Duck breasts, people. Minds out of the gutter.
I'm finding it takes a village to make meat happen. It takes me hooking up with Cathy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and having her be all "You can make your own knockwurst. You can. Shape up. What's wrong with you, woman? DIY is HOT!"
She talks like that when she isn't canning or smoking something.
And then, it takes my husband, David, who has become, overnight, the DIY king. Over Christmas he has been renovating our upstairs bathroom, without having any previous knowledge or training in bathroom renovation, and has been reading how to do it in "The Black and Decker Guide to Bathrooms", as he goes along. Seriously. He's done this with nothing but grit, a how-to-book and a hundred trips to Lowes.
And now, stoked by the flames of a nearly perfectly-tiled bathroom floor, and a nearly set-up, functioning vanity/sink, he has moved his vision to bigger things. If I do this "Year of Meat", and get into it and really love it, he will not simply help me create some bogus, half-assed, stove top smoker for my bacon. Oh no, he wants to build me a smoke HOUSE. In the backyard. An actual building dedicated exclusively to the production of smoked meats.
Which begs the question, do I really want to have smoking, curing and preserving meat to be my new food hobby? I mean, do I want a smoke house? Does the mere existence of the smoke house mean I'll have to smoke a lot of meat? What if smoking meat sucks? What if carcasses hanging in your cellar is just creepy? What if someone perishes from botulism? From the meat I made? Should I nominate an official taster so that people I like won't die? Will small animals, weary and food-deprived from winter, gather around our garage in hopes of gaining entry and ripping apart the carcasses like the starved little beasts they are?
And what about the kids? - you know my kids - they are going to play with the meat. This is a given. Lucy will want to ride a side of pork like a wild bronco. Edie will bring all her babies from indoors and make a doll house out of the smoke house. You can picture it, right? One kid swinging back and forth on a side of cow? Another dressing the pork belly in frilly pink dolly clothes?
Maybe a pool would be better?
I ponder these questions as my husband reads "The Popular Mechanics Guide to Building a Smoke House" and as Cathy e-mails me that our very own Charcutepalooza was mentioned in SF Weekly as a Food Trend for 2011, and as streams of people sign on to make their own meat with us, a community of people - a whole village - who want to do something different in their kitchens, and are, I'm sure, a little beautifully, off-balanced to begin with.
And I think, 1) Wow. This is cool. And 2) Was I drinking Manhattans when I said yes to this?
So far, I'm not hyper-ventilating, or thinking I'll give up writing for being an artisanal, heirloom, heritage, blah-blah sausage-maker. But David just went down to the cellar, to check my breasts (I know, many meanings here), and make sure mice hadn't started eating them, and the kids went with him, thumping, thumping down the stairs in socking feet, and they all gathered together under the slightly swinging carcasses, in the dimly lit, cold basement, to check for signs of mouse bites. And then, bolted back up the stairs, like little rockets, to share the good news.
No sign of interlopers.
The whole family rejoiced. Like the harvest was good. Like our winter meals depended on this preservation. Like we were pioneers. It felt pretty good.
We live to make meat another day.