I like goats. They seem kind of friendly but self-contained, even though their eyes are kind of creepy. They've been domesticated for eight or nine thousand years. There and are more than 300 breeds of goat, used around the world for meat, hair, skin, and milk.
Goat is the most popular red meat in the world and it's amazingly "not bad" for you. According to the Washington Post, "Nutrition-wise, goat meat is a wonder. A similarly sized serving has a third fewer calories than beef, a quarter fewer than chicken and much less fat: up to two-thirds less than a similar portion of pork and lamb; less than half as much as chicken.”
When the Post ran "Goat, The Final Frontier," they noted, "In 30 short years, we have watched goat cheese morph from a high ‘ick’ factor to an outright cliché. Goat’s milk and goat butter have become supermarket staples, no longer relegated to health-food stores. Yet goat meat sits out on the horizon, with trend-spotters periodically informing us that it’s the next big thing."
Goat meat is not anywhere near a big thing in NW Indiana. I hear you can find it in Indianapolis and certain meat markets and restaurants in Chicago. But don't bet on it not showing up in your future.
I didn't always think about goats as food. My first experience with goats was kind of embarrassing. Back in the eighties, somebody fixed me up with a well-to-do fellow, and I wore these cute boots I'd seen advertised with some après ski wear. They were made out of long, shaggy goat hair. Just darling.
The boots made it through six inches of snow. So far so good. My date drove one of those classic little sports cars. Nice. Off we went down winter streets as heat poured from under the dashboard. Soon this awful odor began to fill the car; at first, annoying then stifling. For a while, we pretended we didn't smell anything. It was like flatulence in an elevator, but no doors would ever open.
Finally, I figured it out and tried to explain to this man I never met before.
"The goat, the beautiful long-haired mountain goat, which gave his (or her) life for these very chic and fabulous boots—which all the gals wear in Aspen, Sun Valley, and Stowe, Vermont—must have. . .well, the goat must have wee-weed on itself. And then the boots got snowy. And then when I got in your very hip car, the snow must have melted, and the dried up 'goaty smell' must have dissolved. And that's where the smell is coming from. And. . .I never smelled it in the store or. . . "Said fellow didn't smile. Nor did he ask me out again.
The next goats I encountered at a goat roast. I had visited some "back-to-the-land" people in Wisconsin, who had built their house inside a hill. They had planted a huge garden and kept penned-up goats for milk. Shortly before we visited, the goats escaped and ate their gardens, their winter food supply. They were so mad at those goats. They roasted them slowly over a roaring fire, drank wine, and sang songs. The goats were delicious.
No goats in my life for another decade, except maybe from the goat skins you drink wine from in Greek restaurants and oh, Billy Goat's Tavern in Chicago (which I hear is going to be torn down). For a while, I lived in Wisconsin and knew some women down the road who started a goat farm. They milked their goats for cheese, which they figured out how to make, and sold it locally. In the spring, when the new goats arrived (they weren't expecting to double their herd that year, but the billy goat "got out"), I went to watch the jubilant newly-birthed kids learn how to jump and skitter.
Then, I don't know. Cashmere is goat hair, right? Cashmere comes from the soft hairy undercoat beneath the thick, rough, neck hair of certain goats—originally the kinds of goats found way up in the Himalayan country of Kashmir. I knit a pair of socks out of it. Very expensive. And pashminas, shawls made from a fine type of cashmere wool are popular. Mohair is from the Angora goat. I've knit a jillion sweaters out of that stuff.
There's the ancient Greek nature god, Pan—half man/half goat. Does that count?
My husband ate cabrito (also called capretto), baby goat, in South America. A friend introduced us to the Ethiopian curried goat truck in Chicago. I use goat cheese in several recipes, serve it sometimes if I can get a cheese plate together.
Kid gloves! They're made with soft and delicate baby goat skin. When you treat someone "with kid gloves," you're acknowledging their fragility.
Then there's the expression, "I got his goat." Etymologists differ, but mainly they think this comes from the practice of keeping a goat in a stall with a highly-strung race horse. Goats tended to calm the horse. So, when you "get" someone's goat, you leave them irritable, without calming recourse. A "scapegoat" is the one blamed for the sins of others: the fall guy. The term is said to come from the ancient Hebrew and a Biblical story about bad goats being separated from good goats and sent away. Sometimes we just refer to "the goat" as the person called out to take the blame whether she deserves it or not.
Recently I visited my friend Barbara in Spokane, Washington, and in one of those "rhyming moments" she took me to visit her friends' goat farm, as I had taken her to visit my goat ladies in Wisconsin, years before. More on "Goats, the Final Frontier" next time.