As Rob Penn discusses in his book there is something very gratifying going to shops where people know what they are talking about, are proud of what they do and can discuss this with you on whatever level you want. While this is totally true of bikes it is perhaps even more so with food. When I was little I can still dimly remember going to small shops and hardware stores to buy things where my parents seemed to know shopkeepers by name and I looked on, knee high to a grasshopper in some dreamlike state of bafflement. Then of course they, like most people, gradually shifted to the supermarkets where they could conveniently get the weeks shop in one place and the visits to the butchers died out. I very much carried on in the same vein but over the last few years have been rethinking, again I suspect like many people, my relationship with food and where I buy it.
I’d been looking for a good butchers for a while and came across one last year while taking the kids to one of their Saturday morning activities. At the time I had no idea if it was good but the queue of people out the door and the list of freshly made sausages suggested to me that I could be on to a winner. I have to admit that I was fairly nervous going in, being so used to buying meat wrapped up in packages it was a bit daunting to start asking for particular joints etc, weird as that may sound. However the 2 butchers behind the counter were great, sensing my uncertainty they did what any could salesperson does and discussed what I wanted. Over the months as I’ve gone in they have been fantastic at educating me on the meat they sell, the quality of the produce and making sure I have the right meat for whatever I’m going to cook. They will always ask what I’m cooking, for how many, show me the meat they would suggest, cut it, weigh it, change it if I’m not happy, prepare it if I want (debone it or french trim the lamb rack for example) and discuss best temperature and cooking methods. They discuss all of this and prepare whatever is required despite the fact that there is always a massive queue. They told me early on – never be afraid to ask, they clearly love what they do and take any opportunity to talk about it. I think my decision to use them and keep going back was vindicated at Christmas as I was clearly not the only one who feels the same way – it took me just over an hour queuing out of the door of the shop to pick up the meat that I’d pre-ordered and fantastic it was too.
Today I picked up some beautiful beef for Sunday lunch and some gorgeous sausages – they had some great flavours on the go today but I went for a few mustard and a few white wine and garlic which went down a treat for lunch. So yes, it’s a bit out of my way but I know that I now buy less, but better quality meat from people who have a love and pride in what they do, long may it continue.