(Note: Vegetarian readers, avert your eyes. This post is NOT for you.)
When I was quite a small girl, a thousand years ago, one of my favorite places to go with my mother was to the butcher store. It had sawdust on the floor, and a huge wooden chopping block, and I watched in fascination as the butcher, wearing his stained white apron, whacked and sliced and carved away at great sides of meat. (Never pork; we kept kosher in our house, and this was a kosher butcher.)
In those days there was no such thing as a supermarket. The milkman brought milk. For cheese and butter, we went to a dairy store, and for vegetables we went to the vegetable store. For chickens, to the live chicken market, and so on and so on. A few products came in cans or boxes, but mostly not! And then, gradually, the world shifted. These days everything comes packaged and measured and wrapped from everywhere in the world, in and out of season, to fill block-long supermarkets. I’d almost forgotten the butcher store of my childhood. Until I read in our local paper about an actual butcher opening a store in Northampton.
This is the real thing, trumpeted the Gazette, a young couple coming north from newly-trendy Williamsburgh in New York City to bring us fresh local meat cut to order. (Never mind that for me, Williamsburgh was the home of my grandmother, who wore a sheytl and never learned to speak English; it was the home area primarily of Orthodox Jews.) So as soon as I drove by the store and saw that it was open, I paid them a visit.
Lo and behold, Sutter Meats IS a real old-fashioned butcher store. (Of course no one can entirely go home again, or even want to. The prize I was seeking today in the new butcher store was properly marbled pork that would remain tender and juicy when I cooked it instead of drying out, as my supermarket purchases always seem to. Kind of my current Holy Grail of food shopping, and the very antithesis of kosher!)
When I described what I was looking far, Terry Ragasa went back into the cold area and emerged with this — who knew a pig was so big!
No little styrofoam pads with Saran coverings here! Terry is about to break down the side. It took a band saw, and a cleaver, and finally a well-sharpened knife to come up with a couple of gorgeous thick rib pork chops for me.
While I watched, still after all these years with fascination, I was also treated to the spectacle of home made, home seasoned pork sausages being made right in front of me:
Here’s the meat counter of what was available right that moment.
There were also sausages, of course, and stock — chicken, turkey, pork — and fancy jellies and sauces. But the meat is the main event. And all locally sourced:
Terry and his wife Susan call themselves “the first and only nose to tail butcher shop in the Pioneer Valley.” And wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles in the Pioneer Valley: there’s parking behind the store! Visiting Sutter Meats was truly a trip down Memory Lane. One exception: alas, no sawdust on the floor. I’m sure there’s a government regulation against that. But otherwise, really and truly a butcher store.
Oh, and about those pork chops. YES, they were tender and juicy pork chops to dream about. So welcome and good luck to two new guys in town, Susan Mygatt Ragasa and Terry Ragasa. Long may they flourish here!