Anytime I visit my Dad, I brace myself for an inevitable on-slaught of meat into my diet. While I’ve never been one to shun a pork chop, Dad brings meat-eating to a whole new level. I say rack of lamb, he says leg of lamb. I say steak, he says whole prime rib. And the flesh of one animal is rarely enough; Dad’s favorite meals involve cooking what he calls the whole barnyard: something pork, something cow, something sheep. Maybe poultry… maybe. You get the picture.
As one might imagine, my visits to England usually involve at least one, if not many, trips to the local butcher.
I love them. You never know what you’re going to walk into when you arrive. They might be breaking down chickens, trimming roasts, or wielding a big saw over a huge piece of meat. You might see a whole pork belly, a pile of wings, or the backside of a lamb.
The place isn’t particularly big, there’s maybe standing room for a dozen customers, so there’s no avoiding the show while the butchers dance around one another behind the counter as they prepare each order.
A few years ago they gave me a tour of the place, bringing me through a meat locker where cow carcasses were hung up like suits, and showing me the upstairs work area where they grind all their leftover bits into sausage. You know a place is legit when they show you where they make the sausage.
This year, we decided to make a brisket for New Year’s. While this is a pretty normal cut in these parts, the Brits were intrigued, particularly when told we wanted the bones left in. One guy disappeared into the back, only to return with a quarter of a cow slung over his shoulder.
I love seeing these primal cuts, watching what part of the animal creates this roast or that, or how hard and long a butcher has to saw to get through a rib. There’s no denying that your food came from an animal, or that someone worked really hard to get it to your plate in top shape.
The brisket turned out beautifully, by the way. Rubbed in a secret blend of spices and cooked low and slow for more than 15 hours, the meat was fork-tender and delicious. Definitely worth a trip across the pond.