Of late, I’ve been obsessively watching every episode of every season of Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall’s River Cottage — Escape to, Return, Forever, Beyond, Summer, Fall, I am watching them all. All the while. I am simultaneously faux-ordering all his books on Amazon. (I can only faux order as I am brokeasaurus and the gal who keeps my books in order keeps me on a tight leash.)
Of course, despite now growing food in a winter hoop house in my backyard and also keeping backyard chickens (bees some year soon, swear!), there’s a reality to the fact that I live on a (only) slightly oversized Chicago city lot and the likelihood, at my age, that I will be able to be a proper downshifter (HFW has the most charming terms for things), is not likely.
But a girl can dream.
And I think I was dreaming this morning when I woke with the idea that since Rob Levitt is soon opening a sustainable, whole animal butcher shop, I could likely convince him to teach me how to butcher and use a whole animal. The idea that, as I continue to learn to make my own food, from scratch, I could, this year butcher a pig, half a cow (anyone want go in on some home-butchered meat?) , then a sheep this year.
I am fascinated by the idea, frankly. For one, I can’t (emotionally) stand offal. To be honest, I secretly feel like I am dying just a bit inside when a chef trots out his famous corned beef heart, luscious tripe casserole or, horrors, just a hunk of plain old sauteed WTF on a plate with a little parsley garnish. I have to eat it, it seems very nearly my job to do so, but I hate ever minute of it.
That said, I usually, technically, like it. I gobbled the head cheese at Lupa, even if I dug in because I was at lunch with a French chef who I am quite sure would have ridiculed me for demurring. And while I cringe at the thought of foie gras, I can admit, back when I was cooking professionally, to having my chef take “foie terrine” off my place list because I tended to eat too much of it when it sat on my station.
I’m a hypocrite, surely, but then again everyone is about something, usually they don’t admit it. But I would like to admit — and conquer — my hypocrisy.
But there is more to it than that. I do have rather intense “food issues.” While I ignore them if I am really strung out and upset (when Hawaiian Punch and a McDonalds hamburger meal seems to soothe me in a childlike way), I usually can’t manage to eat industrial food, unless I am a guest at someone’s house. The thought of the crap that goes into the chicken feed or and the horrendous conditions of livestock rearing in this country — seriously, it is no wonder we have so many asthmatic, diabetic and ADD-riddled kids, they are growing up eating chemical compounds that I swear are not acceptable for use in warfare by the Geneva Convention!
Maybe I exaggerate. But I was talking to Mike Lata this week and he, too, some food issues. He admitted to not being able to eat in airports. It made me feel better, considering that I get near panic attacks when the captive audience of an airport food court.
And this, really, is why I am trying so hard to grow my own vegetables, raise chickens, can my own prepared food and learn how to make ingredients, like fresh butter, ketchup and worchestershire sauce, sport peppers (for my bloody mary’s), whatever. And why I am thinking that procuring and just eating one pig, one half cow (really, who wants some cow from chez Ellen?) and one sheep this coming year could be a revelation.
OK, it could also make me a vegan. But Jimmy Choo doesn’t come in vegan yet, does it?
So, stay tuned, because Rob said, “Yes!”
P.S.: Uh, Grant? You out there? I need a wooden box made for curing a ham. Stat.