Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

Exquisite Taxidermy Art and Design

© 2013 Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
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About Beth Beverly


I am a State and Federally licensed taxidermist who graduated from the Pocono Institute of Taxidermy in 2010 with high marks. I have a deep respect for this craft and those who strive to preserve it.

It is my pleasure to work on any trophy mount, be it a shoulder, life-size, rug, or fish.

I accept custom orders for fantasy mounts, wearables, and bridal hair pieces.

Sculptural mounts and hats are available for rental provided they are in stock at time of inquiry.

Contact me describing your wish and I will be delighted to make it so.


Diamond Tooth Taxidermy Blog:



Double Rattlesnake Dreams





Last July two brothers brought me a pair of rattlesnakes that they'd caught together hunting near Philadelphia.  Don't tell them but this was only my second snake job, after a tragically botched one 3 years ago.  I accepted the commission in a very casual way and it didn't occur to me until the snakes were in my possession that I needed to exercise extreme caution in handling them since I could easily puncture my finger on a fang and be on the receiving end of a posthumous, deadly, venomous snake bite.  



Both rattlers looked very similar but I think I've managed to separate the two in these photos; the first few shots are a smaller, slightly darker one, and the larger, lighter one is pictured after the carcass/meat images.






The tails are really fun, I wish I'd been able to keep one for myself to wear somehow.  They sound great.


So, about that venom.  Did you think I would let such potent stuff go to waste?



After doing some research I became completely fascinated by snake venom and its applications; I found a story about a man who has been injecting himself with venom for years and swears on its health benefits.  I also found some sketchy information about a high end luxury anti-aging cream that had (synthetic) snake venom in its base.  Apparently it acts as a topical Botox.  I have the venom in a little vial in my freezer; who knows what I'll actually do with it.
I also learned that a snake can still bite and kill a human even after its head has been severed, and that its heart will beat after being pulled out of it's body.  What tenacious, ferocious creatures.  It inspires pride in being born in the Snake Year.



Of course I wouldn't let that meat go to waste either.  After the plethora of critters I have eviscerated for food prep, I find snakes to be the quickest and easiest.  It's literally as simple as just puling the intestines like a loose yarn on a sweater.



I marinated the meat in whiskey, honey and ginger chunks for about a day.
Lucky me, I was invited to a BBQ that evening and I got to throw that snake on the grill and share it with a bunch of folks.  A pleaser, even if it was a lot of work to chew around those millions of ribs.



Next began the arduous process of altering the foam mannequins to accommodate the skin and positioning desired by the clients.  Hours of cutting, gluing, filing, sanding, measuring, test fitting, measuring again, etc.


And then presto!  A couple of mounted rattlesnakes.
I ran into a couple of issues with the seams, but aside of that I'm quite pleased with the work.

The positioning was very challenging to me since it required a good deal of twisting the skin.  Here's a secret- It's easy to hide a wrinkle in furry mounts, because it's covered in fur.  Not so with reptile skin.  Fortunately snake skin is tough and just requires a little patience and finesse.






~And that'ssssssssss a wrap~









Pheasant: It's what's on your wall and my plate!


Here's a fun trophy mount I just finished for a new father & son hunting duo; the son harvested this gorgeous pheasant and wanted to preserve it.


 It goes without saying that I of course dined on pheasant for the next few days.  Then, fueled properly on bird juice, I set to mounting this creature.  Please forgive these photos; I waited until the client was literally in the parking lot of my shop to get around to shooting and the process was somewhat rushed.  The flash actually kind of makes the first photo look a bit like an action shot, right?
Right?


 I went with an open winged descent pose to display the full color and texture range of his feathers:




 The shot destroyed the tip of his beak and left several of his lil pheasant toes dangling from their foot source, so some restoration was required.


Ta-Da!



 Another oddly lit shot:


 Rearish view:
Not much else to say; client was pleased and so am I. 

I am aiming to really step up my technical game this year, and achieve complete realisation of the designs my head spins of dream taxidermy mounts.  I treasure commissioned jobs like this pheasant, the squirrels I just wrote about and pet preservation because it allows me the work to pursue my more artistic and far-out endeavors.
 I have grand visions for 2014; here's to ambition!

