Saturday, May 14, 2005

I'm Becoming a Chickentarian

I have always been a carnivore. I love steak. I love prime rib. I love hamburgers. Meat. Yum yum. Chicken is good too. Pork, not so much. I don't really "dig on swine" (one of my favorite quotes from Pulp Fiction).

Then I moved to Georgia. Chicken is still good. I have no problem with chicken. I can buy pre-packaged, frozen chicken breasts at the grocery store and they look and taste the same as good ol' USA chicken. But the beef? Well, settle in and let me tell about my first visit to a butcher shop in Georgia. I joke and say it was like a Fear Factor episode. My father just laughs at me and says "culture shock". You be the judge.

We had not bought any beef since arriving in Georgia. Everyone here told me "You have to go to the butcher shop - don't buy it from the grocery store, it's not fresh". Everyone here also has their own opinions on which butcher shop was best. There is the Turkish Butcher, the German Butcher and the Kosher Butcher. One of my friends raved about the kosher butcher. She had tried meat from all three and claimed that the kosher butcher was by far the best. So, David and I decided on trying out the kosher butcher.

Our driver, Roland, is Jewish, so he knew exactly where I wanted to go when I asked him to take us to the kosher butcher. Blaine fell asleep in the car on the way there, so when we pulled up, Dave decided to stay in the car with him and I went in with Roland to buy the meat. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start with us pulling up to the "butcher shop". Roland takes us down a small alley - no stores or shops nearby - and pulls up in front of this decaying building with big blue metal doors which are pinned open. There is a car parked in the alley and two men are sitting in the car staring at us. When Roland and I get out of our car, the two men get out of their car and come over and greet Roland. It appears these two men work at the butcher shop.

We all walk into the butcher shop. There is no refrigeration. It is Spring here, and the temperature was probably in the 70s. Flies are buzzing around. Whole chickens are laying in rows like dead soldiers on a cardboard pallet in front of the counter. Hanging behind the counter is a huge side of beef. Roland translates for me that I would like some steaks. 2 kilograms of steak, please. The "butcher" (the man who had been sitting in the driver's seat outside) grabs the side of beef off of the hook, places it on a huge round wooden butcher block. Then he reaches over and grabs an axe off of the wall. And proceeds to use the axe to hack off a piece of beef for me. I wish there had been hidden cameras. I would have loved to see the look of pure horror on my face as this man re-enacted a scene from Friday the 13th with a side of beef. Afer he finished chopping off a section of cow, he throws it on a scale - no paper underneath it to keep it from oozing juice onto the scale, or to keep previous oozes from mingling with my hunk of beef. I pay - 17 Lari, which is about 10 bucks US - and the man wraps it up in butcher paper and sticks it in a bag.

When we got home I had to take this 4 pound hunk of cow and trim it down into steaks to the best of my ability. I have never in my life had any desire to be a butcher. I had no clue what I was doing. I have no idea what part of the cow I got from the butcher. Ass? Hips? I have no idea. All I know is that every "steak" I cut from that hunk of cow was washed competely before I wrapped it up and stuck it in the freezer.

We still haven't had the courage to thaw any of it out and cook it.

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