Charcuterie, DIY, and Hipster Homesteader Food Porn

Last week, I found wandering the aisles of Powell’s Books, filling my arms with an ever growing stack of books and lugging them to the coffee shop area to flip through. I picked up a nice waterproof map of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, browsed through Northwest history and the remaindered sale novels, and checked out the latest in Business and Personal Finance (This was a very fun book to flip through.).

The highlight of the trip, though was the three different cookbooks on DIY Charcutuerie, or home curing meats. (I can’t quite isolate them on the internet. Should have written down the authors!) Consider this a note for some future year: I would love to try curing meats one day. Most cookbooks give you an idea of how long the recipes will take – 30 minutes active time, 1 hour total, or something like that – but the time frames on these recipes were in weeks and months. You better get started on that Christmas Ham well in advance of the company coming — months in advance. (And here’s how to do it, if you’re curious, courtesy of the Virginia Tech extension service.)

The idea of using and preserving the whole animal with your own hands sounds quite romantic, not to mention fun. (I clearly enjoy preserving, and it would be neat to have fruits of my labors that weren’t fruits.) It would all take time, space, skills, and resources that I do not anticipate having in the short term future, but I’ll keep it on the shelf as an idea for next-next-next-next-etc. year.

This idea clearly appeals to my personal interests – cooking, preserving, extensive food projects, and meat – but it’s also part of this Artisan/DIY food trend that seems to be sweeping (certain parts of) the nation and is perhaps best established here in Portland, Oregon. You know, the whole grow-your-own-vegetables so you can save money to spend on artisan salami and sourdough bread made with grains ground in a mortar and pestle and a sourdough starter that has been passed down for 450 years thing. It’s very hot right now.

And I can’t lie – I’m very into it. I really like making things by hand, and I like the care that goes into small batch stuff. At the same time, I’m well aware that it can get absurd very quickly. I have no fantasies of some happy farming utopia in which everyone grows their own organic vegetables in their backyard (Didn’t we try that once? Weren’t they called Victory Gardens?) and churns the raw milk they got from the coop into butter by the fireplace at home. I do believe that the division of labor, including mass production of foodstuffs, has produced significant social gains, the least of which is not simply the fact that people don’t have to break their backs to survive.

In a time-travel scenario, I bet all those idealized homesteaders of back in the day would have given it up for a Big Mac and a flatscreen in a minute, and laughed at the modern day Portlanders with romantic notions of agrarian domesticity and self-reliance who offered to swap places with them. I have no doubt the time-traveling Portlanders would end up regretting their decision, at least a little. But what about the homesteaders? Would they regret it, even a little, after the umpteenth Big Mac on the couch? Is their something essential about being closer to our food?

Well, if you don’t think so now, try watching this twenty minute video from an outfit by the (uber-hip) name of Farmstead Meatsmith.about butchering and processing pigs, with some interesting commentary about the evolution of the enimal processing economy. It’s not instructional enough to be a cooking video, it’s well done enough to qualify as a short film, and it’s hip as all get-out. If it sounds interesting and you’ve got twenty minutes, I recommend it.

Let me know what you think, about the video and this whole Hipster Homesteader trend.

On The Anatomy Of Thrift: Harvest Day from farmrun on Vimeo.

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2 responses to “Charcuterie, DIY, and Hipster Homesteader Food Porn

  1. Read Farm City !!

    Any ideas why my second batch of marmalade wasn’t as good as the first batch? Jay describes it as “tough,” and that’s apt, actually.

    • That does look like a very interesting and relevant book! I’ll add it to the list….

      Nothing off the top of my head on the marmelade…was it lemon marmelade? I may have to recruit you for a guest series next year on your lemon tree!

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