Monday, April 18, 2011

Butchery - Taking Apart a Steer

Tomorrow, I, Sarah Gross, will be assisting in the butchering of a steer.  I am excited about this opportunity, nervous, horrified, grossed out, even fascinated at what I'm about to get into.  I set the date about a week ago, and have been preparing myself for what I am about to do.  Its not just me, I'm assisting someone who knows what they're doing...what a relief!

I've had a on and off relationship with meat.  My father is a hunter and a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, so I was raised on wild game, foul, deer, beef, chicken.  Ate it, no problem.  In my teenage years I went camping during the summers.  No meat was brought along while on trail, so I learned to be very satisfied with out any meat in the picture.  I hung out and cooked with the veggie kids at camp and at school, went to the co-op to pick out food, brought it to someone's house, cooked and ate.  One year at Thanksgiving asked for a portobello instead of the drumstick, and my father jokingly told me I wasn't his daughter anymore.  My grandma Maggie asked me what kind of fad diet I was on.  Traveling, I went to Italy with a group of friends in High School, everyone ordered their meals and I told the waiter, "vegetarian".  When the plates were delivered people got these beautiful plates of pasta and meatballs, of chicken... and I, I got a stinkin cheese plate.  At the time, Not impressed.  The rest of the trip I'd get gelato before sitting down to a meal.  College came and it was popular for girls to be vegetarian.  Someone during that year gave me a taste of their beef jerkey, and that's the day I went back to my meat eating ways. Currently, when others are cooking for me I tell them I'm demi-veg. I eat meat, just not a lot of it.  I live and cook with a vegan and have learned TONS about food from all the things one can do without using anything animal...(more about that when we discuss Vegan food). 

Back to the topic...

In preparation I've been researching high and low, (in reverse order,) about cuts of meat, butchering technique, the slaughter of animals at different ages, living conditions and their results on flavor, feeding the animals grain or letting them graise on pasture grass.  It really is about the care of the animal though its lifetime a good care will result in great flavor, texture, and aroma of its meat.
Its said that meat gave humans the extra boost which allowed our brains to develop, marking the evolution of  humanoids into humans. Meat also let humans thrive in cold areas of the world when the animals would eat the seasonal vegetation and the humans would eat the animal during the winter.  Bringing a bison, (ta-tonka), back to the tribe was reason for celebration, pride and gratitude.  At this point in time, our culture is so far from the animal, even far from the butcher shop that kids think chicken nuggets are part of the anatomy.  Well I'm about to dive in, elbow deep into something that is messy, bloody, but important for to see.  A steer, no heat, no feed, but the body of a freekin cow, come in and leave in parts. 

I look forward to tomorrow and hope I remember everything I see.  If all goes well I'll do this again, hopefully to the point where I get good at taking a part a steer.  This shop that's allowing me to participate is a great meat & fish joint in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood.  Clancey's has wonderful relationships with all their suppliers.  If all goes well it might be a lamb I take apart next week.  We'll see how I do.

Butchering stories are always welcome.  

Thanks for your time,

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