Problem: I Inherited a Chunk of Frozen Venison

Our advice columnist to the rescue

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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.

 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/whats-your-problem/309540/