Several times a year I pack up my knives in my damask canvas knife bag, throw on a bandana and spend the day covered in gore. Some people dream of running away to join the circus. I dream of running away to become my truest form, the Diva Butcher.
I don’t remember ever being around butchery when I was young. Our farm produced beans, corn and tomatoes. Other than our pets, the only animals we had were bees and those were only for a short time. We ate meat, but we bought it at the store.
My butchery obsession started in about 2008 innocently enough with watching YouTube videos of how to gut a turkey, but I remember teaching myself how to break down a chicken based on a cooking show I watched on PBS and the diagrams in my mom’s copy of Joy Of Cooking when I was a kid. By 2009 I had a patch of unemployment in which I threw myself in to working on farms owned by my friends and their friends in trade for fresh food. At this point I’ve helped butcher chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, and sheep. By now I’m hooking other people in and showing them the ropes. If butchery is a drug, then call me a pusher.
There’s a Buddhist parable about a butcher, which I’m having trouble finding right now, but the basic idea is that when a butcher reaches mastery of his art it looks like he is doing no work at all. Yesterday, while I was teaching someone else to butcher a friend of mine said, “Its not at all obvious based on what she’s doing, but this takes a lot of physical strength.” And that’s what I think I like about it so much. It is something I can do to show up as a total badass and if there’s something I like its being able to show up as awesome. [Edit: I couldn’t find the parable because I was looking in the wrong tradition. It is a Taoist parable.]
Oh, and butchers get the leftovers. Livers, hearts, fat, gizzards, necks, testes, whatever other people don’t want, we get to keep. I made the joke yesterday that anyone who thinks I’m heartless should look in my freezer since I have several in there. Yesterday I got to bring home the backs and giblets from three turkeys, plus a bag of testes. Today I took the copious meat and fat off the backs, froze the meat for sausage, the bones and necks for later stock making, the giblets and testes for future experiments, and I took the fat and put it into a pot for rendering.
That pot is full of liquid gold, turkey schmaltz and turkey Chicharrón, aka butcher treats for later usage.
BTW, one of the things you’ll never see in your store bought turkey’s giblet bag is how giant your Tom’s testicles are. Click here to see the gory details.