Yesterday was my second encounter with whole pig butchery. The first was about a year before I enrolled in culinary school while taking a weekend butchery course at The Pantry via the Seattle Meat Collective. It was through a series of these courses (sausage making and charcuterie as well as pig, lamb, and beef butchery) that lured me into the culinary world full-time.
Pig butchery was as is, by far, my favorite, not only because pork is flavorful and delicious, but because of the immense possibilities of the resulting product - bacon, pork belly, coppa, salame, mortadella, chops, loin, sausages, jamón, speck, prosciutto, hocks, chitterlings, chicharrones, guanciale - almost all parts, including the skin, fat, and intestines - are usable and very little gets wasted.
As with my first class, both styles of butchery were demonstrated, American and European, one on each half. The main differences in style are as follows, both focused on catering to their respective customers based on cultural preferences.
In the bottom left corner photo, American-style sub-primal cuts are displayed in background and European in the foreground.
Exactly a week to the day and I’m still gutted over Anthony Bourdain’s passing. This one, especially, is a tough one to shake. I’ve done a ton of reflecting over the last week and it’s been difficult to put into words what already hasn’t been said about this incredible man - one who I deem as one of my culinary and literary heroes, despite the fact that in writing, he thought I was too old for a professional kitchen and that culinary school is a waste of time and money:http://ruhlman.com/2010/09/so-you-wanna-be-a-chef
We’ll see about that, Chef. I hope to prove you wrong someday.
I guess you could say I’m a bit of a fangirl - having consumed nearly all of Bourdain’s published works and every episode of A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, The Layover, Parts Unknown - yearning to travel to the same cities and towns to eat where and what Bourdain ate. As soon as I was able to afford international travel, I’d plan trips and outline food itineraries straight from Bourdain’s programs. The best meal I had in Havana was based on an episode of his on Cuba where he raves about a then little-known spot called Santy Pescador. Caroline and I searched for this inconspicuous restaurant in a residential area located 20 minutes outside Havana, feeling a bit like Bourdain ourselves in our culinary quest as we navigated through children playing in the streets and inquired with their mothers, who were busy hanging their freshly washed laundry out to dry, for directions to a restaurant with no signage in a neighborhood with no posted street names or numbers.
To me, Anthony Bourdain was more than just a TV show host and writer – he was the creator of a roadmap to becoming someone who moves through a world of connections and contradictions with grace, curiosity, and respect. At a time when the word “globalist” can feel tinged with elitism and carries with it an almost negative connotation outside coastal cities and urban areas, Bourdain gave a new meaning to it entirely as well as a reason to believe that a more generous, open, and delicious world is not only possible - it’s waiting for us to go out and find it.
Every man or woman who dies can continue to live on within us. Be like Bourdain. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
As of yesterday, I’m 2/3 of the way to finishing my Culinary Arts degree.
So far, the journey from avid home cook to professional cook has been an incredibly humbling learning experience with more than a few bumps, cuts, scrapes, and burns along the way. I’ve had to unlearn old home kitchen habits but have picked up some invaluable, life-long techniques and skills in return - progressing and feeling comfortable enough in a professional kitchen environment to earn a spot on the line at one of Seattle’s most iconic farm-to-table restaurants.
To borrow from the philosophy of my previous employer, it’s still only day one. In this profession, one never stops learning. There’s always new ingredients, trends, techniques, as well as better, faster, and more efficient and exciting ways to do things in the kitchen - this is what inspires me and keeps me going.
I still don’t know what I’ll do after I finish the program and I’m okay with that. For once in my life, I don’t have a plan (a trait previously anathema to me given my personality) but, always, lots of ideas. In the meantime, I’m comfortably content with soaking in new food knowledge and honing my skills and moves in the kitchen on a day-to-day basis. What I do know is that there’s no turning back now - food is life - and I look forward to what the future holds for food as well as my place and impact in the chain.