|There's the beef...|
I’m trying to regain the weight that three years of biking, tour guiding, and hiking my groceries up five flights of stairs has stolen from me. I can hear the, “Oh shut up” coming from women across the English-speaking community, but let me explain. I have always shied away from costly animal protein, treating myself sparingly to chicken or beef from the grocery store and opting for beans and eggs instead. A student budget has an effect on a person, from the holes in his shoes, the frequency of shaving, and the size of his waist. But now, instead of buying a new belt, I’ve decided to invest in chicken breasts, fresh and cheap from cleaver wielders in Belleville.
I was always intimidated by the butcher. Engaging in a French activity beyond “Hello, please, and thank you” has always been daunting for me, but with three years under my ever-loosening belt, my confidence is at a peak. Be it the tax collectors, professors, or butchers in blood-soaked aprons, I’m prepared to confront them.
|Obviously I'd fry the chicken...|
In her book, Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard details the often confusing protocol required at the butcher. “There is something of the operating theater about the place: bright white light, spotless metal, and exposed flesh,” she writes. It’s frightful, at first.
You need to choose your meat, let them know if you want it cleaned, then pay for the goods at a separate counter before picking up the bag on your way out. Intuitive? Not at all. Easy? Well, once you read Bard’s book, yea. Although unlike Bard, none of my butchers look like Matt Dillon, and I have therefore not developed a crush on any of them. Yet.
|Lightly battered, of course...|
After some market research, I realized that the meat in
was cheaper and probably fresher than what I was buying in Monoprix and Franprix, so I decided to take the plunge. Now, I’m a regular. At least twice a week I stroll up rue de Belleville to the same butcher and order a few chicken breasts, maybe some ground beef, and I’ve even noticed that the workers are no longer giving me the pieces with the grotesque bones attacked between the two breasts, even though I get a sick pleasure out of cutting through them. Now they offer to clean the meat, without me asking. Most importantly, I always get the friendly, “Voilà, chef,” at the end, a sort of, “Here you go boss” that feels welcoming and personal, even if they say it to plenty of other customers. Belleville
Along with the bakery and the produce market, the butcher has become a staple of my Parisian routine. I’m one horizontally striped shirt and a Lucky Strike away from becoming a major Parisian cliché, but I think I’m OK with that, as long as my pants fit.