I assume some of my readership is urban, or at least not quite as hopelessly redneck as me. Therefore I’ll explain something about the relationship between farms and buying food. This is a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight so you might want to write this down:
A consumer must span a massive chasm of weird when they approach a farmer, cash in hand, to purchase food. Consider it an adventure… because the weird ‘aint going away. The rabbit hole goes clear to the earth’s core. This is why grocery stores exist… to take out the weird.
Buying a pig, for food, directly from a farm is a funky process. I’d say it’s like scoring weed but pot is probably a more mundane and efficient market. (For all I know stoners in Colorado pay with credit cards and get bulk discounts. Most small informal farmers aren’t remotely that advanced.) The following description is how you would buy a pig for food if you hadn’t already broken into the market several years ago:
You hear of a dude who’s got some pigs. Maybe your friend heard of a guy that works with a fellow that knows a dude who raises them on the side. So you try to meet the dude. Maybe you hang out at the coffee shop where he hangs out. You don’t quite know the dude’s name and nobody in the place drove in on a tractor so you ask the barista. The barista, who’s a vegan and weighs 40 pounds soaking wet, eyes you like you’re a baby stomping reprobate but points out the dude. The dude, for his part forgot to wear overalls and a straw hat. In fact the bastard is carrying a laptop. How were you supposed to know he was the dude?
You sidle up to the dude, a complete stranger, and say something like “I hear you’re selling pigs?” The dude glares at you like you’re an insult to humanity and and retorts “I’m a professor of humanities and a rich urbane pussified vegetarian social activist. I certainly have no idea what you’re talking about!”
Stunned, you look at the barista who points to the woman at a table a few feet further behind the dude. She is the actual dude and is laughing at your city slicker ways. There’s no outward hint she’s a farmer (or homesteader… or as I like to call it… “bacon pusher”). Her car is a VW Rabbit, she’s sipping herbal tea, wearing a t-shirt with an advertisement for a bicycle company, and reading a book about learning to speak Norwegian. The clues simply aren’t there! The Amish have a point. They wear a goddamn uniform and you’re thankful for their assistance. You vow that henceforth all farmers should carry name tags!
The dude-ette has pigs and will sell you one. You look outside for her truck which must be loaded with sweet sweet bacon and are baffled by the Volkswagen. You ask how much it will cost to get some bacon… a seemingly reasonable question. In response you get a friggin’ story…
“Well it’s X dollars per pound hanging weight, plus processing at Bills Meat Butchery and Scented Candle Emporium… you know the place?” You nod even though you have no idea where this is and loathe scented candles. Later, on Google, you’ll discover that Bill is located an hours drive away, on a dirt road, and is never open. He doesn’t answer his phone… ever.
“A pig weighs about Y pounds hanging weight and you can figure three quarters of that will be good meat…” The story is still going on. What about the bacon?!?
“…plus it’s a little different if you want chops or grind…” Chops or grind sounds like a hip hop band.
“…and it’ll take a while for the smoking process…” You entertain the idea of a bacon cigar.
“… you’ll have to go to Bill’s yourself because of the fuckin’ regulations, if you’ll pardon my French.” Um… regulations?
“….bring a cooler.” The story ends. You have no idea what just happened.
“There will be bacon at Bill’s then?” You’re trying to stay focused.
“Yeah, maybe 10 pounds or more… plus chops, roasts, grind, and so forth….” It dawns on you that pigs are not entirely composed of bacon…. which is a flaw in the Universe.
“So when do I go to Bills?” You stammer.
“I’ll tell you. I’m still fattening them up.” The dudette reports.
You leave. You’re radiating confusion and filled with errata about animal husbandry. No money changed hands, you don’t know what you’ll get, you don’t know how much you’ll pay, you don’t know when it’ll happen, apparently you need to go home and Google Bill’s location and sit by the phone.
Three weeks later your cell phone rings while you’re in the middle of a business meeting. It’s not a text because Bill don’t do that shit. Neither does Bill leave voice mail. You slip out of the room, call the number that just hung up. It’s Bill…. holy shit he exists!
“Your pig is done. I close at five.” Then Bill hangs up.
You go back to the meeting and explain that your child just got struck by lightning. Therefore you must leave right away. Then you jump in your car, race home to get a cooler, and break several traffic laws to get to Bill’s at 4:48 PM. Bill is standing there with a meat cleaver and looking sour.
You explain he called you. Bill doesn’t seem to recall. You mumble the dudette’s name and suddenly there’s a smile. Bill’s boys… all butcher shops have several young men working in the freezer (never women; possibly because they’re too smart to take that job)… Bills boys fill your cooler in five seconds with unlabeled white objects that are frozen solid. Your cooler is too small and your manhood is therefore insulted. Bill sticks the rest in an old waxed box hands you a bill for what appears to be a random amount. He takes your money and closes the door at 4:49pm. In Bill’s world it’s beer thirty. You still don’t quite know what you’ve received or how the amount you paid was determined. They might as well be using a roulette wheel.
Home, you stuff your freezer. You’re happy. You find the packages of bacon, interspersed with other glorious pig related joy. It’s frozen solid.
You set some bacon it out the thaw. It’ll take 12 hours. You pick up the phone and call the dudette. “Got any eggs?” Dudette doesn’t but she gives you the name of her brother’s uncle’s sister’s cousin who has a boyfriend with plenty of chickens. You scribble the name on your arm and the cycle of confusion begins again. What is bacon without eggs?
More in my next post…