Friday, January 19, 2007

the butcher's shop

I'm trying a new recipe today - Italian sausage soup - and I couldn't find ground pork at the grocery store last night (to be more specific, the ground pork at the grocery store didn't look that fresh), so I decided to visit my friendly neighborhood boucherie this morning.

The wind was still a little strong in our lane and my hair stood on end as I made my way to the main street. At the corner, I passed the chevaline on by (I may be more adventurous in my cuisine now but I don't think I'll ever attempt a dish with horse meat) and walked two more blocks to the butcher's shop. Two older ladies were already waiting for the bouchère to make her appearance, who is herself an older woman. I don't think I've ever seen someone as young as me here in the butcher's shop. We all say "bonjour" to each other, as is customary when you enter a shop, whether you know the others or not.

The butcher arrives and another round of "bonjour mesdames" ring through the tiny shop. The first woman places her order - a bit of chopped meat here, a portion of pressed meat wrapped in pastry there, and a few slices of gorgeous ham already loaded on the automatic slicer that reminds me of the same contraption found at grocery stores back home. A round of "au revoir mesdames" are called out as she leaves.

The second orders up a few pork chops. The butcher, a small woman with short peppery hair and a green cardigan, produces an enormous knife and whacks at the side of pork until four perfectly identical pork chops are stacked up and wrapped in brown paper. "Au revoir mesdames," says the customer as she reaches for the door, almost under her breath without eye contact. Whether one means it or not, these formalities must be followed.

It's my turn, and I smile as I order my "trois cent grammes de chair au saucisse, s'il vous plait." She smiles back and scoops up the ground pork, which is lovely and dark pink, such a contrast to the great big tub of rather colorless pork I'd seen the night before. I asked myself again why I don't shop here more often. I wished her a good day and head out the door.

I love days like this, returning home with the meat wrapped in brown paper, a subsequently purchased baugette tucked under one arm, and thank my lucky stars again that I get to do this. It's just a small transaction, but every small transaction like this makes me feel more at home. It makes me feel light and happy for the rest of the day - and just from buying a little more than half a pound of pork at the butcher's shop.

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