Take a moment and imagine small town America before ugly strip malls and giant box stores polluted the landscape. See happy healthy people greeting their neighbors as they walk to those wonderful, small family owned shops.
Clutching your mom’s hand you visit the butcher, who knows your name and gives you a big smile. You mom says she wants to have a pork roast for dinner – the butcher asks for how many people? “Just six” she says. The big walk-in fridge is opened and you see giant hanging slabs of meat – half a cow, a whole pig – is that goat?
He pulls down the pig carcass and brings it to the giant wooden shopping block. Like a sculptor wielding sharpened knives and a dancer moving to the crack of the cleaver, the butcher magically creates the perfect pork roast just for you. Wrapped in white butcher paper and tied with twine, the gift of good eating is ready to carry home. Hmmmm – no porcine growth hormones, no chemical enhancements just farm grown – the way nature intended it – meat.
Growing up in Flagtown, NJ – when the area was still rural/agrarian – I actually played in fields that held cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and lots of piles of @#$%. My grandmother taught us how to butcher and clean poultry and game. Our little village even had a butcher shop. Aniello De Scala moved from Brooklyn to Flagtown long before I was born to open a small shop and get away from the Brooklyn mob (so his daughter told me). When I was a kid Aniello’s son George was the butcher. (One of the De Scala butcher blocks is currently feeling lonely in my garage.) Then the developments started eating up the farm land and “progress” brought us supermarkets. Small stores faded away…..
Living in Pontelandolfo is a return to a kinder and gentler way of living and eating. We are in carnivore heaven in Pontelandolfo – there are not one, not two but three butcher shops in our little village – great food means a lot to Pontelandolfesi. The shop I visited the most was Marcelleria, Cinque M.A.M. S.R.L., located at Via Falcone E Borsellino. (I have no clue what the initials mean – they’re all on the sign.) My cousin Carmella explained that this shop was a cooperative for the local farmers – a big plus for me.
Santina Guerrera (h’mm is she related to me?) would greet me every time I went into her Macelleria with a big smile and once with a great question – “Hai intenzione di parlare un buon italiano oggi o cattivo italiano?” (Are you going to speak good Italian today or bad Italian?) I paused, shrugged my shoulders, smiled and repied “Sempre cattivo!” (Always bad.) Clean up your minds – this wasn’t about talking dirty but speaking Italian properly – something I still haven’t mastered. Santina would smile as I fuddled through my orders. The first time I wanted chicken for my extended family of eleven, I learned what an Italian meat portion was. I originally asked for 7 chicken breasts and four full thigh/legs. Santina looked at me and asked “how many are you cooking for?” When I said eleven she cut the order in half and got the cleaver out to separate thighs from legs and cut each breast in half. I thought, this won’t feed eleven. In the USA everybody gets 1/2 pound each! She was right, my Italian cousins eat small healthy portions.
One day, I decided to make an “American” meal for my extended family. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and some green thing or another. I told Santina what I wanted to make – un grande polpettone – and couldn’t understand why she took huge hunks of meat out of the walk in fridge. Midge, you silly girl, she is going to grind it fresh!
She tossed a hunk of beef and a hunk of pork in the giant grinder and out came ground integrated meat. I started to drool on the counter. Of course everything I bought was beautifully wrapped up for me.
The other butcher I visited was Macelleria Perugini Franco on Via Falcone Borsellino, 4. Franco made incredible sausage. At first I had to figure out what days he was grinding meat and adding his magical spices – because until I got the schedule down there wouldn’t be any left! He made the sausage fresh. I just found an old receipt and it only cost me € 3,87 (about $5 for 4 servings of freshly made exceptional sausage.)
No matter where we are in the world, I try never to buy supermarket meat – schifoso – wrapped in plastic, pumped full of chemicals, grown in small crowded cages – gag me – chicken and beef that – well I better stop so I don’t ruin your appetite. When Jack and I are in Flagtown we buy most of our meat directly from local farmers – Farview Farm (http://www.farviewfarm.com) in Readington and Lima Farms (http://limafamilyfarms.com) in Hillsborough.
Carnivores of the world unite behind your local butcher and family farm! We are blessed to have ours in both of our home towns.