I have been unwell now for about 6 weeks and it's sucked. I've had very little energy and my ability to form a semi-coherent or intelligent has been severely hindered. Tonight is the first time I've felt able to do it and that is owed largely to the fact that I didn't get up until 1.30pm.
For my birthday back in March, my boyfriend bought me a voucher for a butchery class. He'd been to one a few years ago and thought I'd really enjoy it. First you have to decide which type of animal you'd prefer to butcher, lamb, beef, pork, poultry, seasonal game and even sausage making. I instantly wanted to go for lamb as it's my favourite but after some discussion, we thought I might get more use out of a pork course.
The day I was supposed to go was a few weeks ago and I was unsure whether to haul my ass out of bed or not to go. I was tired and grumpy and nervous at heading into a completely new experience with strangers. I knew I'd feel really guilty if I didn't at least try and figured I could always come back early etc. Even on the train, I was resentful to all the relentlessly happy people heading into London. My appetite has been poor for the few weeks before this and it was hard to get excited about it.
I walked the short 15 minute walk from Marylebone station to The Ginger Pigs' shop. As I stepped in, it looked much as it would in the day, except there was no meat in the fridges, just a large wooden bench with half a pig laid out on it, yes, head and all! A few people had arrived before me and as I had feared, they were all men and I was regarded with some intrigue. I donned a very fetching butchers coat and offered a bottle of water. After everybody had arrived (One late comer being a female, phew!), the very charismatic butcher started talking to us about The Ginger pig, their belief in free range animals and high welfare standards. Their passion and knowledge was apparent and got me excited about the evening. He then went through all the names for the bits of the pig. As this happened, we were offered some of their homemade sausage rolls which, by the way, were easily the best I have ever tasted and if you're ever in London, it is well worth the trip.
Now it was time to start jointing the pig and it was saws and extremely sharp knives at the ready. Voluntarily people would have a go and dissecting the joints. The butcher went through each joint, how to prepare it and cook it, how much it should cost and what you should be asking your butcher. A pig is definitely the thriftiest animal to use as you can use every single bit of it if you know how. Trotters have been incredibly fashionable over the last few years but are also good for adding flavour to stews and for thickening it too. The bladder can even used to make a football.
Once it was all in it's joints, about 10 bits altogether, our challenge was to put it all back together again. A group of 12 took a surprisingly long time to complete this little task.
The moment of truth arrived, time for us to joint our own bits of pork. We were all given loin and shown how to ask the butcher to chine it. We each had one of their extremely sharp knives and a chain mail glove and away we went. Of course the butcher had made the whole thing look easy, except for knotting the string which I am sure was made up just for their own amusement! I was totally absorbed in it and before I know it, I had my joint ready to season and roll. I astonished myself by getting the knots right the first time round and I was went to weigh and bag my joint, I looked up and everyone else was still trying to get their joints off the bone. I tried my best to conceal my child-like excitement and stood close by should anyone want any help.
Now only do you get to take this beautiful joint home with you, a joint that would easily cost you around £50 or more but you get a 2 course meal of the same joint and copious amounts of wine. We stood round the table enjoying our roast loin with dauphinoise potatoes and wine and the conversation really started to flow. I had to admit it, I was having a really good time, even if I was struggling to eat as I hadn't been hungry before we were even given the sausage roll at the beginning. I ate what I could and it was delicious and had forgotten about dessert until a massive chocolate bread and butter pudding was placed on the table. There was no saying no to it as huge plates of it were enthusiastically thrust at you and again, I had a few mouthfuls before exchanging bloated belly strokes with my fellow trainees.
Would I recommend going on a class? Yes, absolutely. It is an experience you will use again and again, as well as being fun, educational and something you will always remember. There were people that had done one of The Ginger Pigs' other courses and were hooked.
Would I do another one? Absolutely, it is probably the best present i have ever had and one that I will always remember.