When Hank Shaw said on our blogger list that he would be happy to teach a group of us to break down a lamb, the excitement was palpable. When he said he would do it for the cost of the lamb, the reaction was ‘Really?!’
I was one of the people who had never actually met Hank, though I can tell you I knew him by reputation. My friends Elise and Ryan think so highly of him that I naturally assumed he must be absolutely wonderful.
To my great and utter joy, I was not disappointed.
When someone welcomes you into their home, as Hank and Holly did, they don’t do it lightly. And when the offer you homemade yogurt cheese (labneh) marinated in olive oil, thyme and sumac, they are just really amazingly nice people. With very good taste.
If you have ever been in a room with a bunch of food bloggers, you know that there were cameras, note taking and way more jokes than might be acceptable to those who don’t believe allusions of any sort should come with their meat.
Watching my friends attack a half a lamb was really quite interesting. Watching someone with a knife tells you a lot about them. I am terribly convinced that Biggie has a dark past with a saw (no really, she’s way too good with that thing.)
“A dull knife is a lazy servant.” Hank Shaw
As Hank broke down the first half of the lamb he told us what each cut was called, and how you can slightly alter your cuts. I know this is the part where you want the copious note taker in me to have gotten all of this down, complete with charts and drawings, but alas, there I failed you.
I did however get some great tips to make it easier:
*Use a boning knife to cut tissue, using the natural gravity of the motion
*Don’t use a saw for anything but bone. Otherwise you just gunk up your saw
*If you hit cartilage while cutting, move around it, not through it. If you find yourself at a wrong angle, stop yourself and reset.
*BE COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR KNIFE
*Look for the natural breaks
*Make sure you regularly dry your hands!
*Lamb fat is very hard. Hank recommends using very little if you make sausage, lest you destroy your grinder
If you really want to know HOW to do it, I suggest you check out Hank’s blog and twitter. If you get the chance to meet him, even better. Hank loves to share his knowledge and he is so passionate about eating real fresh food, it is easy to get swept into his excitement.
What I took away from the adventure was the essence: when it comes to being social about food and sharing, the community of it, some people are very adept.
I walked out of Hank’s house feeling blessed to be a part of a community where we could have an event like this. Not with chef rock stars charging a lot of money, but with a man who is so passionate about teaching, he would do it for the joy of doing it.
Now, I am not against chef rock stars charging an arm and a leg. That is their choice to charge it and mine not to pay it.
The things I would change about the experience are minimal: I wish there had been some sort of introduction at the beginning as it might have been slightly easier to communicate with some of our fellows. Being in big groups, people naturally laugh, joke and then break back off into known groups.
I also feel that when you are invited to someone’s home, you should bring something. This is just how I was raised. (So half the group did and half the group didn’t. This is disproportionate when people are hungry!)
Hank talked about fishing and I’ll be honest: for the first time in 20 years, that actually sounds interesting to me. (My dad took us fishing a couple times as kids, but I think Hank’s idea of fishing and my dad’s sound quite a bit different!)
Interestingly, the question that has been popping up more and more among my friends is, “You eat it, but could you kill it?” I like that Hank Shaw answers this question in such a simple way. He is not a malicious man, he is a hungry man. He is not a cruel man, he is an honest man. He has no fear of working hard for what he gets and if that includes hunting, killing, foraging and cleaning his own food, well then he’s going to do it.
I look forward to foraging with Hank in the fall, and learning more about the essential elements and processes of life that we have gravitated so far away from. It will be interesting become closer to nature and move the other way; toward the past, which seems, for many, to be the way forward.