Thanks for the Memory — with Pork Chops Attached

(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.

Behind this door lies memories ---

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!

How big the pig? 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.

A Proper Butcher

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:

Out Come the Sausages

Here’s the meat counter of what was available right that moment.

Today's Meats

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:

Local Heroes

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!

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Food, Memory, Personal Essay, Pioneer Valley, Shopping and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Thanks for the Memory — with Pork Chops Attached

  1. coastalcrone says:

    What memories your post brought back!


  2. That’s quite fantastic … a real butcher shop today!
    I’m a few years younger than you, but I remember well going with my mum to all those stores you mentioned. I remember the butcher shop, there was no saw dust on the floor, but they had somehow water running on the windows?! I remember the place so well, because they were kind there and used to give me little sausages [] that are very common in Sweden.


  3. The craft of butchering is experiencing a resurgence. It is all a part of the DIY and maker movement. You should check out the documentary- Meat Hooked by Suzanne Wasserman. We screened it at the museum last summer.


  4. cocomino says:

    All of them are yummy. 😀 Have a wonderful weekend.


  5. mrscarmichael says:

    Love it – what did they say when you asked to take photos?


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Funny you ask. I thought the reaction was a bit odd —
      They looked a little taken aback but then ignored me. I told them it was for my blog, and I’d send them the post — which I did, but so far they’ve ignored that too.
      In general, they were a little awkward/chilly in manner, even before the photos. In N’hampton, which is a small town, the majority of folks are quite warm and friendly. These people are just up from trendy Williamsburg in New York City, where the mores are undoubtedly different.


  6. pauline says:

    My dad raised chickens so ours were always fresh but I remember going to the little stone market on Main Street as a kid. It had a butcher’s counter and I liked to watch as the “meat man,” as we called him, worked his magic with a sharp knife. There’s a VERY expensive farm-raised meat market in GB now and one can get locally raised meat at a farm about 5 miles from my house. There’s no comparison with supermarket meats – local, organic, and fresh win out every time.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, that’s interesting to hear, Pauline. I’m willing to give it a try, because I do believe in local. But I feel you have to know more than I do, and be better at meat cookery than I am, to get full benefits.
      About chickens I do know more, and I’ll only go to River Valley Coop now. When we lived on Long Island, there was a farm way way out near where a friend of mine lived. Whenever I’d go to visit him, I’d always make a stop for a fresh chicken or two, and you’re so right. No comparison!


  7. I love that you found a real butcher! I had begun to think those were a thing of the past. Growing up in the Midwest we always had good, fresh meat. That is something I dearly miss being out where I live now.


  8. 2e0mca says:

    I can remember Butchers shops with their sawdust on the floor. Actually, I can also remember pubs that had sawdust on the floor of the bar! We’ve seen a resurgence of butchers with the increased numbers of Muslim people in the area as the supermarkets don’t generally cater for Halal meat. The nearest butchers to me is probably Grahams on East End Road and they specialise in organic meat. Of course, being mainly vegetarian, I rarely go near the butchers these days.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Interesting how changing circumstances can bring unexpected side results along with them.
      We don’t eat a lot of meat — so all the more it’s nice to have a real butcher for the times we do.
      Hope it’s stopped raining by you, we’re having a one-day respite from the snow tomorrow. Maybe.


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