by Ryan Donovan, Head
A collection of books can speak strongly of a person’s
habits and inclinations. The care or lack thereof with
which the books are piled and stacked can be an
admittance of a secret passion or an overbearing censure
of guilt. The names of authors branded onto the spines
are left gasping in plain view, waiting to be judged:
their font, their colour, their lineage. Books are the
single most beautiful contribution that humanity has
offered the planet: they are the playground of words,
the dating network for single ideas seeking an
appropriate partner and they are the kiln inside of
which our better and worse doctrines are cured.
The following is a glimpse into The
Healthy Butcher Library; the oldest piece of equipment
we have at the shop. Like the meat, it has grown
organically over time and it is utilized just as much as
our cleavers and scimitars. The pages of these books are
opened to illustrate to customers how a dish can be
plated after they have invested their weekend braising
The spines are cracked in search of
cooking techniques and oven temperatures that will yield
the supplest slow roasted pork belly. And sometimes,
these books are rummaged through in desperation: “What
will I do with all these pigs’ ears? We never get the
ears. Oh no! Oh, look at this. A Cold Salad of Slow
Smoked Pigs Ears, just what Torontonians have been
The following books are ones I have chosen for their
inspiration and information alike. They have helped me
to learn and they have helped me to teach. It is because
of them that I find being lost in a bookstore as much
fun as being lost in a kitchen.
MARIO FIORUCCI & TARA LONGO
PICKED AS FINALISTS FOR
ERNST & YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR
OF THE YEAR AWARD
We are honoured to be recognized as an innovator in the
grocery and organic food industry by such a prestigious award.
Ultimately, the recognition is not just for us, but for the
people we are connecting - on one end, all of our valued
customers who have supported and encouraged us from the
beginning; and on the other end, all of our valued local organic
farmers who struggle day-in and day-out because of their passion
and belief in local, organic farming.
Our Mission Statement remains the same from Day 1:
To ensure your food is produced the way nature intended.
The Healthy Butcher is merely a link between you and the
and our goal - not just Tara & Mario's, but all of our butchers,
chefs and counter staff - is to make the link between you and
your farmer informative, efficient, and above all, sustainable.
Our journey together has just begun.
To learn more about the award,
AT THE BRICK WORKS FARMERS' MARKET
THIS SATURDAY, AUGUST 25th
serving up our famous dripping pulled pork and sausages
on a bun grilled over our special blend of apple and
As well, this Saturday the farmers market will feature
live entertainment, activities for kids and adults, and
more. Visit this new and exciting farmer's market,
and come hungry!
information, click here.
SMOKING LIKE A CHAMPION
Wednesday, September 19
Do you think
smoking meat, fish and vegetables is complicated and out
of your backyard skill set? Not anymore! We
are proud to bring you
Effect, the multiple medal-winners at the Canadian
BBQ Championships, teaching you about Brining,
Injecting, Rubs, and (of course), their secrets to
Smoking Like a Champion.
of the class including registration,
continued from above
by Ryan Donovan, Head Butcher
Cooking By Hand,
(Clarkson Potter, New York. 2003)
The most Italian cookbook without the word Italian in
the title, Cooking By Hand is a highly
organized and well structured combination of
investigation and instruction into the simplest aspects
of Italian cooking: fresh pasta, balsamic vinegar,
tomatoes and cured pork. An encouraging and thoughtful
welcome to the recipes reads, “Food that is both
delicious and interesting is always a reflection of an
active response to the raw ingredients – one that often
turns on its head information found in recipes”. Equally
musing memoir and robust recipe immersion, this book
could pass a winter’s day like Robinson Crusoe.
The original chef to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse,
Bertolli’s approach to food has defined the local and
organic movements for over ten years. Having moved on to
open his own restaurant Oliveto, he now focuses his
creative and philosophic strength on artisan old world
Salumi. And those recipes have inspired our own
Sopressata, Genoa and Mortadella. I learned to make our
salami through the gentle instruction of Cooking By
The most valuable practical aspect of this book is the patient discussion of
making pasta dough with different varieties of flour. Homemade pasta is one of
the most rewarding dinners for the family cook to accomplish, and with
Bertolli’s paternal hand it is impossible not to love the process more than the
pasta itself. The small essay entitled “Ripeness” is written with the profundity
and candour of Cicero.
The Whole Beast,
(Harper Collins, New York. 2004)
The most significant hurdle facing sustainable agriculture in Ontario is the
disparity in consumption between primary cuts of meat and tertiary cuts of meat.
Intensive broiler barns containing complexes of chicken cages will always exist
if skinless and boneless chicken breast continues to dominate our collective
consumption habits. And they are just habits. This problem is better addressed
by British writers, and Fergus Henderson has made a career, and many a menu, out
of balancing the scales by promoting the tertiary cuts and offal meats of each
and every domesticated animal we consume. At first mention, Henderson writes,
“it would seem disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole
beast: there is a set of delights, textural and flavorsome, which lie beyond the
In fact they are usually packaged near the stomach, directly under the fillet…
or right beside the throat. Fergus Henderson is the mastermind behind St. John,
the international culinary destination for the most dedicated offalophiles,
where bread is served with marrow butter and thymus gland is delicately dredged
and flash fried.