-Insert Giddyup noise here-

Here's a Christmas commission I just finished right under the wire:

 Two squirrels, anthropomorphically posed, giving each other  double finger guns.  Is there a term for it?  If so I don't know it.  Anyway, here are two bad ass squirrels (both dudes) who now live on the mantel on some folks in Media who are quite dear to me.

 The positioning for these two was more difficult than I'd anticipated; the forms I sourced from McKenzie had to be altered significantly.  Here's one in progress:


And in case you were wondering, of course I ate the squirrels.  Here's what a cleaned out squirrel carcass looks like for those who don't already know.  This is eviscerated and ready to cook:


I've been working on achieving the most convincingly life like qualities in my mounts lately, and to position these guys in such an unnatural fashion was extremely difficult for me.  I kept looking at their hands, shaking my head and thinking that it just didn't look right. 


 But seeing as squirrels don't have opposing thumbs, I suppose a slight suspension of disbelief is required when it comes to anthropomorphic taxidermy.




 They were unveiled on Christmas day and the recipient is quite happy from what I hear.



I'm just kicking myself now, looking at these photos, because I ought to have had them winking! Dangit.  Hindsight.  Maybe next time.  Until then, Giddyup!



Wednesday's Child is a stolen post from The Farmer's Husband

Good day!
 Please enjoy my (attempted) weekly spoon feeding of the best farmer blog in the entire world, The Farmer's Husband.  This post is pork related; I met Meat (pictured below) last year and had the honor of nourishing my tired body with his back in February.  I've always found bacon disappointing and therefore have eaten it only a handful of times.  The smell trumps the taste experience, in my book.
Apparently I'd been eating sub-par bacon. Even the organic labeled stuff at high end grocers was lackluster to me, until I ate Meat.  Raising the pig with love and wholesome meals, treating him with respect and slaughtering humanely makes all the difference in the world.  When I get a craving for meat, I go get a quality burger from the local folks I trust down the way.  As I take that first bite and my mouth begins to absorb all the juices, I get a tingling in my frontal lobe, almost like a high.  I know I'm eating good stuff.  I have yet to hear anyone else describe a similar experience from cuisine but I know what I'm feeling, and believe me when I say that my head felt like a glittering snowglobe the afternoon I took a bite of Meat:

 

This year, give the promise of pork.

