During the International Culinary Association's annual conference in Portland, I was fortunate to attend a wonderful Saturday session entitled "Meat Revival" hosted by the Art Institute of Portland's Culinary School. With heritage breed pigs from Sweet Briar farm, a demo of butchering techniques comparing French and American styles, Michael Ruhlman moderating, and charcuterie to sample - you might say I was in hog heaven.
Looking around the packed room of culinary professionals, rapt and ravenous for the information, techniques, explanations made me confident that my book Pig Tales: a Love Story has a market. We're seeing more home cooks, chefs, food enthusiasts asking for recipes, for demonstrations and for real hands-on training.
In case you're wondering if how long ago this conference was, it was the end of April and yes, I have discovered the one downside of having a digital camera. You are apt to shoot too many photos. You have the opportunity to shoot nearly limitless shots without worry about the cost of film. If you're in a hurry and taking notes, you don't even have to stop to erase bad shots from your memory card. You can shoot away and worry about it later! When you have time.
For me, it was a dual dilemma of being in my dream class with a clean memory card. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many photos I shot in this class. This is my way of begging your indulgence with the delay in posting here. See, I've been going over lots of photos from that day. Lots and lots of photos. Here's five in a row of Kate talking which one is the best? This one, or that one? That one or this one? And on and on.
So I have to get more judicious. But this Saturday morning pig fest was no time to start. My gratitude to Camas Davis of PDX Meat, the brand-new Portland Meat Collective, to Dave and the AI staff for hosting, to Sweet Briar for providing the pigs (a Yorkshire cross I believe), Michael Ruhlman for being a great moderator and to our butchery teachers, Dominique Chapolard with his friend and translator Kate Hill, and Adam Sappington Chef/Owner of Country Cat restaurant in Portland. I don't know if the overalls are his daily attire but between them and the berêt you certainly wouldn't lose sight of who was who!
Olympic provisions joined our hosts in offering finely crafted charcuterie, and fine OR wine from Pudding River rounded out this true breakfast of champions. Move over Wheaties, there's a new game in town. The plate was amazing and I cannot get the jerky off my mind.
What I was most struck by is the skill, the quiet grace of the movements of both butchers, really. Their methods were quite different, even to an untrained eye (they even started at different ends of the pigs.) I kept thinking of ballet, the delicate movements, the grace and all the discipline and strength that is behind it all. It was the highlight of the conference and one of the best things for me was the opportunity to spend a little time with Dominique and Kate talking pig. What a treat! I can't wait to get to Gascony and learn more, eat more and enjoy more with these amazing folks.
At the end of the demo during Q&A I asked where the women butchers are. To my great delight there were TWO in the room! Camas trained with Dominique in France and Tray Satterfield (in the fedora in the photos) spoke eloquently about her epiphany and the nearly spiritual path that led her from her career in Finance to her life's work as a butcher. I got to visit Tray at Pastaworks and hope to interview her separately here shortly. She is the inspiration behind my next post on Good Eater. Stay tuned!
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Ed note: Here's the Good Eater link: