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Archive for the ‘butcher shop’ Category

La Boucherie, Vashon Island

Saturdays in the butcher shop are quite social. When the front door opens, the jangle of the bells hanging from the handle announces “We have company” and honestly, I’m thankful every time.

More often than not, a fun conversation ensues.  Our customers often share their cooking intentions, or describe how they prepared their last purchase. Tangential threads about meals and experiences abroad are also common. Regardless if the customer lives on Vashon or not, it’s rarely a story-less transaction, and I love it.

Through our doors walk our regulars; folks that have become happily hooked on the taste of real, raw milk; fans of fresh, pasture-raised pork, lamb and poultry; sausage lovers who pour over the selection of styles; organ meat connoisseurs who delight in taking home nutrient rich offal; bakers who love leaf lard; soup makers who appreciate our rich, gelatinous stock; nibblers of pate, rilletes, head cheese, and smoked sausage; and many, many fans of bacon.

Vashon “summer people”, weekenders and day-trippers also often incorporate a visit into their island sojourn, and it’s pleasing to know we have become part of their furlough.   More often than not, they are already familiar with our products and farm from the Seattle Farmers Markets.  While shopping at La Boucherie, they now see where the production for those markets takes place, and meet the butcher who prepares those offerings.

Occasionally we are visited by an Islander leading their out-of-town-guests, who announces as soon as they enter the shop that they are “…just showing friends what we have on Vashon.” Although I haven’t seen them in the shop or the restaurant before and they usually leave empty-handed, I’m heartened by these visits.  It tells me that even if they are not (yet) a customer, on some level they appreciate our endeavor enough to consider it a point of interest on their Vashon tour. Indeed, I am eternally optimistic; on their next visit, I tell myself, they’ll try something out of the case.

With the exception of the tour guides, each of these folks makes a choice.  Industrial meat and milk can be purchased in multiple locations on Vashon, and at a significantly lower price.  Even cheaper meat and milk can be purchased at Costco, Trader Joes, etc. just a ferry ride away. Our customers have placed a value on the products we provide that is in equilibrium with what it costs to bring these products to market, sans middleman.  They understand that food grown on Vashon, naturally and never frozen or pasteurized, is more nutritious; requires less fossil fuel; supports their local economy; and will taste better. Their presence in the butcher shop allows my presence.  We are mutually dependent, and I’m thankful every time.

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Visit La Boucherie on Vashon Island, and chances are the first thing you will see is a wide-eyed lamb’s head in the meat case.   Nearly everyone comments on this, and the reaction ranges predictably from fascination to revulsion.  Children are particularly curious, and usually a species guessing game ensues, followed by a parent’s reminder that beloved bacon and hot dogs are derived from animals that have heads.  It feels silly to even write that, and probably even more so for the parents to say it, but frankly most of the adults that freak out need the same reminder.

“Who would buy that?!” is the next most common inquiry, once we have identified the animal in question.   The honest answer is that the lamb heads are often purchased for pets.  Occasionally, we are visited by the rare cook who is excited to get that head into their own kitchen, and we’ve also sold a few to prop makers and curios vendors, but primarily Man’s Best Friend is the recipient.  But is it that simple?  Are we in the butcher shop business to sell high-end dog treats?

For me, the head of the butchered animal is a symbol of authenticity.  One, it demonstrates our commitment to the freshness of the meat.  It also signifies our commitment to whole animal butchery.  And frankly it is a reminder for all of us that have also purchased meat wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays that indeed this flesh did come from an animal with a head.  Let’s have our own eyes open about that fact.  I know there are countless essays and books debating this subject of eating animals, a debate I do not wish to join here.  Rather, I am assuming that if you are standing in front of my meat counter contemplating a purchase, you are decidedly a meat eater.  And at the very least, we should be willing to look at the head of that animal.  In fact, I’ll even open the case so that you can get a really good close-up picture with your Smart Phone.

La Boucherie’s Butcher Shop on Vashon Island is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9:00AM – 6:00PM.

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