News Revealed…and a New Segment!

We’re back from Chicago! More on that later, but for now I wanted to reveal the good news I alluded to a while back…

 

Now that all of the official people have been alerted, I am free to announce that my husband, The Butcher, has taken a position at a new up-and-coming grocery chain set to open in August. This is a big deal because this store is going to be the absolute bomb, very similar to a Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/Central Market. He’ll be working a meat case that includes very diverse items from bison and grass-fed beef to snake and camel.

 

Y’all. He’ll be selling people camel meat. In Ohio. Get excited.

 

This is very exciting for us because, not only is it exciting to be involved with new trends in the food scene, but it is a HUGE honor to be offered a position. They’ve selected only the top butchers in the entire region.

 

Did I mention that my husband has only been in the butchering program since August? Oh, and he’s only been out of the apprenticeship since May?? Oh, and that he’s brilliant beyond brilliant??? And that he’s my husband????

 

I’m just a little bit proud. No big deal.

 

I think what’s more exciting about this is that he’ll be employed by a company that is ideologically very much in line with how we feel about food. We’re passionate about food education and about knowing where our food comes from. We feel strongly that people need to remember that meat actually comes from animals, a sacrifice we’re very grateful for. We’re also passionate about cuts of meat, what part of the animal they come from, how that translates to tenderness or toughness and how that translates to cooking methods.

 

Ultimately, we feel that, as a society, we take things for granted. That to so many people meat is just meat, food is just food, days are just days. As a couple, we’re trying to instill in our children (and ourselves) that even the most commonplace things have intrinsic beauty and value. Enjoyment of these commonplace things can be significantly increased when we take the time to learn about them, appreciate them, and to use them properly.

 

It’s about meat and so much more.

 

And that is why I’m excited to announce a new segment on Oh Bless Your Heart. Once a month, I’ll be featuring a guest post by my husband primarily about getting the most out of your local butcher shop, but a smattering of other food related things as well. Because he’s not extremely confident in his writing abilities, he’s decided to call it “Butchering the Blog,” but I’m pretty sure you’ll find his writing ain’t too shabby. Anyway, here goes for our first installment! Leave the man some love and tell us what you think!

 

 

 

Top rounds being cut into London Broils…just a typical day at work for the hubz.

 

The world of meat cutting is a rather peculiar place.  The more I interact with both the employees and the public the more I realize there is a huge gap between the two.  This divide between butcher and meat purchaser has, like any relationship, caused a serious misunderstanding on both sides. Butchers are a grumpy lot, I know this first hand.  Many of them have worked in the industry since they were teenagers. Just for reference, the lightest box of meat we see on a pallet is no less than 50 lbs. and these 70 year old dudes regularly unload two full pallets a day, which consist of 15-20 boxes per pallet. They’ve spent decades in a job that has cast off by the public as nothing more than a glorified ground meat salesman.  While they may be grumpy, they love the job with a passion I have never witnessed in any of my other endeavors, and there have been many.

 

While they may be surly old men, some of them are masters of their trade.  While I was an apprentice I had the great fortune of working with a man named Bob who had cut meat for 45 years and the cuts he produced were true works of art.

 

Beef Florentine Pinwheels

 

Meat cutting isn’t as easy as it looks. People assume that anyone can do it, but the difference between a masterfully cut piece of meat and a poor quality one is like comparing Monet to Ed Hardy. It’s like if you went to the kitchen, grabbed some bologna and white bread and then cut your sandwich in half with a power saw. I’m pretty sure you’d end up with a mangled mess. Maybe somebody could do that easily, but not without practice. Just to be sure, maybe you should try it.

 

But don’t really do that, it would be a waste of bologna.

