On Becoming a Charcuterista
February 6, 2008
I guess it’s appropriate to begin my new identity as Charcuterista with bacon. It’s an enduring love affair I’ve carried on through my life. One of my favorite professors in college, a vegetarian for 25 years, once admitted to me that bacon was the one meat she still craved; I can believe it.
This adoration, coupled with a more general urge to know how foods are made and where they come from, led to my Christmas wish list this year. I stumbled across Charcuterie by Michael Rulhman and Bryan Polcyn in Harvard Books while visiting some friends in Boston over Thanksgiving. Flipping through the pages, I realized that these traditions (something approaching the power of magic in my head thus far) were possible, and not only that, actually doable.
Part of the attraction of charcuterie for me is the utter abandon of it – the sensuousness of a silky, thin slice of prosciutto; the shattering crisp of bacon; the unctuous spicy flavors of sausage. Part of it lies in the opening for creativity, variation, and the ability to make something new and different.
But the most important part I see is the possibility of forming a new relationship with what I am eating. I am not a vegetarian, nor am I terribly interested in becoming one, but I am interested in how what I eat affects others. I feel like charcuterie is a way to make more with less, a way to use parts that might otherwise be wasted, and a way of intensifying meats so I can use less of them.
My first project, of course, had to be bacon.