So, I wrote on this blog a few days ago about the butcher project I am planning with Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder. I am super excited and squeamishly freaked out at the same time. But I did name the pig: Bessie. I name my chickens and they’re gonna end up in the pot at some point. Why not honor the pig with a name. In fact, I think all eating animals should be named. It gives them a bit of soul and “personness” that industrial animals can’t even hope for. It gives the eater just enough of a reminder that the meat was, in fact, an animal that gave it’s life.
I am also doing a lot of research on what I want to do with said pig. Rob posted a “project list” on his blog. Awesome start I used to as a base for the final plans, which seem to be taking a decidedly ancestral tone.
First off, blood sausage. The first time I encountered it was at Carlos’ when I was a cook there. Carlos love it, probably above all other foods, if memory served. It was made by our sous chef, a jerktastic guy from Toulouse who made fantastic cassoulet and salad dressing that I know of. I have no idea if his blood sausage was any good.
I imagine he didn’t make Irish-style blood sausage with oatmeal. And this is what I want to make. It is served with Irish brown bread and eggs and thick bacon rashers for breakfast (lunch or dinner). So, this is definitely going on the list. I am pretty sure that can go in the freezer so I’ll want to make and freeze that straight away.
Next on the list, Rob mentioned that step one is removing the kidneys, leaf fat and inner skirt and thin flank. Well, fancy this: I discovered that there is a traditional Irish dish called Skirt and Kidneys that’s served with mashed potatoes and boiled rutabaga. Paul Kahan, a lover of despised vegetables, turned me onto rutabega, so I might use a recipe from him instead of “boiled” and I make the best mashed potatoes on earth, according to my friend’s seven year old kid, Samara. So, I am definitely going to go with this dish for a little dinner that first night.
The fact that a super cutting edge, fancy pants butcher lists out step one of a pig butchery project and in that step is a centuries old dish is thrilling to me. It is what I wanted to learn, I think, when I thought about doing this project to begin with because I am not religious in any way — in fact, I abhor it — but do feel that there is a spirituality that can be brought to every day by respecting food traditions and, well, food itself.
So many dishes were created out of habits and need the seasonal repetitions of preparing certain foodstuffs gave a cadence to life while also connecting one to the earth. And I think we all forgot that in the age of Lean Cuisine and fast food. I mean, it is hard to really engage in noticing our food system is whacked if one eats a microwaved hot pocket. The tradition of food is lost and, really, I think a good portion of the spirituality of life is lost with that. Not just for foodies.
In fact, I think understanding that very fact is a problem for non-foodies more than foodies.
Another thing I’d like to plan on for my pig butchery adventure: white pudding. It is made with liver, lungs and heart. Seriously, I don’t want to eat sauteed pig heart. Really. I don’t care how good you make it, any of you out there. But I would try the white pudding as it seems innocuous. Sorta a The Sneaky Chef approach to offal, sure, but whatever, it is not like I am putting vegetables in brownies — this is a historic recipe with centuries under its belt.
Finally, I discovered traditional Irish brawn, which I think can be preserved under fat and looks enough like rillettes to possibly make me forget it isn’t. I was thinking I would pot up the brawn in little French terrine jars and stack them in my basement pantry.
I have lots more research to do, but I am getting a little excited. Even for offal. Which makes me think Rob is making his point after all.