The first time I ate goat was about thirty years ago. It was a whole goat, roasted on a spit over an outdoor fire, and there was a lot of beer involved. All I remember is thinking, Hey, this doesn’t taste awful!
The second time I ate goat it was 1992, in Jamaica, and my only thought was that I might die from the searing heat of the scotch bonnet peppers. The source of protein was rendered inconsequential by the capsaicin—it could have been rabbit, rat, or rattlesnake and it would not have mattered.
The third time was another whole spit-roasted goat, about ten years ago at a party thrown by sculptor Zoran Mojsilov for writer Andre Codrescu, two slavic expats who had bonded over their accents. I scored a large slice from the goat’s right shoulder. It was astonishingly delicious. Zoran and Andre cracked open the skull and sampled the brain and proclaimed it “fantastic” for the camera crew documenting the event. Later, Zoran told me the brain was the most disgusting thing he had ever eaten. But the shoulder was wonderful—like spring lamb, but without the tallowy aftertaste.
The fourth time was in a restaurant in Reynosa, Mexico, in the company of Weslaco librarian Renee Dyer and her son. Renee told me her husband always ordered the braised goat leg, so that is what I did. It was delicious.
After that, I looked for goat on every restaurant menu. I had cabrito tacos in Oaxaca, goat vindaloo at an Indian restaurant in New York, and goat stew in a Moroccan restaurant in St. Paul. I never regretted it.
For most Americans, eating goat is a dubious proposition. First, you can’t find it at your local supermarket. Second, goat brings to mind Satan and strongly flavored goat cheese. When I mentioned to my neighbor that I was cooking goat one night, the expression on her face was the same as if I’d said I was dining on roadkill possum.
But in most of the world, particularly Asia and Africa, goat rules. It is one of the most widely consumed animal proteins on the planet. There are two main reasons for this.
1) Goats can survive in nearly any environment, with little care, and they are cheap to raise. Sheep, cattle, pigs, and chickens require a lot of human intervention to thrive. You have to feed them stuff you could be eating yourself, and because they’ve been so intensively bred for fast growth and large muscle mass (The chicken breasts you buy are about three times as “plump” as the ones your grandparents ate.) they are poorly equipped to deal with living independently. Goats are resourceful, and they will eat anything, including your fruit trees, boots, and lawn furniture.
2) Goats taste good. They get bonus points for being low in fat and cholesterol.
Last week I bought a small, grass fed, locally raised goat. Not the entire animal—it came without the skin, feet, head, and innards. The carcass weighed about thirty pounds. I split it with my friend Gary Egger, and we butchered it down to leg, shanks, shoulder, rack, loin, tenderloin, neck, and a few miscellaneous bits. It took about an hour, and we managed to do it without spilling any of our own blood.
Last night we had some goat friendly dinner guests. I cooked the leg and shanks—a slow braise with vegetables, adapted from a French “seven-hour lamb” recipe. I wasn’t sure that would be enough food, so I cut the rack into chops and sautéed them in olive oil, medium rare. Everything turned out perfect—and we had leftovers!
With the influx of Mexican, Asian, and African immigrants, goat meat is now the fastest growing category of consumable animal protein in the U.S. That’s good news for us goat lovers. There are now dozens of goat purveyors in the Twin Cities area. Even Costco is offering goat to its west coast customers.
I am now looking for another goat. If you have one, let me know.