December 4, 2012 , , ,

Winston is ready to make you some babies.
Winston is ready to make you some babies.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s time we start selling stuff. And by stuff we mean pork.
We are planning our 2013 growing season, and after the smashing success of our first pig raising and slaughter, we are offering a limited number of porks for sale. We are taking deposits for whole and half pigs to be harvested in the autumn of 2013. We have had great interest locally from people who want to buy cuts of our pork. Sadly, we are unable to sell individual cuts, as they were not killed in a USDA approved slaughterhouse. We think our slaughter process and the resulting meat are superior to that which comes from commercial slaughterhouses. Our pig was killed humanely, quickly and quietly on our farm, in his own pen. There was no stress inducing capture. No transportation. No time spent in strange facilities that certainly smell of death. Our pig had a perfect, calm, stress-free life, which ended in an instant. We prefer this for the sake of the animal, and all experts agree that the meat from a stressed animal is inferior to that of a calm animal.
We want you to be able to experience pork like this. In order to do that, we need to sell you the animal before it is killed. We can orchestrate the killing for you right on our farm in surroundings familiar to your pig. We have an excellent processor/butcher who can even cut and process the pig to your exact specifications, down to the thickness of your pork chops and the type of sausage you prefer. In order to stay within the limits of the law we have to sell whole or half pigs. This pork will be the finest quality you can buy, but is not for resale. It is to be used by you and your family, however you may define it. If several people go in on a whole or a half, one person needs to make the arrangements and cut the check. What you do with it upon delivery is your choice.
Your pigs will be born on our farm. They will be a cross between our Gloucestershire Old Spots boar, and our Tamworth Sow. Old Spots have been bred for more than a century for their lard and rich, moist flavor. Tamworths are a lean, heritage bacon breed. Crossing these two breeds produces premium pork with the excellent meat quality of the Tamworth with the moist rich qualities of the Old Spots. Both breeds are excellent foragers, and instinctively graze rather than await prepared rations. If orders exceed our own piglet supply, we will buy in some pure Tamworth piglets to fill our orders. We will cut off orders when we have reached 20 pigs. Your pork will be deep pink to ruby red, not pale and white like confinement pork.
Mature Tamworth and young Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs.
Mature Tamworth and young Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs.
Your pig will be raised outside in rotating spacious pens, on a mixture of pasture and forest. It will forage for most of its diet, eating grass, leaves, twigs, nuts and roots. It will be fed goat milk from our ever-growing herd of dairy goats. It will be supplemented with a locally produced, grain based feed.
The actual price will be determined by the “hanging weight” of the pig. The hanging weight is the weight of the pig, with the blood drained and the insides removed. The hanging weight should be between 160-180 pounds per pig (80-90pound for a half). You can expect to receive about 75-80% of this weight in actual cuts, as a portion of bone, skin, and fat are lost in the cutting up of the hog. Your pig will yield an assortment of pork chops, spare ribs, shoulder roasts or steaks, hocks, sausage, ham, and pork belly or bacon.
Barring a sharp increase in feed prices, whole hogs will be $4.80 per pound, based on actual hanging weight, and half hogs will be $4.95 per pound. The smoking of bacon and hams is included in the pricing. If you prefer fresh hams and pork belly, we can arrange a reduced price, as the curing and smoking do add to the processing fee. Half hogs will include one type of sausage, of the buyers choosing, and whole hogs will include up to 2 types of sausage. Similarly, if someone wants a whole dressed carcass so they can do their own butchering, this can also be arranged at a reduced price.
Your pig will be available in late October or early November of 2013. You can pick up your pork on our farm in Cobleskill, NY, or delivery can be arranged in the greater Albany, NY area. For our Philadelphia friends, we will offer free delivery, assuming all parties can agree on one delivery date (a weekend day in early November). You will need to be prepared with freezer space, so those with apartment-sized freezers are forewarned. As slaughter day approaches, you will be sent a lengthy list of options for just how you want your pork custom cut and processed.
Why, you may ask, are we taking orders now for next autumn’s pork? There are three reasons. Firstly, breeding season is about to begin. The number of orders we receive will determine the number of piglets we need to either produce ourselves or reserve from other area farmers. There are only so many heritage pork producers around, and we want to reserve ours early. Secondly, it’s Christmas time, and who wouldn’t love to receive the promise of pork as a present? And lastly, WE’RE MOVING! We found an amazing new farm (more on that soon) and we need some cash to invest into the new fencing and housing for the animals so they will continue to thrive. By reserving your pork now, you will help us make the step from hobby farmers to actual career farmers.
We are asking for non refundable deposits of $100 for half hogs, and $200 for whole hogs.
To place a deposit on your whole or half pig, please submit the form below, and we will be in touch shortly to work out the details.

Meeting My Meat

Last weekend was an exhausting yet emotionally fulfilling one. I made the trek up to Schoharie to visit my beloved farm boys Thomas & Bailey by way of a short stay in Harlem with another dear friend while working a non taxidermy job in NYC.  I arrived at the bus stop in Albany weary, bedraggled, and depressed and drained.



The reason for my visit was not only pleasure, but purpose: the boys had been raising some rabbits for food and the time had come to process a few of them.  Thomas, who was taking on this project, immediately thought of me as a viable processing partner, given my philosophy on eating meat.  I won't call myself a vegetarian ( I still occasionally eat meat when someone offers me a free meal and I would otherwise go hungry due to lack of funds, so call me a hypocrite if you wish) or any other label because whenever I try to talk about it, I just sound pretentious.  Unfortunately, it mostly comes up when I'm declining an offer at a gathering where everyone else is partaking in the meal.   It's not like I want to stand up in a room full of folks enjoying themsselves and say, "well its just that you're all eating shit meat".



But for the most part they are.   And that isn't the problem to me but more a symptom of something much, much more saddening.***



And maybe this doesn't apply to everyone but this is my journey and perhaps someday I will articulate it (through words or taxidermy) more clearly but it's no coincidence that the craft about which I am most passionate revolves around the manipulation of skin onto forms, or why I gravitate towards the rogue genre of taxidermy.  In this realm, I can take a skin and put it on a form that has nothing to do with the original specimen.  I can give it wings, diamonds for eyes, a stretched neck, anything my mind comes up with.  As someone who has struggled (to an agonizing degree)  my entire life to achieve a healthy amount of comfort in my own skin, manipulating fantasy creatures out of the dermis of others is a projection of my own wishes to occasionally escape this body I currently occupy.



It's also no coincidence that underneath these hides are meat.  Thick, bloody, nourishing meat.  My journey as a budding taxidermist also led me down a path of exploring the source of my food, and the subsequent attempts to negotiate my ambivalent relationship with it.  This has been a years long puzzle in which I occasionally fit in a flurry of pieces in one instant, or spend months trying to jam the same ill-fitting piece into a spot that won't accept it.  Sometimes I just have to walk away and come back when the time is right.



Last weekend in New York, my food puzzle was ripe for some work and ready to accept a flurry of new pieces to their rightful home.



Here is Thomas, watering their garden :







They've got corn, tomatoes, pepper, squash, a wide variety of herbs and edible flowers plus many others that I am forgetting.  It's basically 99% edible though, and they are incorporating it into their daily meals. For example, here are some treats we harvested with which to make a salad dish for our Elizabethan Rabbit dish that evening:





Even though my parents had a garden in our yard when I was a child, my knowledge of plants and how to grow food is so profoundly lacking.  To actually see where the ingredients grow, how they are cared for, then pick them myself put some of those pieces back in the puzzle.



Meet Meat and Tilda.  Meat is just that; he's to be processed sometime next year I believe.  Tilda will stick around for some breeding.  The boys know so much about breeds, and all the animals that they raise- they are fully invested in this life and it shows.  They admit it will be difficult to say goodbye to Meat when the time comes but I think Thomas put it best when he said "I've nourished you your entire life, now it's time for you to nourish me".  And how much more rich an experience to have touched that thick muscular tank of a creature and to have heard its delightful snorts while it was alive!







It saddens me how much bacon is consumed every day, purchased thoughtlessly at some drive-thru window or convenience store and consumed in a car or subway en route to wherever the day is to be spent. I understand that most of us are in no position to raise our own food, and the majority of us need to rush somewhere to keep whatever shitty job is keeping our electric running, and this is the larger issue I was referring to earlier.  We as a people appear to share this common need to multi-task and get everything done quickly and graduate from one spinning gerbil wheel (sorry for the cliché analogy but it fits!) to the next, never stopping to rest or be kind to ourselves because that type of behaviour simply is not encouraged.  Working oneself to death is rewarded, taking a day to sleep and rest is frowned upon.  Given this constant sense of urgency in everything all the time, it's no surprise that food has become completely  overprocessed and unrelateable to its origins.  Eating.  It's just one more thing we have to do.***



[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Meat receives his daily cocktail bath massage.[/caption]



I cannot stress enough how much of a difference it has made for me to see the full circle.  I will never view dairy or meat products the same, especially after seeing the different ways in which farmers tend to their stock. If an animal is raised with love and respect, why shouldn't it make sense that the meat it provides us will be better?















Which brings me to the rabbits.  Below is the big mamma rabbit who birthed the ones which will serve as meals.  She's a really darling, and we thanked her for her hard work.



Now, the next few pictures after this are graphic, but no more so than any cooking website with a meat recipe.  There is plenty of educational material out there on how to humanely kill and process a rabbit so I felt no need to further saturate the internet with my own images, but there are some meat and guts pictured so consider yourself warmed.







