Let me tell you the strange tale of how a Sherpa girl called Yackity ended up on a ranch far from home and got to the meat of the matter.
One evening, while Yackity fed her animals their usual treat of puffed maize, a cruel wind picked her up and blew her far away from her haven in the Tibetan mountains.
When Yackity came down to earth again, she found herself all alone in a land that reminded her of home. Pine trees, grassy fields, worn rocky outcrops, and many bright flowers felt familiar.
But other things looked strange. Tall whispery trees bent their branches down to a small stream that flowed past their roots. Prickly bushes along the fences drooped from the weight of red berries. Black birds with a blood-red patch on their wings flitted among the reeds.
“Where am I,” Yackity wondered aloud. As she looked around, she was surprised to see an old man walking toward her. What surprised her was his age. Where Yackity had come from, people retained their youth right up to their time of passing. Yet this old fellow seemed fit and spry… running through the fields, shouting “Clara! Micheline! Jasper!”
“Hello there!” Yackity waved, finding she could magically speak to the old man in his own language. “Who are you calling? And where am I?” she asked.
“You’re on one of the few Yak ranches in Canada,” the man replied. He spread his arms. “I was calling the animals so you could meet them. That’s why you’ve come, isn’t it?” He smiled. “My yaks roam across 750 acres of lush vegetation here. They nibble on willow when they are ill and feast on raspberries when they are pregnant. They need only half the food a cow eats and find most of it for themselves. I give them some hay in winter, though. Winters are cold here, but their shaggy hair and extraordinary body chemistry equip yaks to thrive without much shelter, regardless of the weather.”
“What’s so special about their body chemistry?” Yackity asked. “I kept yaks myself in my homeland and never heard of any super powers…”
“I could yack about that forever!” exclaimed the old man. “The main thing is their humungous red blood cells. When it’s cold, yaks breathe slowly, storing oxygen in them. When it’s hot they just breathe faster. Their body fat differs completely from other animals as a result.”
“That’s odd,” Yackity went. “The only meat I’ve ever eaten is yak. It doesn’t have much fat at all.”
“That’s right” said the ranch owner. “Yak meat IS lean. It has just half the calories of beef, the meat people eat most often here abouts. Yak meat has one-third less saturated fats, the nasty ones, and one-third more of the omega 3s and linoleic fatty acids, the ones that are good for us.”
“Oh,” said Yackity, speechless for once. “What I like,” said Yackity, licking her lips at the thought, ” is the delicate juicy flavor. We say yak meat is what keeps us Tibetans limber enough to climb the mountains until we’re well and truly old. If you have some around, I’ll make my favorite dish for you!”
The old man had a large supply of it in his freezer. Tune in next week to learn how Yackity made Sherpa’s pie, her favorite Tibetan recipe.
To this day you can still find Yackity on the ranch in Canada, thriving on yak meat and other treats from the land, while helping the old guy care for his animals.
Many thanks to Rosemary Kralik, for allowing me to post photos of her animals. Rosemary runs Tiraislin, a yak farm just west of Ottawa. She sells her meat from her farm and at the Ottawa Farmers Market. Her yak products are delicious and so good for you, too!
- Life-Ever-Lasting Sherpa’s Pie with Yak – Yackity’s recipe plus a neat chart comparing red meats.