Pork & sons: master of a dying art

On May 31, 2007, in the nose, by Matt

SFP web general piglets spencers brook

French chef and author Stephane Reynaud recently visited Australia and demonstrated his skills in a dying art at a workshop with members of Slow Food Central Victoria. Richard Cornish of The Age was there to witness it.

STEPHANE Reynaud is a big man. He could be a rugby player. He uses his size and strength to lift the 70-kilogram pig onto the rafters of the old barn. In front of a small ensemble of onlookers, the French chef opens his arms and gesticulates towards the carcass and says: “OK! Let’s eat!” There is a silent pause before a relieved chorus of laughter. Reynaud also has a big sense of humour.

He has taken a day off from his busy schedule publicising his award-winning book Pork & Sons to take part in a Slow Food Central Victoria pig workshop. Over the course of the day an entire rare-breed Wessex Saddleback pig is to be broken down, cooked, made into pate, terrine, roasts, grills and sausages. Local farmer Nick Chambers helps Reynaud cut the pig in half.

‘How does this compare with your French pigs,’ asks Chambers.

‘We let our pigs grow much larger to 18 months old and they weigh 200 kilograms, so about 120 kilograms dressed,’ he says.

‘How many men does it take to cut up a pig in France?” asks an onlooker, a well-known home butcher. ‘Drunk men or sober men?’ Reynaud asks cheekily in reply.

The owner of popular Paris restaurant Villa9trois, Reynaud spent childhood winters with his grandfather Francois Barbe, the butcher in the town of Saint-Agreve in Ardeche, 560 kilometres south-east of Paris. With him Reynaud learned the tradition and etiquette of the traditional French pig kill, taking part in his first slaughter at the age of seven on a day that was minus 12 degrees.

Despite a busy life in the city, Reynaud keeps his rural roots by attending the annual kill in Saint-Agreve and is even part owner of a pig. ‘I still return to Ardeche to kill the pig with a friend. He is a machine salesman,’ he explains. ‘We do it for the good food and the tradition.’

‘In a village where people still kill the pig for their own consumption, the animals don’t have names. They do (however) have free-range lives and are eating the produce of the farm,’ he insists.

‘A friend’s pigs will eat the milk from a nearby goat’s milk dairy,’ he says as he cuts off the head and splits it open, reserving the brain. He cuts off the cheeks and places these and the head into a stockpot with vegetables and seasonings to make a terrine.

He cuts the skin off the belly and some from the head and places this in a bowl with some fat and a little flesh. This will shortly be minced to make a saucisse de sabodet a lyonnaise sausage, similar to a small cotechino, flavoured with salt and pepper.

The head of Slow Food Central Victoria, Mary Ellis, is armed with a bag of potatoes and pounces on the offal. ‘According to the book,’ she says, ‘it’s traditional to make a fricassee with the heart, liver and kidneys and potatoes. See page 48!’

To this, another guest replies: ‘In that case let’s all be traditional and have a glass of wine like Stephane does on page 26!’ There’s a pop of a cork and a small cheer. It is still morning.

On the table in the centre of the old barn, Ballarat restaurateur Dean Smith bones a hind leg. ‘This bloke’s (Reynaud) a dying breed. Apart from some notable individuals there is virtually no whole-carcass butchery left in the Australian restaurant industry and it’s getting that way in Europe. A lot of the apprentices don’t even have knives. They buy their meat cut up in bags and give customers what they want – prime cuts.’

At the bench, the loin racks have been laid on a bed of celery and chorizo, lightly salted and oiled, and placed by the stove ready to go in the oven. A pile of meat and fat sits in a bowl and Reynaud asks everyone to make an offering of a flavour. ‘Just like an offering plate in church everyone must drop something in,’ he says.

In goes fennel, orange, chestnuts, rosemary, pepper and other spices. ‘Good. This will be the saucisse esprit de spontaneite,’ he says, translating it with a cheeky smile, ‘That is, er, sausage of the day.’

Someone asks the question: “Would you make a sausage like this at home?” Reynaud replies: “Of course. Everyone puts something in. Back in France when we cut up a pig it is done by loving people, who love food. This way everyone eats something made by everyone.”

Another bowl comes out and pieces of pork and fat are mixed with shallots, cognac, salt and sage. Reynaud lines a terrine dish with slices of local prosciutto from Istra smallgoods, pressing the terrines into the dishes, decorating them with bay leaves and finally putting them into the oven in a bain-marie.

