I love meat. I crave it. Fillet steak, crusty on the outside, bloody within, sprinkled with salt, dolloped with béarnaise, golden pommes frites piled alongside. Or fine-sliced rump, trickled with soy and smothered with coriander.
How about plump pork sausages, bursting out of their skins, or lamb shanks, cooked long and slow until sweet flesh becomes meltingly tender and falls from the bone, revealing the marrow to be sucked out.
From glistening Dickensian joints to humble chops and versatile mince, encompassing black pudding, bacon, liver, brains and kidneys along the way … I love it all.
Even the children’s party cheerio, to be dunked in tomato sauce (for what other reason would one bother to sprog after all, if not for the excuse to eat cheerios?).
Skin, gizzards, guts, gristle, fat, sinew, blood, flesh and bone. Don’t be squeamish – it’s all good.
I read somewhere recently the food nazis were doing away with a time honoured practice – they’ve banned butchers from giving saveloys to kids. Excuse me? Can they do that? It’s as much a part of Kiwi childhood as eating hokey pokey icecream and learning to bodysurf. My little friend Hana is nine now, too grown up for free savs, but she used to love them, just as her three-year-old brother Jake still does and just as I did when I was a toddler.
Those childhood visits to the butcher and his gift of friendly cold savs, offered with an equal measure of scandal, inspired a lifelong passion for meat in me … and a taste for scurrilous gossip, but that’s another story …
I say lifelong passion, but of course, I went through the typical teenage vegetarian phase. That only made me appreciate meat even more when I began to eat it again, in fact, it’s those lean years I have to thank for setting me off in pursuit of as much carnivorous knowledge as I could cram in.
Newly flesh-eating, I was determined to learn how to use every last scrap of whatever beast I was eating – it was a quest which was to see me boiling pigs’ heads for brawn when I couldn’t even bring myself to look at them.
And so my love affair with the neighbourhood butcher was rekindled, enjoined with the battle to save him from extinction (cos they’re always men).
A good butcher is a cook’s best friend. A culinary taonga if you will. He’ll trim the fat from your chops (not too much mind), steer you towards the specials, phone you when he has a particularly tasty bit of well-hung venison out the back. He’ll tunnelbone a chicken, mince up the stuffing for the turkey and save you the choicest bits of gossip.
Treasure yours. Cosset him. Feed him your own titbits of tasty tattle. Take your kids along. If you don’t have kids, borrow someone else’s. Don’t lose your butcher to the overreaching plastic prepackaging of the all-powerful supermarkets. He’s very likely to be a national treasure.