This happened around Halloween 2007. The recounting below is from an email message I sent to a few friends.
Warning: this is what happens when you marry a physiologist. I’ve pieced together the dialogue as best as I recall. As many of you know, Chris teaches anatomy and physiology part-time at the Community College. On Wednesday night, she came home from class with a large paper bag from Dorothy Lane Market — sort of the equivalent of Merchant of Vino, for the Ann Arborites in the audience — and was abundantly excited about the contents of the bag. She told me to guess what she had. I was thinking brownies, cake, or cookies. Maybe sushi. Hopefully something with chocolate. Chris reached inside the paper bag, and pulled out a large zip-lock plastic bag containing something about the size and shape of a football, except that it had blood vessels transversing its surface, and one region near the bottom was covered in yellow fatty tissue. You didn’t have to be a biologist to recognize it, though. I started to try to ask, “Is that a…?” Her reply came through an enormous smile, “Yeah, it’s a cow’s heart.” “What are you planning to do with it?” “We’re going to dissect it.” “We?”
“Zoe, Talia, Aaron, me. It’s ok. I’ll cut; they’ll watch.” Z&T spend a lot of time looking though Chris’s anatomy & physiology books, and are very proficient at identifying parts of the body (interior and exterior), so I figured they’d get a kick out of having biology lab in the house. But a few questions lingered. I had to ask, “What are you going to do with it now?” “Put it in the refrigerator.” “As in, the refrigerator holding the food that we eat?” “Sure. It’s from a butcher’s shop, so it’s not like it could be diseased or anything.” I acquiesced, and into the refrigerator the heart went. I later learned that one of Chris’s students decorated her garage with various animal parts for Halloween, and she obtained these parts from a butcher. Chris got the cow’s heart from her student. Apparently, the butcher made her (the student) sign a form agreeing, among other things, that she would not attempt to eat or serve this stuff. Are requests for these animal parts so frequent that butchers keep forms at the ready for customers to sign? That was two days ago. The heart, which was frozen, is thawing in our refrigerator. I think the dissection is scheduled for this weekend. I am, I have to admit, kind of excited to watch, and to see what the kids’ reactions will be. Maybe I’ll even get to cut a little bit.
Post-mortem: The dissection did happen. Aaron watched, while the girls poked, prodded, and cut the heart. Z&T had a great time. Pictures of the event exist. I’ll post them when I can.