"this is the stomach of the world"
November 18, 2014 11:01 PM   Subscribe

"If we start from the guts, we go back to our origin. It is the butchers, in the end, that bring our food back to the rusticness of the tribe." Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, guts a pig, and discusses the tradition and art of butchering and the importance of being "responsible carnivores...thankful for the gift." Cecchini is the "Dante-quoting butcher" featured in Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. And here's another video with a similar message, but a different piece of meat, more details about his village as a "tiny little gastronomic republic" and instructions on how to use every piece of the pig "in the best way."
posted by Grandysaur (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for posting this. One of my 'bucket list' items is to attend a Hungarian pig-killing - 'disznóvágás'. On one level these offend our sensibilities, yet there is something both primeval and authentic about these traditions. I am not all sure I would be able to sustain watching such an event live, even with the traditional alcohol numbing effects of pálinka, yet I am more than willing to partake of the glories of the pig. I adore pork in all its varieties. One of my most favourite Simpson's episode's is "Lisa The Vegetarian" and the immortal scene between Lisa and Homer

Homer: "Lisa, honey, are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?"
Lisa: "No."
Homer: "Ham?"
Lisa: "No."
Homer: "Pork chops?"
Lisa: "Dad! Those all come from the same animal!"
Homer: [chuckling] "Yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal."

The pig is indeed a wonderful, magical animal but there is often a brutality in its demise, especially in the rural/peasant traditions of Europe.

I respect those traditions, even though, in truth, I find them confronting.
posted by vac2003 at 12:04 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Heat is a fantastic book, if anyone is wondering.
posted by efalk at 1:16 AM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cecchini is the "Dante-quoting butcher"

Nobody gets these references anymore. Nobody reads Dante.

Dante refers to Dante Alighieri, who wrote The Divine Comedy, one of the greatest works of world literature.

The Divine Comedy is divided into three parts, each part devoted to a different aspect of butchering.

The first part, Intestino, concerns the use a butcher has for the intestines. The second part, Pigatorio, concerns the slaughtering of pigs. The third part, Paradiso, has simple recipes for desserts.

It's unfortunate that nobody remembers these early works. We've lost every insight the Divine Comedy had about the human condition, and every recipe it had for tasty pork dishes.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:22 AM on November 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

Vac2003, I'll see your Hungarian butchering party and raise you a Cajun boucherie, which I'd dearly love to attend at some point. I've seen the Bourdain show where he attended one, and a couple others online, and just the idea of everyone knowing exactly what their job is, and grabbing their parts and getting to work is kind of like heaven to me, second only to how good everything tastes at the end.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:27 AM on November 19, 2014

This was cool! I remember reading Heat and the excerpt that showed up in the New Yorker about Cecchini and wondering if could possibly be anywhere near as cool as he was made out to be.

So now I know that.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:37 AM on November 19, 2014

Lovely video! His knife seems a little dull at the start, though and he cut through the gut (this increases the risk of contamination due to gut bacteria). The peritoneum should be opened in one incision ideally.

Granted, my expertise is in humanity but the skin of the pig has a similar tensile strength to man.
posted by Renoroc at 4:37 AM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

but the skin of the pig has a similar tensile strength to man.

And supposedly a similar taste.

I've seen way more animals killed and butchered than I could count. Ethically we should always do that carefully and well (but of course rarely do so), because that animal was alive the same as any of us and had emotions and could feel stress and pain. That can be done well at the artisanal level, and it can be done well at an industrial scale; it's purely a choice on our part of how much care to take.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:43 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ironically, his restaurant when I was there was mostly devoted to beef imported from Spain. He insists that Tuscan beef is not to his standard, which is a fair assessment. The butcher shop across the street is where he hangs around, playing host, giving free glasses of cheap red wine and lardo crostini to tourists and teenagers from the neighbourhood who loiter around the display case and spill out the doors.
posted by Evstar at 6:20 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ironically, his restaurant when I was there was mostly devoted to beef imported from Spain. He insists that Tuscan beef is not to his standard, which is a fair assessment.

Yeah, Buford covers this quite a bit in "Heat." I'll echo that it's a fine book worth reading. There's a long chapter about him going to work in Checchini's butcher shop, about about Checchini's practice, Tuscan beef, and many fine points about the intersection of food, culture, and economy.
posted by entropone at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2014

Sometimes a post comes up on here and it's just my thing, and I really want the conversation to pick up but they seldom do!

I went to Tuscany for 4 months in the winter to learn about the meat curing tradition there. I was focused more on whole pig butchery, salting and curing and salame making than the kind of fresh meat retail butchery Cecchini does. I haven't read Buford's book but I knew of Dario's place and his reputation. A former colleague of mine had been there to stage for a few months. He was only a 45 minute drive from where I was staying and working so I went a couple times to see what the fuss was about. Good meals in the restaurant, but priced pretty high for what you'd expect in the region. One thing that stood out was their willingness to cook their (exceptionally lean) beef to an appropriate doneness or even serve it in the form of a crudo/tartar. I remember that was a totally welcome change from the hammer-fucked beef and vegetables that are the norm in Tuscany.

Dario is gregarious and welcoming. He seems to thrive on the international attention he's gotten since Heat was published. The butchers I worked with knew of him but were totally mystified as to why or how he'd turned into this mascot for a movement happening in a faraway continent. In the last couple years he's come under scrutiny for taking so much unpaid foreign help in his shop while youth unemployment in Italy has skyrocketed. I believe he's been forced to stop doing this and starry-eyed young cooks will have to pad their resumes elsewhere. In his shop there's a bookshelf with a library of cookbooks in all languages that would be the envy of any thoughtful cook or butcher. Primary texts.

Here in Canada we'll never appreciate the pigs' fresh budelli like he talks about because it's strictly illegal for the abattoir to release them to customers. Over there, my host and I would chaperone each animal through the slaughter process ourselves at 5 in the morning for the sake of collecting blood for buristo, cleaning and processing the innards the same, and most importantly, policing the behaviour of the abattoir staff to make sure that the pigs met a dignified end.
posted by Evstar at 7:55 PM on November 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

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