NPR recently ran a story on Andrew Plotsky, a 24-year-old ex-vegan who quit his job as barista to become a butcher. Paradoxically, it was a passion for ethical food practices that led Plotsky to cultivate an interest in the slaughtering and slicing-up of pigs. By crossing over from consumer to producer, Plotsky was able to take control over what he put on the table. He dedicated himself to educating others by making a series of agrarian videos. His short documentary on quartering a pig, On the Anatomy of Thrift: Side Butchery, is a bizarre crossover between an instructional video and an art film, with bloody pig parts in every other shot. Using lofty rhetoric, whimsical indie music and a narrated illustration sequence, Plotsky shows his audience how to prepare a pig in a way that could send hoards of food-savvy hipsters down the road to butcherdom.
In the article, Plotsky comments that he has seen the “hipification” of butchery in urban areas, citing Brooklyn and San Francisco. So what about Atlanta? Can we expect the face of local meat production to don some ironic, thick-framed glasses?
“It’s definitely coming back. In Atlanta right now, you’re starting to see more small-time shops opening up in the burbs, in little parts of the city,” Miles said.
Although Miles’s job entails a wide range of responsibilities a big part of it is brainstorming the most efficient ways to break down and utilize a pig.
“The art of butchery is very important to my job,” Miles said. Although he does not identify himself exclusively as a butcher, he notes that a solid understanding of the profession is beneficial to any chef—especially in recent years, when the culinary focus has shifted to simplicity, in-house cooking, and sustainable practices.
But like the farm-to-table trend, butchery is not, by any means, a new idea. The interest in meat handling and the cropping up of locally owned butcheries is, if anything, a return to the past.
“It is a trend, but I don’t know how it’s a trend, because people have been doing it for thousands of years,” Miles acknowledged.
Perhaps one of the tastiest by-products of the new generation of butchery enthusiasts is the use of animal parts that are typically discarded. Holy Taco, for example, makes a killer fried pig’s tail. Those interested in butchery seem to develop a propensity for atypical cuts. While Plotsky told NPR that the trotter is his favorite cut, Miles prefers the head.
“There’s a lot of pieces in [the head]. The jowls come off of it. You have textures through the ears, the snout, the tongue."
Miles sometimes prepares a deboned pig’s head cured with salt, sugar, herbs, and garlic, slow poached, and sliced thin. To those of you who can't imagine eating an animal's head, this may seem appalling. But the rest of us are drooling.
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