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Help me decide on a present for my butcher please!

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by egyptgirl, Feb 11, 2012.

  1. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    My butcher is retiring at the end of the month. He has been very good to me since we moved to the area, even saving me from fainting when I was pregnant a couple of times so I'd like to get him a nice retirement present. From what I can tell, he doesn't have many hobbies outside work but he loves cooking (and eating!). Any ideas?
  2. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    My butcher is retiring at the end of the month. He has been very good to me since we moved to the area, even saving me from fainting when I was pregnant a couple of times so I'd like to get him a nice retirement present. From what I can tell, he doesn't have many hobbies outside work but he loves cooking (and eating!). Any ideas?
  3. henriette

    henriette New commenter

  4. modelmaker

    modelmaker Star commenter

    It's an interesting question. You could buy him a cookery book but coming as I do, from a family of butchers, he probably knows how to cook meat. Certainly, my brother would advise any customer who asked the best way to cook a particular cut had an answer.
    There was a tale he would tell about an Irish lady he served who came to the shop with a limited budget and a request from her husband for something different to eat. Having established her budget, my brother suggested oxtail, which she had no idea what to do with. He told her how to cook it, and the next day she returned saying her husband thought it was the best thing he'd ever eaten and wanted some more.
    So the following day when she returned to the shop, my brother asked her if her cooking skill with oxtail had improved and she replied "It was ok, but not as good as the day before, but her husband told her not to blame the butcher as it might have come from a different bullock."
    It's with fondness I remember my brother, who I remember cooked the most fantastic game pie when I offered to take his family to visit London Zoo in my VW camper and haver a picnic lunch. His pie was easily 5" high and packed with a variety of meats you could only dream about. The day was marred by the pissing rain after we set off and would have been easily forgotten but for that pie.
    Sadly. he died in his mid-forties from a massive heart attack, which may well be the fate of many butchers who enjoy far too much red meat. In the case of my brother, he also drank and smoked more than he should have and had to endure the stress of bankruptcy after a supermarket opened up down the road and put him out of business.
    So if you consider buying him a cookbook, how about finding one with great ways to cook vegetetables to accompany the meat? I can assure you he wil be a committed carnevore so don't find a vegetarian cookbook, just one that has great ways to cook vegetable accompanyments.
    Why don't you create your own recipe cards, laminate them and bind it into a book? Give him the chance to enjoy some of the recipes you personally cooked with the meat he sold you?
  5. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    Brilliant ideas, MM and H!
  6. lilachardy

    lilachardy Star commenter

    Have you got time to collect recipes from a number of his customers (word of mouth probably needed here), then put them all together into a book for him?
  7. egyptgirl

    egyptgirl Senior commenter

    I know that he doesn't have too many customers now, which I think he is retiring early. It is a shame as he is such a lovely man and the meat I buy from him is so delicious.
  8. modelmaker

    modelmaker Star commenter

    So another honest shop will disappear against the might of the supermarkets. I suspect it's only a matter of time before our village butcher runs out of enough customers to keep it viable as well. He's taken to selling vegetables as well as meat, after the greengrocer closed, and I have to say they compare very favourably on price and quality with those the supermarkets sell, paricularly as everything is sold loose, so you only buy what you need.
    I worked out a couple of months ago why local butchers don't get the trade they deserve and how they could improve it. They need to take inspiration from their competitors, the supermarkets and do exactly the same things that supermarkets do, then learn how to do it better.
    The first thing they need to understand is that when you visit a supermarket, you know exactly what a packet of meat will cost you, but you don't have a clue in the butcher's shop. Butchers advertise the cost of the meat by weight, and ask you how much you want, but people have lost touch with weight and mental arithmetic. So if you venture into a butchers shop to buy some lamb chops, he'll probably ask you how thick you'd like them instead of how much do you have to spend. The result is people buy thicker chops than the supermarket sell, find the cost beyond their means and shop at the supermarket next time. If the butcher asked instead, "How much do you have to spend?" you'd get the same deal, but with better meat.
    And then there's the issue about having the time to shop. Our butcher is closed for most of time I'm in the village. We live in an age where for most households, two working adults are the norm. We frankly have been manipulated into a situation by housing cost where both adults in a family have to work. They have no option but to shop at the supermarket,
    And next is that if I type TES into google, the first options are Tesco. Butchers tend not to have websites. They don't tend to have email addresses. To order something from a butcher, you have to visit in person. But supermarkets made this easy. You can buy everything you need online and a nice man will deliver it for less than it would cost you to drive to the store and back. It's the obvious way forward, except you don't get the quality of food you hope for nor the choice of how thick you want your chops to be. You buy by the pack and the price.
    So I have a plan for all the supply teachers out there to earn a living and have a less depressing life. Go and talk to your butcher and ask if he will be interested in you promoting his business. Create a website local people can access and order their meat in the cuts they like, and most importantly of all, allow them to know what it's going to cost and allow them to vary the size of the cuts to suit their budget.
    And having taken their orders, deliver it. Give them recipes and advice how to cook it properly.
    Basically do what the supermarkets try to do.but do it far better and win the custom back.
  9. giraffe

    giraffe New commenter

    How about a nice bay tree in a pot? Decorative and culinary!
  10. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    My village butcher does all of this!
  11. modelmaker

    modelmaker Star commenter

    So has it improved his trade?
    Who are his main competitors? Supermarkets of other butchers? I ask this as regionally, I've found, there is variability on the number and proximity proximity of supermarkets to towns and villages based on the population.
  12. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    I'd imagine so- he's recently taken on another chef to do the pies, quiche etc. He ships UK wide and delivers in the local area for free. He also supplies restaurants and bistros from here down the coast and up as far as the nearest city. People have always come far and wide to get their meat here- his Grandad set up the shop ages ago. I was in the shop recently and a woman in front of me was saying she loved being able to click in her order from work and collect it on the way home or have it delivered when she gets in (they deliver after the shop shuts in the evening as well as during the day to the locals). I'll PM you a link.
  13. modelmaker

    modelmaker Star commenter

    Please do. Your shop seems to be better organised than most small butchers, from what you say.
  14. nick909

    nick909 Star commenter

    Our butcher does all this too, MM.
    There are lots that do and those that survive do so because they move with the times.
    Ours is primarily successful because it has a city wide reputation for exceptional meat and old-fashioned standard of service, along with having moved with the times and offering mail order and online ordering, as well as a healthy mind for promotions and events that they email customers with regularly.
    I don't think we can solely blame the supermarkets for the butcher's decline. Supermarkets are just trying to make money, after all - we can't really begrudge them that. No, butchers have a responsilbility to move with the times - if they're not keeping up with the things the supermarkets are doing, then they've only got themselves to blame.

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