Clear That Calendar

Photo by Kate Hill

Photo by Kate Hill

So you’ve bought the book, the cultures, the pink salt, the expensive free-range, organic, provenanced meats, and now you are contemplating the brine injectors, smoke house, wine-fridge curing chamber and all the other gizmos, equipment, toys and goodies your new found love of meat suggests to you. You’ve invested in all the paraphernalia, but haven’t you forgotten to invest in the most important thing–yourself & your skills?

In my last post I detailed my Carpe Diem moment. There was no second guessing, really. Sure, I did the whole, “Let me check my calendar” thing. Putting it off, hoping the decision would be made for me. Hoping that somehow, this thing I was burning to do would resolve itself, that funds would be available and that a window of time would magically open for me. And then I took a deep breath. I realized that, truthfully, there is “no time like the present.” That the opportunity offered to me, to travel to France and study with two masters of their craft, would not be available to me again for a long time and that it was now….or never. I made the time to do something that was important to me, and what I am about. I cleared my calendar. Not an easy thing to do with a family, two dairy cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep and a fire department who rely on me being around at least part of the time during the week. In order to take advantage of this “now or never” opportunity I had to bow out of two nights of a semi-important class, knowing I will have to work harder to make up the lost time. I had to miss an important business meeting for the fire department I volunteer with, and I had to screw up a podcasting schedule I am trying desperately to stick to. Not only was my schedule interrupted, but my ducking out for 10 days meant that everyone at home had to pick up the slack. I am truly blessed with a fantastic family.

Photo By Kate Hill

Photo by Kate Hill

Now, I went on this mission for a reason. To learn. To improve my skills and to gain as much information as I could in the short time I had. I went, so I could be better at what I love to do. Not only have my skills increased, but my confidence, my knowledge of farming and cooking practices increased, and I have a greater appreciation for different foods. I could easily have read  about most of this, watch a few YouTube videos, and followed a few blogs. But, nothing beats being there in person and observing all the little things, the nuances. I have stuffed miles of sausage casing, but nothing made me feel more like being in kindergarten than being corrected by Bruno Chapolard as I tired to operate their pneumatic stuffer while stuffing both Boudin Noir & Saucisson. For me, doing is being. I learned more than I have even come to terms with, and as I sort it all out, look through my notes and remember I realize over and over that my little jaunt was well worth it.

Now, here’s really what this post is about. I’ve been trying to promote the workshop at my farm that we created while I was in Gascony. I firmly believe that working with Dominique Chapolard—heck, even just observing how he works, moves and uses his skills—has made me better at what I do. I wanted to bring that back with me. Instead, I’ve brought Dom back, and Kate Hill too to help us all understand. I want to share my experience in whatever small way I can. But as I try to promote the workshop I keep getting people telling me that they’re “checking their calendar” or “thinking about it”, “Looking into the possibility”. But I am here to say, from experience, that as soon as those words come out, it is almost too late. Perhaps it is my fault.

Photo By Kate Hill

Photo By Kate Hill

Perhaps I am not getting the message across that what we are offering here is an amazing one of a kind experience. It’s not every day that we can get a French butcher & Charcutier to come to the US to divulge his skills and secrets. Perhaps I’m not getting across the value of what we are offering. Three for the price of one. Three experts together in one place for a full day workshop with food, beverage and unlimited question opportunity. Two farmers, Three cooks, really. Dominique and I know a bit about raising pigs. He, I and Kate all know a smidge about cooking with them and using every part. We could have a blast ourselves breaking down a pig and cooking up a storm. Why not join in? Paint yourself into the party and we’ve got an awesome event. Come the day before an I will be walking a few folks through taking the pig from trough to terrine, using the fifth quarter to make Boudin Noir and a few other treats. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough about all of this. My bad. So far, a few lucky people have taken the plunge. They will get to see and taste my passion—raising quality, mature, flavorful pork. They might even get to taste some duck or rabbit as well, just to balance things out a bit. As of this writing there are a very few places left. All of the emails I sent out, with the vague replies I’ve received will leave their writers chagrined when they don’t get a spot at the butcher’s table. Check your calendar now, then clear it and come join us. If you are at all inclined, then you should be here, with us.

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4 Responses to “Clear That Calendar”  

  1. 1 janis

    You descibed the “plunge” well. I feel so lucky to be coming to this amazing learning opportunity. Thank you thank you!

  2. 2 admin

    You are very welcome! Glad to have you along for the adventure!

  3. 3 Kate Hill

    Well said. I felt the same way, Neal, when Dominique asked me if could go to the states for the workshops. I didn’t have the time, the money or even the energy to think about it. Then you know what? I realized that there were a lot of people who would love to learn and would never make it to France. This was a perfect time to go and show. So I cleared my own calendar, Dominique asked his wife and brothers to cover for him, and I squeezed the money from a tight ‘need to fix the barn roof’ budget to by the tickets and take the chance we would feel these workshops. Please listen to Neal. Please come. Merci, Kate.

  4. 4 Mosaica

    I want to chime in with encouragement to make this event as well. I’ve been apprenticing as a farm butcher for some time now, and since I’m particularly interested in a nose-to-tail approach which turns the lesser-known parts into delicious charcuterie, I’ve read and seen pictures and a few videos about European seam-butchery techniques. This workshop is a brilliant opportunity to learn these techniques in a hands-on situation with genuinely amazing teachers. I’ll be there with bells on, and I hope you will too!

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