Wednesday: Dead Animals
One of the biggest differences between the American restaurant experiences I have had and this new one in England, is dead animals. In America, when we order meat, we get just that: meat. Here at The Fat Duck, you get a dead animal that you cut up into meat. These pidgeons are not in fact those dirty animals that we feed while sitting on a park bench. They are what we call squab. (On a side note, all the pidgeons that you would feed here, live in trees. I don't know that I have ever seen a pidgeon in a tree. Have I? Have you? Is that wierd? They look silly up there, fat and weiging the branches down. I cant remember then anywhere but on the ground pecking at things and fighting.) These birds arrive several times a week. You can see the breasts they are to be cut into sitting below. The breasts are stripped from the body with the wing bone intact, let to sit overnight in buttermilk, and then bones opposing, glued together with meat glue.
I have been spending all my time aross the street in the house doing prep. The only other person in the prep kitchen is Paul. Paul is a very nice Irish lad who's 12 hours a day is spend doing all the meat prep. This involves not only the butchering, but cooking many of the meats too. He makes a lovely pigs head terrine. I might have wrinkled my nose up at this, but after eating some of it I know that is is truly a beautiful thing. Once a week an order of pigs heads comes in. Not just the cheeks and temples stripped of skin and such, but heads, no skull. I got to hold one up and look into it's eyes. Then turn it over and understand the placement of the cheeks and temples that I have seen at lampreia. After the head comes in, the face and ears are cut away to leave the temple (the area of the forehead between the eyes) and the two large cheeks. A torch is used to burn off the hair before they are cooked. After they are slowly cooked for 36 hours at a very controlled low temperature, they are sliced on a slicer and layered as a terrine. The terrine is cut into squares, breaded, and deep fried. It is one of the most amazing things I have tasted here yet. And one of the least scientific.
I do have a deep rooted opinion that in order to eat meat one must understand where it comes from. In the average american life you really only see meat in little packages at the grocery store. It is easy to forget that an animal gave it's life for you to eat. It's a humbling experience to see meat still resembling the animal that was once alive, and one I wish more people were forced to have.