In "The Butcher and the Vegetarian," author Tara Austen Weaver conducts an experiment: While dining with a male friend, she orders steak and has her companion order salad. Invariably, the waiter would bring the salad to her and the steak to him. Meat is man food. Or is it?
Two bloggers, Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy, wanted to undertake a friendly challenge -- to tackle a different project each month from "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Turns out, everyone else wanted to do this, too. The challenge now has well over 200 bloggers participating, mainly women. At last, women are taking meat into their own hands. Um, you know what I mean.
In fact, it's impossible to talk about this challenge without at least a little double entendre, if not full on ribaldry. The first challenge, duck prosciutto, involves salting and hanging duck breasts until cured. No matter how innocent the actual activity, the verbiage always elicits a chuckle. 'Paloozers go on about whether their breasts are large or small, fattier or meatier, firmer or squishier. Far too many of us had our breasts hanging in the basement, a fate few would have actively sought, much less bragged about, otherwise. As Twitterer @ohbriggsy tweeted to Barrow, "my breasts ... actually smelled good after just 2 days. Wait. Does that sound weird?" Yes, yes it does.
In an open letter to the Charcutepalooza crew, Foster brings it home:
You guys are pervs. Big ones. You just couldn't help yourselves, could you? Oh, I heard it all. My breasts are hanging. Are my breasts supposed to feel squishy? You have gorgeous breasts. My breasts are nicer than your breasts. Should my husband have breasts? Your breasts are much larger than mine. Are you talking about the duck or Pamela Anderson? Can anyone come over and feel my breasts?
You get the picture. It was like this all month. And don't look at me, I didn't make one breast joke all month. I would never do that, of course. I'm very serious about the meat. Focused. On the meat.
Foster's not the only one who's focused. Blogger St. Tiger Lily went so far as to evict her baby from his room in her New York apartment so she could leave the window open in order to maintain a cool enough environment to hang her duck prosciutto ... over the crib, where a sheep mobile once was. That's dedication to the cause. "Mother of the year?" she muses. "Yes. I think so."
This project has engendered more than enthusiasm for meat; a full-fledged community has sprung up around it. The #charcutepalooza hashtag on Twitter buzzes with activity day and night; the Facebook page and Charcutepalooza tag page on Punk Domestics (disclosure: founded by yours truly) abound with the efforts of meat mavens. As Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat wrote, "Why am I a part of Charcutepalooza? A part of it is that I don't want to miss out on all the fun. The twitter community for #Charcutepalooza is welcoming, supportive, and filled with funny, talented writers who take great pictures and love food. Following their posts will challenge me redouble my own efforts."
Although there are clusters of Charcutepaloozers in and around major US urban centers ("meat-ups" are inevitable), the challenge has been taken up on a global scale, from Italy to New Zealand. (Bay Area participant Scott Davis set up a public Google map for folks to placemark themselves.)
The whole meaty business will culminate after all 12 challenges are complete. Then, a panel of judges, including "Charcuterie" author Michael Ruhlman, professional charcutier and instructor Bob del Grosso, salumi blogger Matt Wright and Food52.com's Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, will select a single winner. The grand prize? An all-expenses paid trip to France, where they'll take a weeklong butchery and charcuterie class at the Kitchen at Camont in Gascony. The stakes are high.
Who will take the whole hog? We'll have to wait until next year to find out. In the meantime, we'll just have to enjoy the salty banter.
Image Credits: Meat on a cutting board is Judy Witts Francini/Under a Tuscan Stove. Dennis Barrow for the Cathy Barrow/Kim Foster image.
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, Paul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.
More from food