Bill Buford Knows Pigs Better Than You

Red, white & bleu [New Yorker]

But in the meantime, Buford just did another New Yorker piece on the ethics of meat eating and how butchers view their craft. However, the best part is Buford’s genius for painting a picture with words:


For Fearnley-Whittingstall, it seems, the most compelling meat comes from a cow, and, to this day, one of the great meals of his life is a standing rib roast he ate four years ago with his family on Boxing Day, the first that had been carved out of an animal he had fed and looked after himself. But meat from just about every other animal is discussed as well—the obvious quadrupeds, domestic and wild fowl—plus various pieces of offal, including lungs (“lights,” in British butcher parlance), brains (a nightmare to extricate and, besides, one animal’s taste pretty much the same as another’s), and the other bits between nose and tail (“I usually have a cooked ear or two in the freezer”). Most of this is photographed—illustration is an essential feature of the book—but so, too, are the meats as they are being consumed. Fearnley-Whittingstall, it’s evident, is still messy. We see a half-eaten steak, the fat congealing; a cassoulet after everyone has helped himself to it; a plate rim smeared with grease; a sideboard stacked higgledy-piggledy with dishes, cutlery, leftovers, and wineglasses cloudy from finger smudges. There is a dog: licking fat that has dripped from a table where a pig has been carved up or sitting on a bench with Fearnley-Whittingstall, having just had a bite of his homemade pork pie. Advocating the flavors of bird jelly—the juices that set after a chicken has been cooked—Fearnley-Whittingstall tells us about the happy “discovery” of the roasting pan “a day or so later” and eating up its unwashed, solidifying, crusty remains. I found myself wondering, Doesn’t anyone do the dishes down there at the cottage? Fearnley-Whittingstall’s occasional efforts to explain butchery, like boning a leg of lamb (encouraging his readers not to bother with a professional but to do the “hatchet job yourself—it’s quite easy to improvise”), reveal a tolerance for chaos (“It’s a bit tricky to explain”) that may be without precedent among people who make a living from preparing food.

Red, white & bleu [New Yorker]

Bill Buford Knows Pigs Better Than You