Sitting outside in the kitchen garden, basking in the late autumn sun, we wait for the racks of loin to rest and discuss the book Pork & Sons which won the 2005 French Gourmand Cookbook Award. The English translation is a beautiful production with a soft-pink, gingham cover and laced with humorous line drawing caricatures of pigs by artist Jose Reise de Matos.

The 150 recipes are more a guide to day-to-day rustic cooking and entertaining than a bible for charcuterie, but at their heart they have a solid respect for good pork. The breakouts also pay respect to a way of life in rural France that is fast disappearing.

‘The men I learned this (sic) recipes from are dying. These recipes are practices that are passed from grandfather to son to grandson.’ Reynaud looks around at the people cooking, making sausages and terrines. ‘Now there is less and less of this sort of thing even in France. I am 40 this year and I wanted to give my (three) children something in black and white about their great-grandfather, about Saint-Agreve and the pig. Because in 10 years time this could all be gone. Hopefully not.’

Pork & Sons is published by Phaidon $59.95


SFP food news eataly pasta

By Elisa

betta Povoledo
International Herald Tribune

13 May 2007 MILAN: For the gourmand, stepping into Peck, the celebrated gastronomic emporium in Milan, is the mouth-watering equivalent of Ali Baba stumbling upon the legendary treasure cave. For a company like Whole Foods Market that is hoping to break European consumer habits, it is a nightmarish glimpse of the difficulty of the task ahead.

In case after polished glass case, mounds of rare cheeses, fresh pastas and breads, savory salamis, prosciuttos, and assorted antipasti – boletus mushrooms in olive oil, wafer-thin anchovies, lobster-crab in olive oil – are artfully displayed to tease taste buds. Most bear the distinctive sun-like Peck logo.

In an outsized back kitchen, cooking crews concoct high-end meals for take-out – everything from lasagna to deboned rabbit to beef wrapped in a bread crust to boiled vegetables that have been hand-picked each day.

Such an established institution feels little threat from large distributors like Whole Foods, which are ‘structured differently and offer a much broader range of products,’ said Mauro Stoppani, the manager of the Milan store and a member of the family that has owned Peck since 1970.

Even branching out, the Stoppani family has remained close to home. There is an online store proffering a variety of products including wine, but with only a fraction of the more than 4000 labels sold at the main store. And they have two restaurants, one of which is run by a well-known chef, Carlo Cracco, just around the corner from the Milan store.

Peck does not cater to a niche market, Stoppani said during an interview by telephone. Many clients, he said, were just neighbourhood folks. But products do not necessarily come cheap. Jars of Peck sauces or pickles can be had for less than €10, but scampi in cocktail sauce will set you back €140 a kilo, or $95 a pound. Asparagus – currently in season, as the website www.peck.it informs – costs €39.50 a kilo if you buy it cooked.

SFP food news eataly fish

Somewhere between Peck and Whole Foods lies Eataly, a three-month-old experiment in bringing gourmet food to the masses.

Occupying what once was a sprawling vermouth factory in Turin, Eataly is more shopping mall than supermarket, where overflowing food stalls mix with gourmet restaurants and dining counters, a bakery, a cavernous wine and beer cellar, and classrooms for cooking courses and lectures. There is even a chef on hand dishing out personalized dining advice. Most of the hundreds of goods come from local producers, a basic Eataly tenet. Another is that shopping for food should be educational.

‘We want the client to be a co-producer – to be aware that choices in the store influence the lives of other people from the farmer to the guy who slices salami,’ said Oscar Farinetti, the founder and owner of Eataly. The idea is to teach people ‘that what we put inside our bodies is more important than what we’ve got on the outside’.

Eataly is also the tangible expression of the Farinetti beliefs that everyone can eat well, even if the food budget is tight. Part of the problem is perception.

‘When gourmet foods are branded as niche products, it makes people feel ignorant, or that they can’t afford them,’ he said. But Eataly is ‘democratic like a supermarket, with big informal areas where people can feel at ease’.

Slow Food, the international food movement based in the nearby city of Bra, helped to stock the shelves.

‘We focused on what is seasonal and on finding small producers that could keep up with demand,’ said Sebastiano Sardo, a Slow Food staff member who consults for Eataly. One rule: products must be reasonably affordable. ‘The last thing we wanted to do is to create a gigantic niche market,’ he said.

Eataly - www.eataly.it

Photographs from www.eataly.it

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