A Girl & a Pig

There once was a girl who wanted to butcher.

She talked about it. She blogged about it. She handled meat and made sausage and got on stage to talk about it.

Then she put her money and knives where her imagination was – and butchered that hog.

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There were many reasons why I wanted to go to the second year of Feast Portland, but getting to stand on one side of a butcher block while Portland Meat Collective’s Camas Davis schooled us in the art of butchery was definitely the main draw.

As my dear friend Liz once shared,
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Perhaps that sentiment is why I’ve wanted to learn to butcher a beast. Or to do something physical and tangible and non-sit-at-a-desk-type-on-a-device. Or because I embrace being a generalist in life because like Robert Heinlein so eloquently stated, specialization is for insects.

2013-09-22 14.07.50In that frame of mind, Camas is a sherpa. An idol. One badass woman with a blade.

Finding herself out of work in 2009 she went searching for knowledge, butchery knowledge to be exact. Not finding it in her home town, she jumped the pond to France to apprentice with a family and learn the art of whole animal butchery. Once back home, she kept following her gut and launched the Portland Meat Collective – to bring knowledge of the art of butchery to the masses, and connect communities to their food in a more tangible way. Camas helps bridge the knowledge gap that exists between the animal in the pasture and the meat on your plate.

In the words of Wusthof when honoring her for their Edge Awards, “Camas is challenging expectations, breaking stereotypes and bringing intellectual depth to the art of butchery. “ 

And in an interview for those same awards, she summed up just why I got such a thrill out of her class, “I really could feel my brain – these connections happening – while I was cutting up meat”  

Here’s a photo journey through my day of butchery. I’m the one in the Seahawk hat grinning wildly while hugging a ham hock.

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Having a rabid fan base (pun kinda intended) that quickly sells out most of the PMC classes isn’t the pinnacle, now Camas is leading the charge for Meat Collectives Across America. Here’s the Kickstarter campaign that was quickly funded earlier this year.

Don’t think I haven’t been scheming about one in Boise. Who’s in? Raise your cleavers.

(P.S. For the latest admiring writeup on Camas – check out Martha Stewart’s feature honoring her as an American Made Tastemaker )

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