I followed Angela Murrills’ columns in The Georgia Straight for years, looking forward to new adventures in food and fashion every week. She even mentioned our store in a few of her articles, which was fantastic. All of her pieces effortlessly seemed like an easy friend talking about an absolutely lovely gem that they just discovered and wanted to share with you. In my head, her articles were always narrated (as I read them) with a saucy English accent, similar to that of Nigella Lawson. Imagine my utter horror when she announced her departure, to move away to France. I was both saddened and envious, knowing that being Angela Murrills en français would be trés fabuleux.
About 2 years ago, she guest-wrote an article for The Straight, from her new home, regarding the quality and sheer number of artisans in the field of French butchery and charcuterie, and comparing it to Vancouver’s dwindling cleaver-wielding populace. I remember reading it and frowning because she was right.
“Real butchers, butchers with imagination and pride, are a dying breed in Vancouver,” she wrote, noting the recent (at time of press) closure of Jackson’s, a family-run meat/cheese/prepared food shop that had existed on Granville Street since 1911. How terrible for 97 years of history to flicker out because of rent increases!
As a double-whammy of lameness, meatavores in this city rarely know a thing about the proteins that they buy in supermarkets, and may never receive the service nor the quality that will make them want to learn or care more about it. Try to track down a staff member in an average supermarket, then ask them questions about products. Good luck if they even know where they are, as this has been my unfortunate experience.
A big part of this problem has been created by us. Customer demand for lower prices shreds profit margins and therefore cuts down funding that could potentially train employees, in addition to ripping off farmers, forcing animals into cruel living conditions, importing too much food and outsourcing too much labour, and killing off smaller businesses. My favorite solution is to look for items at smaller shops when affordable. If you go to a cheese place, it’s very likely that someone there is going to know a thing or two about cheese, and when you think about it, the product isn’t that much more expensive if it tastes better. If you have a little money to spend, why not spend it well?
Food security and consciousness is a huge issue today. It’s not okay for children to grow up thinking that meat comes from Safeway or for adults not to know what boiling water looks like. It’s also unacceptable for people to run themselves ragged all the time so that they only have time to pick up crap convenience food items all in one place. We need to relax and enjoy things! If I had the opportunity, I would definitely move to France or some other wonderful place where it’s possible to often go hunting for fresh groceries in open markets or specialty stores and live la vie française. Everyone already thinks I’m French anyway.
Finally, some good news: Charcuterie, offal, and butchery are making a comeback!
A definite must-go (unless you’re vegetarian/vegan) in Vancouver is simply called the butcher. They are right up the street from where I’ve been working for the past 3 years, and it’s a fantastic place to visit. I’m still at Changes on the weekends, which is when I pop in to gather some carnivorous inspiration for the upcoming week’s dinners. I’ve been impressed and happy with every single purchase, trying multitudes of flavours and the options available, including local, organic, free-range, hormone-free, and more.
Some of my favorites so far have been
- giant burger patties (turkey, beef, bacon, sun-dried tomato, with giant cracked peppercorns, mmm…)
- country-style and cognac pâtés
- pancetta and prosciutto (I’ve tried speck and parma)
- sausages (several types…some of which are also available wheat-free!)
- the giant organic pork roast that I bought for Thanksgiving
- marinated skewers (jerk pork and chicken vindaloo: Perfect in curry!)
- frozen bones (for marrow or stock-making)
- grass-fed NY steak with lots of marbling (no dryness!)
They also stock cheeses and Italissima tomato products in addition to a slew of other adorable and great-tasting bottles, jars, cans and tubes of fun foodery, like marinades, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, harissa paste, chips, and even vegetables.
Prices are surprisingly reasonable for a meat shop located in West Point Grey. The staff are so friendly and informative, always answer my silly questions, will take special orders, cut or trim your purchase, and can give advice if you’re not sure what cut of meat or cooking technique is best for what you’re making. An adventurous life-long education in food can begin anywhere, whether it’s at home, in school, or anywhere else you can find people who are happy to share information, so what are you waiting for?
the butcher is located at 4529 West 10th Avenue in Vancouver, BC.
Call (604) 224-0602 or check out www.thebutcher.ca today!