It is 4:30pm on a Friday, and chef announces that the Farmer - J.B. King - is coming. I love
this Farmer, both for his superior pork products and for what he stands for, just his very being. He rounds the corner of the kitchen, with a hand cart loaded with meat. He is wearing his
darkest blue Wranglers, because they e tough and durable - not out of some sort of hipster
irony (okay, truth be told, Mr. King might be a little old for hipster irony anyway) - and,
although it is 95 degrees outside, he is also wearing a flannel shirt. He and Chef discuss
payment methods and he helps unload his delivery: 4 giant pork loins and 20 pounds of sweet Italian sausage. Pork, oh, holy pork. (Mr. King raises all of his pigs naturally without the use
of antibiotics - he also has free-range chickens. Information on how you can get your hands on his products is at the bottom of the post.)
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from local farmer sleuth Martha Blint, which she sends out to local chefs and other interested parties. Martha lists all products available from local farmers and sends it out every Monday, along with their contact information. I passed this along to Chef and he was wisely convicted to source out some local meat options. We already use primarily local vegetables in our restaurants, and were looking for a way to support our local meat producers as well. J.B. King sent over a few pork chops for us to sample, which Chef promptly threw on the grill and sliced up. At first bite, we just stood there, looking at each other: this might be the best pork I have ever tasted.
Now it’s 5pm, and we are going to be slow for a Friday; it’s summer and people come out later, or they’re on vacation, or they’re getting their kids ready to go back to school. "Get me a really big cutting board!" Chef barks to a nearby server, and he hauls one of the loins - still including ribs - onto the counter. He examines it for a few seconds and states "This is the right side of the pig. Here was his shoulder, here was his rump. These are the sirloins. Oh look! The tenderloin
is still here!" He carefully removes the tenderloin and cuts the loin from the ribs. We throw the more awkward cuts onto the grill and eat them greedily. I buy the tenderloin for $5 (pictured above, recipe to follow), and a fellow server, giddy over the Sunday BBQ he’s going to be doing, buys the ribs and the shoulder roast. The chops will go on the menu.
One of my fellow servers is a little put-off by this procedure. "I just don’t want to see this or
think about it when I eating it." I immediately start in on my lecture - this is one thing I am truly passionate about - "look, this is how we get meat. We are supporting our local farmer here.
This pig was alive on Wednesday; we know exactly where it came from, what it ate, where it lived and rolled in the mud, and who raised it. If we wanted to, we could drive an hour away
to Albany and visit its friends!"
We should see this, so we know exactly what the eating of meat entails, so that if we choose
to eat it, we have respect for the animal. I love the portion of the French Laundry cookbook where Thomas Keller describes butchering rabbits. He felt the need to learn where meat comes from, and it was very difficult for him, but he learned a valuable lesson that we would all be
wise to learn. When you respect the animal, you don’t waste it. You want to use every part,
and you want to prepare it to the best of your ability. In our homes, but especially in the restaurant industry, we are so frequently wasteful. If we cook something incorrectly, we frequently just throw it away. When we think carefully about where our food comes from,
we are more prudent in our preparation and our consumption. When we cautiously source out our meat, when we meet the farmer and shake his hand, when we thank him for his work and
his effort, and for raising animals in a responsible manner, when we go out of our way to find their products
instead of getting whatever plastic-wrapped crap we find at the supermarket everyday, we validate their work, and we support them, and encourage their methods. This is how to change the industry.
And now, a caveat: I realize that sometimes this meat can be more expensive - primarily with poultry - and that some of this requires extra work. I know that it can be difficult to juggle
family, work, and the demands of modern life and still go out of one way to search out these products. I think one of the wisest things the state of Ohio implemented was the production of Farmer Market coupons for WIC recipients. The North Market, Clintonville, and Worthington Farmer Markets are all easily accessed by the bus system, and most vendors at these markets accept WIC coupons. Pass it on.
And that ends my lecture. I am stepping off of the soapbox, and I promise to not be political again for a very, very long time.
Info: J. B. King Family Farms, J. B. And Charlene King & Family, 3940 Factory Road,
Albany, OH 740.698.3940 website is in progress, e-mail kingfamilyfarm(at)aoldotcom. Currently, you can find the King Family's pork products at the following places (in Columbus): the Worthington Inn, Northstar Cafe, G. Michael's Bistro and the Columbus Country Club.
In Athens, and I'm sorry I don't know where many of these places are - maybe Barbara over
at Tiger & Strawberries could help if you were interested - Casa Neuva, the Oak Room, Avalanche Pizza, Ohio University, Kroger's in Athens hopefully soon in Columbus Kroger,
as well), the Inn at Hocking College, the Sandstone, and the Spotted Owl. (Correction: I originally stated the farm was in New Albany, OH - it is in Albany, OH, close to Athens.)