After plenty of thought, discussion, and watching videos on the subject, we decided that severing the spine at the cervical vertebrae would be the safest and best bet.  I felt more comfortable using my bare hands than some external device like a broom stick of which I could possibly lose control.  So we each picked a rabbit, went to our designated spot, said a prayer of thanks and counted to three.  Mine didn't go so smoothly but we remained calm and it was over in a matter of seconds.  My heart was pounding, my knees and arms felt weak and I had to crouch down to collect myself.



Wow.  I had just taken a life.  I had just looked this creature in the eye, held it, stroked it, comforted it and then snapped it neck.  And I wasn't sorry.  I wasn't even crying, like I thought I would.  Instead I felt surprisingly in touch with my surroundings and how I related to them.



Look.  I know that hunters dispatch animals all the time and every modern luxury I enjoy comes at the price of an animal's life, one way or the other.  I'm not trying to pile on  any more significance to this event than my own personal amount, and certainly don't want to be seen as the next hipster chick to fool herself into thinking she invented "farm to table".  So please don't misinterpret my words for any more than what they are: a description of my experience, the very first time I embarked on paying the karmic price for my meal, as Georgia Pellegrini has said.



Without wasting any time we hung them up and started processing.  Here's Thomas peeling the skin off his rabbit:







Gutting: his went much more smoothly than mine, but I enjoyed the process regardless.  There is an intense heat that comes off a creature once it has died; I noticed this the one time I purchased a freshly killed squab from the live poultry market and I could feel its heat burning through my bag and into my back as I rode home with it.  This heat is even more concentrated inside the gut cavity and it was a bizarre and grotesque thrill to stick my hands in it and yanked out the heart.







Thomas successfully removed his bladder- which is just beautiful -while I cut right through mine and wound up with a pee covered pair of bloody hands.







The butchering, if you can call it that,  (I feel like I'm insulting real butchers by calling the hack job we did by that name) took the better part of an hour.  Clearly both Thomas and myself could benefit from some lessons.  If only we each had our own reality shows where attempts at self betterment through education could be sponsored by some third-party....



The rabbit chunks were tossed in flour and then lightly fried, and ultimately went into this wine-based stew mixture and cooked for three hours in Thomas' new Le Creuset.  Please check The Farmer's Husband for full recipe and details.







In honor of my visit, Bailey created an outstanding centerpiece for the dinner table.  Mr. Pickles approves.







All the photos I took of our three course meal came out blurry and dark, so I'm going to leave that coverage to the pros at The Farmer's Husband.  What I will say is that it was by far one of the best meals of my life, and along with the dazzling sensory experience of taste, smell and sight, there was also the sense of having earned this meal by getting my hands dirty and truly engaging myself in it.  I felt so full that I had to undo the top button of my jeans but for the first time in my life I felt no shame associated with this fullness.  Nary a hint of the words calories, exericize, weight, needing to justify this food or guilt reared its ugly head.  I just felt nourished and content.



And for me, that was the gap closing right where it needed to.



The next morning I "helped" the boys with their chores by hovering about taking pictures.  Here they are treating the pigs to some goat's milk.  I think the Lass was tickled mid milking and stomped her hoof in the bowl, warranting it pretty much unfit for human consumption.  But just right for hungry piggies!  Nothing is ever wasted on this farm and everything has a purpose.







Even rumps double as pillows.







Story time with the Littles.











Life imitating art imitating life.







Chicken city, rush hour.







Sandals are a poor choice on a farm during chores but my feet survived.  In other news, I would like for my hair to mimic the coloring/pattern of this chicken.  Can anyone help me with this?







That afternoon I boarded a bus back to NYC  which connected to another bus to Philly which connected to another bus home.  All the while in tow I had a mini-coolor with rabbit heads, pelts and feet for me and organs for my cats.  They LOVE raw rabbit.  I also had a generous amount of treats from the boys, clear eyes and a full heart.



CAN'T LOSE.



 



 



*** It occurred to me I posted this that my sadness over mindless consumption transcends food, and is directly connected to waste.  How many times have your pantyhose ripped and you just shrugged and threw them out, knowing you could just as easily replace them?



I'll just buy another.



