Advice November 2013

Problem: I Inherited a Chunk of Frozen Venison

Our advice columnist to the rescue
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Q: My beloved uncle recently died, and his son, my cousin, called the other day to say that one of my uncle’s dying wishes was that I take possession of, and then eat, a large hunk of venison that he had frozen and kept in storage for either several months or several years (my cousin wasn’t sure). My uncle’s wish was that the venison be shipped to me, but the logistics of transporting a large piece of deer meat from northern Minnesota to Miami, where I live, seem complicated and expensive. Also, even if I do go to the trouble of having it shipped, am I morally obliged to actually eat it, to accede to my uncle’s last wish?

— K.J.,
Miami, Fla.

Dear K.J.,

There is an ancient Chippewa expression I once learned from the side of a U‑Haul truck: “If your honorable uncle has entered the world of the ancestors, but has left behind his venison, then you must cross many lakes to possess that venison, because the spirit of your uncle will not find rest until that venison is turned into teriyaki-flavored jerky.” I think that’s how it goes. Also, it might be Latvian, not Chippewa. But you get the point: What choice do you have? This is a dying man’s last wish.

Unless, of course, it isn’t. Are you sure your cousin isn’t playing some sort of venison-based prank on you? Maybe he’s the one who is supposed to eat the meat? If your cousin follows up on this demand by letting you know that your uncle also wanted you to have his bound volumes of National Geographic, and his extensive collection of paintings depicting sad clowns playing golf, then it’s probably safe to conclude that he’s messing with you.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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