The Whole Beast is an ethical and culinary call to arms that, without
asking, illustrates to each omnivorous foodie the textural variety and myriad of
flavour that is available with each slaughtered hog. While this book “honours
the past at least as much as it points the way to a brave new future,” it truly
and fundamentally is “a book about simple, good things”. And if indulging in
Henderson’s recipes does not help us mitigate the damage of negligent
consumption in Ontario, it is certainly a way for us to put our best foot
(William Morrow, New York. 2005)
The most valiant
culinary effort of recent years, Bones is a triumphant publication that
encourages all cooks to refurnish their meals with the humility and flavour of
ill forgotten bones. McLagan’s argument is two fold: first, bones provide all
cooked meats with more flavour and moisture, making for a tastier and more
satisfying meal; second, we pay for the bones whether we use them or not, so
better to reap the benefits than be wasteful about such a valuable commodity.
Pricing our meat at The Healthy Butcher, I can tell you this latter point is
true. The cost of all the bone we discard in the organic bins is built into the
cost of boneless steaks. This is true of all butcher shops. The best way to
reduce the cost of meat for all of us is to use the animal more holistically. In
her introduction she confesses that writing the books was done in effort “to
solve the problem”.
The two recipes I like most are Pork Cooked with Spiced Honey and Lamb Ribs with
Beans and Spinach. The first time I met Jennifer, she asked me for lamb ribs and
I said, “What ribs?” as though lambs didn’t have ribs.
We spoke at length
about this recipe which I then displayed for our customers to see, accompanied
of course, with freshly cut lamb ribs. I gathered all the butchers around one
table and illustrated to them why we would no longer be trimming the meat from
the ribs for sausages. Now, lamb ribs have a dedicated following at The Healthy
Butcher and our lambs are thankfully consumed more holistically.
On Food and Cooking,
(Scribner, New York. 1984)
Unlike any other book
to be found in the Cooking section, Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking
is a canonical reference for the chemistry, biology, anthropology and etymology
of foodstuffs and cooking techniques. There are no recipes here, but it
elucidates a soufflé better than Rummy knows the known knowns and unknown knowns.
“No cookbook,” he writes, “can foresee and forestall all the emergencies and
mistaken turns that an ingenious amateur can invent.” Understanding the
molecular happenings of dry aging beef helps to ensure that the process is
followed to the best benefits. Armed with knowledge, all mistakes become lessons
and students become teachers in good order.
While this book can be
technically challenging, I find that rereading specific passages with
embarrassing frequency is analogous to perfecting cooking techniques or
challenging dishes. It takes more than one pass to understand the entirety of
certain sections, but the reward, like perfecting that Bouillabaisse is a
lifetime of sustenance.
Lest you fear that
understanding your food so carnally will spoil your love for it, let me assure
you that your eating experiences will only be enriched when you understand how
food is fuel and some fuels are more efficient than others, and that some
cooking methods rob those foods of their fuel. In a time of fad diets and a well
spring of monkey hatched nutritional advice; On Food and Cooking is an
island of true science and factual information that will improve each and every
one of your eating experiences. There are no recipes in this book and it was
designed to be a companion piece to other cookbooks.
The River Cottage Meat Book,
(Hodder and Stoughton, London. 2004)
This book is the most
indispensable resource I have. It is the first thing I give to young apprentices
and when it was given to me, it changed the way I lived my life entirely.
Humourous, candid, passionate, and active, this book reads like a Harry Potter
fantasy: full of villainous meat processors, corrupt farmers, heroic young
growers and prideful heritage breeds of pork. This book is non stop ride through
the most important aspects of our agro-political network. Hugh
Fearnley-Wittingstall is the Voltaire of food writing. He is intent of making
the world more like the world he likes and everything he likes is agreeable and
true. “Any useful moral discussion about eating meat has to focus on the choices
we have as individuals today,” he writes, and then proceeds to describe the
agricultural history that brought us to these choices and the political and
welfare implications of choices we have moving forward.
A farmer, a food
writer, and an all around champion of strong community living, Hugh runs The
River Cottage enterprise in the rural farming regions in England. A hybrid space
of farming, cooking, butchering, and problem solving: The River Cottage is a
culinary think tank and their meat manifesto addresses all the talking points in
Toronto food circles today.
Hugh’s writing is
impassioned in a rare way. “The cheapening of meat, in both the literal and
metaphorical sense, has engendered laziness in its use that is disingenuous and
insulting to the animals from which it comes.” The goal of the book, like others
on this list, is to reverse that trend and to have people cook and purchase meat
more holistically. The recipes and explanations encourage that sort of behaviour.
Armed with this book, there is no cut of meat left inaccessible.
Embarrassingly, I have
no more room to rave about the recipes; but suffice to say they are crucial if
you like to eat. Go by this book and immediately make the Feijoada on page 487.
Your life will be that much richer.
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