I have come to loathe those words.  I've always had a disdain for waste, but my financial status as of late has forced me to put a very fine point on this.  Waste is unacceptable.  I cannot afford to throw anything out or damage my nice things so I handle my precious goods with care and find ways to use everything to the last drop.  I'm talking about slicing open the moisturizer tube and scraping the inside to get one more dollop.  I remember as a kid I thought it was so funny that my depression-era grandmother (who I've come to realise was never actually poor, she was just resourceful) would re-use her hosiery in so many creative ways: the elastic waist bands served to secure boxes of brownies, the material made into really cute puppets or even soap savers. Now I totally get it.  This mentality of "just throwing it away and buying a new one" is why we have an entire industry built around "Field Destroying" (it's so difficult to find info about this online but basically it's when folks are paid to destroy any merchandise that is flawed or just plain undesirable instead or donating, or selling at a discount.  It isn't even permissible to toss these items in the garbage for fear of some filthy dumpster diver getting their dirty poor person paws on it.  If this isn't a the canary in the coal mine showing us how fucked up the retail/consumer system is, than my head is exploding for no reason.)



There is no connection to where our goods come from.  Even if it's techno-wares, someone's hands touched it.  Someone made the packaging.  Someone trucked it over to your corner store and stocked it on a shelf for you and I, the consumers.  I really hope that when my clients take a piece of mine home, they treasure it and feel all the blood sweat and tears I poured into that item.  Obviously, a custom taxidermy hat is much more involved and labor intensive than a bobby pin but please, next time you're at the counter, handing over your paper or plastic to be swiped, run through your mind the series of events which brought this product to your possession, and acknowledge the extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork that made it possible.  Thanks for reading.

Quacker

Here's a quickie post about my most recent quacker.  A new client brought this gorgeous Mallard Drake to me a few months ago and waited patiently for his mount while I cruised, moved, etc.   He used the breast meat to make a lovely dinner for himself and his gal, which always makes me happy to hear.



Ducks are challenging but I love working with them.  The grease in the skin makes them much more labor intensive than a chicken or pheasant (which is why I think I need to recalibrate my pricing on birds) but as a result their feathers never seem to dry or get brittle like most of the chickens I work with.  Such handsome creatures.  There are scores of them at FDR Park where I like to run my dog, and I can't help but quack at them every time I pass by them with their cute duckie butts wiggling in the water.







 



Some people believe that the number of curly-q tail feathers corresponds to the duck's age, but I don't know if there's any truth to that.







Enjoy your new home, duckie!



 

Beating the Meat.

Immersing myself in a craft that deals with death is a constant pot-stirrir, so to speak.  I got involved with taxidermy in the first place to deal with the profound sadness I felt when seeing recently perished birds lay to waste on the sidewalk, and the disrespectful way their corpses were treated.  I am compelled always to imagine myself in the place of any person or creature when faced with their situation; its my empathetic nature.  So of course when I come across a pigeon laying dead on the sidewalk while busy pedestrians brush past it or absent-mindedly nudge it into the street where it will just be  repeatedly run over for weeks until its essence is completely blended with the pavement, I imagine myself or some other person I love there, dead on the ground, being ignored until I or they decompose.



So I started with pigeons and city birds.  Then I moved onto pheasant purchased from my local butcher.  It occurred to me that I was closing the gap between "farm to table" which back then hadn't become a buzz-term yet.  I just knew that, along with being compelled to preserve these creatures, I had a nagging feeling in my gut telling me to develop a closer relationship with my food sources.  All this meant at this time was actually knowing if the chicken on my plate was even chicken.  Food was a bit of a mystery to me; I never picked up the cursory skills in the kitchen which would allow me to debone and butcher a chicken with confidence.



But it tasted so good with everything and was the perfect source of lean protein!



So I kept turning my brain off for the time being.  Then I watched "Food, Inc.".  My husband and I swore off chicken and meat, unless it was "happy meat" meaning it was organic, purchased at Whole Foods, etc.  This has kind of lasted, on and off, depending on how healthy our wallets are at the time, and then recently this nagging feeling clawed its way out of my stomach and into my frontal lobe.  I cannot ignore it any longer.



