Kinfolk Magazine sponsored a series of dinners in various cities in June. They called it the Butcher Block Workshop on Fish Cleaning; Charcuterie; and Butchery.
I was thrilled to be invited to the one here in Boston at Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro. I find Chef Josh Lewin to be one of the most thoughtful chefs around (much like his predecessor at BHHB, Jason Bond). These guys are what I most admire, first and foremost delicious food, the rest is secondary isn't it? Secondary, but not unimportant.
Beyond delicious food, these chefs are quite studied. And, they are teachers, able to share, through their menus, and events like this, their knowledge. I always learn something new and taste something that is a revelation when I dine with Josh.
So it was on this hot day in June.
Through this event, we got learn about lamb, try our hand at certain cuts. We sampled a little simple piece of skirt, a butcher's cut on this size animal.
It's hard to look at a whole animal, without its life, without its skin and to think of it as food. But it is food and we choose lamb that has been given a good life and hopefully met a good death. It is through the art of butchery that a life becomes food. I have great respect for this ancient art.
The reverence for the life we're consuming is expressed at the Japanese table by the saying "Itadakimasu" - uttered before tucking into a meal.
Often mistranslated as "Bon Appetit!" but it doesn't mean the same thing - at all. The Japanese custom is to give reverence for the thing that gave its life for your meal.
I find butchering a quiet and peaceful act. I've not witnessed a killing beyond a lobster or an oyster, not sure I could. But I sure as hell respect it and wish more people did. Some find looking at this repugnant or difficult. It should not be easy. I find people who wrinkle their noses at food which reminds them it was once alive, more difficult than looking at the whole, skinned lamb.
Nasturtium & Grape Leaf Dolma - pistachio rillettes, challah, Jordanian hummus
Ab Gosht - potato, dried lime, saffron tomato sauce
Shushan Snow - Cilantro lime confiture, rye
Gelato - shared chocolate
Baynatha Khubz wa Milah - a Jordanian phrase, if memory serves, roughly translates to "now that we have shared a meal, we are connected."
A beautiful meal, a reverent experience of butchery, and a connection to food, to people I will not soon forget.
Thanks to Kinfolk and to the Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro for never ceasing to reveal something new in the every day experience of feeding ourselves and others.