 

What I’m getting at is that there are a few people at YOUR local grocery stores who still view meat cutting as the art form and trade that it really is.  Do yourself a favor and seek these people out. They can be tough to sort out and intimidating at times, but if you really pay attention to the details of the work being produced you will be able to spot even fat trimming on steaks, cuts of meat displayed in a visually stimulating fashion and a passion for the trade. You just have to build up the courage to speak with them. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Unfortunately, this is a “while supplies last” kind of deal.  Every day we see more and more prepackaged meats flooding the shelves. These things are evil and must be destroyed.  I mean we don’t even cut fresh lamb or veal anymore! It’s a thing of shame.  Anyway, get to know your butcher. The good one. The one who doesn’t hand you something pre-cut off the main line or out of the service case when you need something really special. Find the guy who goes in the cooler and gets you the best piece of meat he can because it actually means something to him as well.  These artists may not exist forever so enjoy their work while you can.

 

A partial view of his dedication.
Photo courtesy of limelightphotography.com. Tattoo by Doug Kulbis at Voodoo Monkey, Cleveland, OH.

Seven Things: Part 13

I haven’t done a Seven Things post in a while and I wanted to squeeze one more in this week before we jet off on our anniversary getaway and eat our weight in Chicago Dogs. Anyway, I’m cheating and writing this early, but scheduling it to post later…cause technolgy’s cool like that.

 

 

1. As I write this, this is happening:

“The cyclone had set the house down gently, very gently – for a cyclone…” L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

 

 

 

2. And while we’re on the subject of Maggie, here are my favorite things she’s said recently:

-Overheard from the other room, “Oh, Mama! We got a little action here!”

-Also overheard from the other room, “Mama, everything’s under control…”

-About a flower she picked, “It smells like happiness!”

-And last, in a recent conversation Mags said, “Mama, you’re beautiful and I’m beautiful,” to which I replied, “Yep. And what do you think makes someone beautiful?” The brilliant girl just said, “God.”  Girl preaches the truth.

 

 

 

3. Mags and I also filled out this Father’s Day questionnaire for her Daddy.

Do note that his favorite food is “lettuce,” and also that they’ve never played golf together.

 

 

 

4. And in the spirit of Father’s Day, I got a great photo of the clones.

Lily LOVES wearing sunglasses…and kitty masks, which I will attempt to capture for a later post.

 

 

 

5. Guys. I’m reading Wendell Berry. I know, I know…I’m way late to the party on this one, but seriously everything I pick up that he’s written is glooorious! I’m reading “The Art of the Commonplace” and “The Country of Marriage.” His poetry is out of control. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a poet whose works I could just sit down and read. 

 

“And I have a persistent music in me, like water flowing under ice, that says the warmer days will come, blossom and leaf return again. I live in that, a flimsy enclosure, but the song’s for singing, not to dread the end.” 
-From “Zero”

 

So. Good.

 

 

 

6. And speaking of things that’ll make you want to raise chickens…I got my first issue of Mother Earth News in the mail the other day!

 

I’ve got crazy hair, ’cause I’ve been mulching/gardening/hanging laundry on the line…you know, just harnessing my inner pioneer here on the homestead.

 

 

What this really means is that we’re officially hippies and that I’ve officially turned into my father…just with more hair and less mumbling. Or at least more hair.

 

 

7. By the time you all read this we’ll be in Chicago (!!!), so look for updates at some juncture… Have a great weekend, errabody!

 

Love,

Mary Susan

Things That Make Me Happy…Like, Really, Really Happy

So, we’ve had a pretty exciting day around here…news to come, but I won’t spill yet since the news isn’t entirely mine. (Intrigued?? Suspicious that this is a cheap ploy to drum up readership?? All in due time…mwhuahahaha!)

 

Anyway, good news always makes me think about good things and I just spontaneously started making a list of things that make me incredibly happy.

 

Here they are, in no particular order.

 

Things That Make Me Incredibly Happy:

New Beginnings…and the fact that each day contains millions. No really, millions.

-Musicians who play tambourines.

-Babies who play tambourines.

-Playing the tambourine.

Pardon the lazy eye. We’re going for realism here.

