of hunters and gatherers and I’m all for good deer sausage, duck gumbo and a nice seared tuna in a butter sauce. But the slaughter was traumatic because those who lured me there did so under the guise of “let’s go to this Cajun festival” which sounded very cultural, and they got me there early, just in time to hear the 100-plus-pound hog squeal. And squeal. And squeal. The saying “squealing like a stuck pig”? It’s a real thing. I sat in the Jeep with my mittened hands held over my ears just wishing I didn’t have such a hankering for pork belly stew. But I do. I was in it for the long haul.
After the butchering was over, La Grande Boucherie des Cajuns in St. Martinville got into full swing. Zydeco bands were playing; people were drinking and there was pork—a lot of pork. Boudin, cracklin, andouille sausage, hog’s head cheese, backbone stew and more. Before refrigeration and supermarkets eliminated the need, boucheries were common in Acadiana, where residents would share in the labor of slaughtering the hogs then sharing the bounty. They would spend all day cutting the pig for roasts and sausages, trimming it into strips to dry and smoke, and packing other pieces into brine to become salt meat. And every scrap of the animal was typically used: snout, brains, feet and all. I specifically remember a woman at the festival, with a newborn baby harnessed around her midriff, ripping into a fried pig’s ear like it was a piece of corn. Wasn’t her first rodeo.
But a pack of bacon at the grocery store is a few degrees removed from the actual killing, boning out and carving of a large hog. It’s a messy business. Meat grinders, knives, and a pig wrangler need to be on hand. And not everyone can stomach witnessing how the sausage is made.
So true in life.
I don’t want to equate the production of this magazine to an actual pig slaughter, because that would seem messy and more than a bit bloody. But there are times at the office when both adjectives could correctly describe the daily grind. In fact, I’m writing these words in the wee hours before dawn on the morning that we must send the full magazine to the printer. Why do I wait to the last minute, every single month, to write my column? Maybe it’s because only after every other word has been written can I clear my head and write from my heart. Or maybe it’s because I’m a procrastinator. Or maybe, life is a bit messy and sometimes bloody and I can only produce when pushed. You don’t want to see how the sausage is made.
Another good example of when it’s best not to know the backstory: getting children dressed for a special event. Sure, they may clean up well. But behind the scenes, there has been a fight over which dress to wear for the girls, and pants vs. shorts (no) for the boys, and there has been ironing, and bathing and lots of hairbrushing and eye rolling and “Why didn’t you tell me those shoes don’t fit you anymore?” and somewhere along the line a battle has been lost and someone, maybe me, has cried. Not tears of joy.
“Your children are absolutely precious. You must be so proud.”
You don’t want to see how the sausage is made, lady.
But the realization that the backstory does not have to be pretty if the final product dazzles is an essential understanding. And it took me a long time to learn. For years, I believed there was a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and I was probably doing it the wrong way. What is the best way? What am I doing wrong? How can I do it better?
“Honey, he’s just a toddler. Toddlers are out of their minds. Just step over him and move on.”
This was advice from an older woman when I was reading every book available about why my 2-year-old would throw himself on the floor in front of the fridge to have a meltdown. Brilliant advice. And yes, messy solution. But I started stepping over him and leaving him to wail on the cold bricks alone. And if it didn’t stop him from screaming, which it didn’t, it saved my sanity.
You might not want to pull back the curtain to see behind the scenes at a play, might not want to go down to the locker room at halftime and you might not want to go early to a hog slaughter. Enjoy the show, enjoy the game, enjoy the bounty of the feast. Otherwise, the squeals might ring in your ear for years to come.