I think all of this started on a whim. A series of small, imperceptible choices that led me 3000 miles away from home, in an unfamiliar town, in a butcher shop. It was never something that I had set out to do. I did not dream as a little girl of cutting up animals. It didn’t happen that way.
It was just a series of choices. And not big ones, like picking up your life and moving it across the country. It wasn’t even really the ones about eating, like where my meat was coming from or how I was cooking it. It was a series of those little choices that didn’t even feel like choices. Reading Food & Wine magazine cover to cover. Reading a small insert of recommended reads at the back of the magazine. Ordering a book on Amazon.
Those are the choices in life that make a difference. It’s not when you make the big decision, it’s all the miniscule and totally unimportant decisions you make before that. And so it was that with one simple e-mail I had set in motion 48 hours wherein I had to decide if I wanted to be a butcher or not.
And I decided sure, why not?
So here I am in Kingston, New York apprenticing in a butcher shop called Fleisher’s. Maybe you’ve heard of it and maybe you haven’t. They’re doing something exciting and something that’s both old and new at the same time. They’re about the same stuff I’m about, getting back to roots, and maybe re-imagining them at the same time.
This experience entails learning how to be a butcher the way our grandfathers were butchers. A whole, or halved, or quartered animal full of unfamiliar terrain comes into a shop and then it goes into a case familiar and ready to eat. And there are a thousand and one steps in between, and that’s what I’m learning. How to take something whole and make it into parts we all know and love.
I want to share some of this experience with you. There will be a lot of meat recipes coming up and maybe even some tutorials. I want you to get to know your meat, too. I’m certainly acquainting myself with it in a whole new way.
I have not always been a girl who wanted to be firmly rooted in the West. As a little girl, at about age 5, I developed a character of sorts. Sometimes I walked around with a full blown New York accent and would be referred to only as “the little girl from the big apple”. I was convinced that I had been born in the wrong place. People asked my mom if I was from New York. I begged my parents to move. It was a little embarrassing.
And then. Then I grew out of it. And I loved my West and only wanted to move deeper into it. I am the rare breed that loves the vast openness of the plains to the East of the Rockies. Sprawling grass and hill for miles laid out like golden fabric billowing in the wind. I love the strong jut of the Tetons and the lazy lull of the Rockies. I love how lush the Sonoran Desert is during the spring and how sunsets look in the dusty Southwestern air. I love the draws of Wyoming where the desert and the plains come together and make these vibrant crevices of life. I love all of the West and it all feels like home, even if I do play favorites sometimes.
This website is my love letter to the West, both its physical attributes and those things that it stands for.
But now, Headed Out West is going back East. In the coming week the man and I will pack up the car, the cat, and the kitchen and embark on an adventure that will end in upstate New York where I will learn to be a butcher. And not just any butcher. As always, I’m focusing on sustainability and the humane treatment of your food before it gets to your plate. A lot of the story will unfold in coming posts and I hope that my knowledge can be passed directly to you. It’s important to learn about, know about, and love meat. And this will, in some ways, be our journey together. In the mean time, though, expect craziness, pictures from the road, and even more recipes.