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Bill Buford goes whole hog into Tuscan cuisine

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Bill Buford has written one of the best articles I’ve ever read for this month’s New Yorker – Carnal Knowledge: How I Became a Tuscan Butcher. Part personal journey borne of a desire to commiserate with the reality of our grocery-store fed lives, part travelogue of rural Tuscany, it’s a masterpiece.

For me, meat wasn’t a cause. I just believe people should know what they’re eating. At the Greenmarket, you overheard discussions about fertilizers and soils and how much freedom a chicken needs before its eggs are free-range. Wouldn’t it follow that you’d want to know your meat? I had brought home a freshly killed animal—better raised than anything I’d find at a store—and, in preparing it, I was hoping to rediscover old-fashioned ways of making food. This, I felt, could only be positive. But I was sure getting a lot of shit for it.

And this was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time –

When we made sausages at the butcher shop, people often ate the meat raw, straight from the bowl, which—I don’t know, call me old-fashioned—just seemed wrong. But it illustrated an attitude toward good meat: if you’re lucky enough to get it, don’t mess with it. The recipe the shop used (to the extent that one existed—everything was pretty much eyeballed) followed the same if-it’s-good-don’t-touch-it philosophy, and was three parts meat to one part back fat (from the top of the pig), plus garlic, pepper, and salt: that was it. You mushed it together until it became an emulsified pinkish goop, which you then stuffed into a cannister that looked like a giant bullet. At one end of the cannister was a spout: this was where you slipped on the casing, about twenty feet of pork intestines, which the meat mix went into. (The task of getting the intestines onto the spout, which was not unlike putting on a condom the length of an African serpent, involved a universally recognized hand movement, and predictable Tuscan jokes were made at my expense.)

Links: New Yorker Carnal Knowledge: How I Became a Tuscan Butcher, Q & A with Matt Dellinger. Buy the new book from Amazon, Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

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Category: literary pretensions

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