I currently have two and a half pounds of wild boar meat marinating on my kitchen counter. My dog is chewing on a bone that was personally cut and given to her by the butcher down the street. Tomorrow Rami is cooking dinner for us and friends – and a plate of Pappardelle al Cinghiale takes at least an overnight marinade and a six or so hour cook time for prep, so it’s on my counter. It’s not prime boar season but if you ask for, what I guess is the “secret menu” of the Tuscan butcher, you can get many things – like boar meat, and dog bones. They brought it out from the back – probably hunted by a family friend in the neighboring hills.
The boar was from the other side of town today but the bone for Luna was from our more local butcher in walking-distance who chatted Florentine history while he prepared the cut of beef for our dinner. “You know this is the meal of the Duomo workers?” He asked in Italian as he sliced the huge piece of meat with heavily-tattooed hands and an enormous cleaver. Peposo was the dish, to me, it’s Italy’s beef stew – a slow-cooked masterpiece that’s easy to do once you get the recipe right. It apparently was made popular by Brunelleschi and his workers and was even brought up into the scaffolding so no one had to climb down for lunch, thus speeding up the work on the Dome.
The butcher’s mother then leaned into the shop from the back room to add her opinion on the only right way to put the herbs into the pot. “You dry them out by hanging them: Sage, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme.” She counted them out on her, fingers thumb first (as Italians do – did you know that?) and her entire arm shook with her enthusiasm. “Bunch them all together, tie it up with string and just throw it in!” She tossed a string-tied bundle of invisible herbs over her shoulder for emphasis as she disappeared into the back of the shop. History, recipes, and then dog heaven.
The butcher came around the corner after going into the back to saw a bone down to an almost-ok size for Luna’s tiny mouth – telling us to keep it refrigerated until she gets the marrow out of the center. She also got a prime cut of a filet – I swear dogs run the world here sometimes.
Yes, these personalized perks make these daily errands less “errands,” but even on the days that I’m just another customer in line, I still love the butcher more than picking up something in the meat section of the supermarket. There’s always still interaction, always a story, and more life – as long as you pay attention.