My mind has been a swirling perfect storm lately of feeling disenfranchised at the cold and painful realisation that my government is a bloated, bizarre and antiquated machine which cares not an iota for me or my family .  Commercials aren't true.  Magazines lie.  Everything I see and read about anything is some sort of visual or emotional manipulation to sell me something or just fuck with me, and you too.  The latest fiasco with the pink ammonia slime in ground meat is outrageous. Then there's the nonsense with FDA & Monsanto vs. Whole Foods.  That's two headline-hogging recent events out of the millions \ of atrocious and irresponsible things going on behind the scenes with food distribution in the last twenty years.



And I'm not going to point fingers and say that there's a bad guy because it's so much larger than that.  I don't think "the man" wants me and you and everyone we know to eat poison and die.  I just think the human race exploded like a popped kernel of corn and our population, along with its needs, have grown faster than the machine can keep up with.  There are too many people to feed in the fashion the last couple generations have come to expect, and the only way mega purveyors have come up with to supply the demand is to prioritize quantity.  They've lost sight of what nourishment really is, along with most of us.  A steak is something that should be treated gloriously; it can be a warm, sensual, savory experience which, when obtained and consumed properly can nourish one's entire being.  A grace should be said, not necessarily to any god but to the actual cow whose life was taken to make this meat, and the workers at the slaughterhouse who do all the dirty things we can't bear to think of when we buy our nice precut, seran-wrapped goodies at the market.







That's what eating a steak should be like.  But what its become is an anonymous substance which the general population happily shovels into their mouths with nary a thought of where it came from or what's in it.  This fact was grossly illuminated for me as I worked a gig on a cruise ship recently while reading Georgia Pellegrini's "Girl Hunter" in my downtime.  Absorbing her experiences of working in the food industry and deciding to make a change and source her own meat herself, against the backdrop of thousands of folks absent-mindedly shuffling down the buffet line three times a day piling their trays high with mystery meat was a surreal experience.







Surreal enough, in fact, to finally push me over the line and ban meat from my diet.  I don't really consume much to begin with except when I go out to eat so it's not a huge change.  And it's not that I don't like meat.  I love the chemicals my brain releases when I bite into a wild boar taco or a juicy dripping burger.  It's carnal, its sexy, and it's nourishment.  But for the moment, until I can construct a way to be more responsible and involved in the steps taken to land this meat on my plate, I am staging my own personal protest against it.  The exception to this, of course, is pheasants or rabbits I purchase from my trusted and ethical local butcher whom I know sources his animals properly, or any game meat from a hunter I trust.



And this is where my craft/career comes into play.  As taxidermy gains more traction in this country as an art form, a byproduct is cheaply manufactured fur and feather products ( feather hair extensions, anyone?) available at any discount beauty supply store in any metropolis.  There is an exploding demand for this stuff and folks who see dollar signs are too concerned with obtaining their stock to care about just how much of it they're slaughtering and what conditions said stock is living in before getting dispatched.



My career has been making a slow and steady ascent up into the success stratosphere and as I continue to make my way and become more renowned for my calling, I feel the need to distinguish myself as an ethical and humane taxidermist.   I'm constantly testing my moral waters and trying to figure out what my comfort level is, and it changes all the time.  I mounted a fox that was sourced using traps and I'm not proud of it ( I also attempted to make a meal out of this fox so no part of it would be wasted) .  At the time I thought it was OK to use the newer more humane technology but now I just don't feel informed enough to make that call.  I would need to be the person collecting the animal from the trap to see just how it feels to look this creature in the eye, to see it die.



Ms. Pellegrini touches on this throughout her book; the electrifying moment when she would "look her meat in the eye" before she killed it.  And this is my point: I really am not trying to say that there is any right or wrong.  I'd like to eliminate the black and white notion of good vs bad in my mind altogether.  What I do want for myself, and for you and everyone you love, is to be aware.  Think.  Just think the next time you sink your teeth into that chicken sandwich, about the bird and where it came from.  Was it genetically modified to have such large breasts it couldn't walk?  Does the burger pattie on your grill contain more pharmaceuticals than any of us might consume in a lifetime?  If this is OK, fine, eat it.  Just know.  I think if we all took a little more time to connect with where our food comes from, the results would be resoundingly positive.