-Psychedelic nail polish – Today I’m wearing “Kook a Mango”, proof that I’m taking time for myself, hooray!

-Journals.

-Opportunities for challenge and change.

-Proper QWERTY typing, a love developed due to my father’s obsession with Mavis Beacon CD-ROMs and a junior high keyboarding teacher who made us do wall squats when we weren’t good. True story.

-Folksy hipster music. Right now I’m listening to a glorious playlist including, but not limited to:

  • Mumford and Sons
  • The Head and the Heart
  • Of Monsters and Men
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Bryan John Applby

Check ’em all out so you can be cool like me…or just so’s you’ve got some good tunes at your disposal.

-Ripening tomatoes and growing plants in our little backyard farm.

Hello, there, my little red friend!

 

Baby basil leaves!

 

-Reading to Maggie. She’s been toting around my copies of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so I decided to try reading one to her, just to see if we’re ready for the next level of book lovin’. We finished an entire chapter before her nap, so hooray for that!

-And finally, this picture, courtesy of our sweet friend, Giancarlo:

This was at Lil’s 1st birthday celebration yesterday. Laaarve!

 

 

What are some things that make you indescribably happy? I wanna know!

Gloriousness

Some things are just good for the soul. I submit that using a clothesline is one of those things.

 

I can honestly testify that since the installation of my clothesline, my morale has improved tenfold. There’s just something incredibly satisfying about the act of using a clothesline. The time spent outside, the art of a neatly arranged line, the smell…everything about it is wonderful.

 

We’re doing our best to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Yes, I know, “sustainable” is one of those obnoxious words that gets thrown around by hipsters and politicians to sound cool and get votes. However, Vin and I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the kind of life, education, and world we want to give our girls and sustainability is a huge part of our vision. We want to be as self-sufficient as possible, to raise children who know where their food comes from and who take an active role in growing/preparing it, to live as simply and frugally as possible, and to show our children that the world is their classroom. We want to encourage Mags and Lil to become life long learners…and to jump off their soap boxes as soon as they realize they’ve gone on a ridiculous tangent that leaves blog readers utterly comatose.

 

I digress. Back to the clothesline. Here are my top tips for using one…Go install one. Do it now!

 

 

 

  • Check the weather! I love this aspect of drying outside. It forces me to be more in tune with the weather, thus planning our day better. Plus, sometimes I like to risk it because I enjoy the high I get from racing a storm to get the sheets in. What can I say? I live on the edge, people.
  • Hang like items together. That way, A.) your line looks all snazzy so your neighbors can look at it and say, “How nice that clothesline looks! Methinks I shall install one, as well, and be in the Cool Clothesline Club! I shall also make club jackets and then hang them from said clothesline! Huzzah!” and B.) it makes life easier for when you…
  • …fold your clothes as you take them down. This step has singlehandedly caused me to do more laundry and to actually, gasp, put it away! It’s ridiculously efficient and makes me happy in my heart where Jesus lives.
  • Enjoy the spectacular smell of line-dried clothes. Enjoy those clothes longer since they’re not going through the wear and tear of dryer use. Do be careful with colors, though, as the sun can make things fade…
  • …including poo stains from cloth diapers! Know that I’m not lying when I tell you that I legitimately watched poo stains disappear from Lily’s diapers. It was kind of like those Magic Nursery Baby dolls (I had the twins because my mom and dad loved me so much and ohmygosh they came in a wearable preggo tummy that kicked and had a heartbeat and was incredibly bizarre now that I think of it.) who had that heart on their face that would fade with warm water only it was poo and the sun. Aaaanyway, white as snow, people. White. As. Snow.
  • Hang clothes from the part that will be least observed when worn. In other words, shirts from the bottom, skirts from the waist, etc.
  • Put towels in the dryer on air fluff for about ten minutes prior to hanging so they’re fluffy right off the line.
  • Dread the winter, which will ruin all your fun. Le sigh.