Am I claiming innocence and superiority?  Far from it.  I have NO ROOM to judge anyone and no intention to do so.  I still eat my daily helping of yogurt and cottage cheese from cows I've never met.  I put the little bit of faith I have left into the "organic" label on the container and hope that these cows aren't a bunch of sad girls hooked up to a maze of tubes all day.  I consume an insane amount of canned tuna and how do I know that just because I bought it at an organic shop it wasn't sourced by unethical fishermen dropping anchor too close to some tiny pacific island, thus "stealing" all the fish form the locals who depend on that food source?



I eat fruit that has never (and will never -well, a heated planet could bring lemon trees to Philadelphia...) grown anywhere near my home and has to be sprayed with chemicals to preserve it for the journey across the country to my local grocer, and who knows how many low wage workers are exposed to these chemicals in the process.  I still work jobs that require me to get on a plane that chokes birds with fumes when they're not being chased off their natural migratory path by airport employees trying to prevent them from being sucked into jet engines.  I wear leather boots.  I'm still bewildered by (yet always thankful for) the phenomenon of indoor plumbing and probably use more water than I should.  I am dependent on contact lenses that come from who knows where and the chemicals that go with them which I am sure have been tested on animals.



It's overwhelming to think of all the ways in which my lifestyle is harmful to animals, but I have chosen not to be bogged down with guilt.  Instead I am making each decision with thought and care, constantly thanking each and every animal or human who sacrificed to bring me the luxuries I've come to expect in my life, like my iPhone and a decent Manhattan.  Because it's only where and to whom I was born that separates me from them.  And we're all connected. I truly believe this with every fiber of my being.



This is a lengthy post and if you are still with me, I thank you. Hopefully something in here struck a chord with you and I invite you to comment on it.  Please.  If you agree or think I'm way off base, please let me know.  Discussion can only bring more awareness and I can always use more of that.



xoxo



Beth Beverly

Tastes like Chicken!

It appears to be squirrel season over here; I just skinned three last week and was gifted one more today.  Two of the three from last week were harvested by a friend and presented to me with the understanding that I would skin them and bring the meat to a BBQ in the near future.  I'm quite enthused about the sudden influx of small mammal specimen, seeing as I've got several deadlines looming nearby and I adore working with little furry creatures.



Here are the two which my friend caught.   I was impressed by what a good shot he is:  The first one got it right in the neck...







While the second took a shot right in the head.







I kept the bullet.  Or pellet, or whatever it's called.







This may seem cruel but the point is these creatures died instantly and that, to me, is humane.  The last thing it knew was scampering around happily and then-nothing.  I'll take nourishment from this kind of meat source over a mutated chicken with breast meat so abnormally large and cumbersome that it can't even walk five steps in its dark shitty pen, any day.



I marinated the meat in a mixture of Yuengling Lager, soy sauce and honey for 48 hours.  We threw it on the grill and let it cook for about twenty minutes.







The squirrel, plated.







I snatched a bit of the back-strap (most delicious cut of meat from deer, rabbits and squirrel) while it was being plated and bit into it, uncertain of what I'd taste.  It certainly smelled delicious, but this was a city squirrel.  It lived off of local compost so I guess you could say he ate well but...I was still wary.



The first taste washed all doubt away however, as salty sweet sizzling juiciness exploded in my mouth.  The mouth feel was tender and crisp.  Cries of "tastes like chicken!" could be heard from the kitchen as everyone took turns trying the new dish. Success!  I felt validated, I felt like I'd done something right.



I realise that to many people, eating squirrel is nothing new and such ado over this dish could read as discrediting a humble, naturally natural way of life or trying to make it a novelty.  I just want to express that to myself and my friends this was a completely new experience and a rewarding one at that.  I admire and aspire live the aforementioned way of life, where its just a day's work to harvest an animal and live off the land.



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