Monday, October 18, 2010

McCall's Meat & Fish, Los Feliz - Nathan McCall and the Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

"One man's junk is another man's treasure."

By now in Los Angeles, it's not uncommon to see the words 'pig ears', 'jowels' or even 'trotters' on the menu. With this current dining trend, it's almost bizarre to find a restaurant that doesn't offer a beautiful offal. Just wait for the wonderful people at Olive Garden to offer the braised pig tongue ravioli with pig blood tomato sauce for $8.95 with coupon. Based on a ritual practiced for nearly centuries by almost every race in the world but Americans, a pig is finally consumed to the last piece of meat and thankfully it does not die in vain. When I had heard that Nathan McCall of McCall's Meat and Fish was offering a whole butchered pig that had been milk and acorn fed, I had to go in and see the butchering process. We've all tasted animals that had benefited from being milk-fed or acorn-fed. The latter being best exemplified through the mastery of Spanish charcuterie chefs – jamon Iberico de Bellota (Iberico ham). I had never tasted anything better than that.

On Thursday, I received a text from Nathan and I quickly drove over to meet him. The pig had made its way from the Sandberg Ranch in Lake Hughes, California – about an hour outside of Los Angeles. Nathan told me the 18 month old pig weighed in at 350 lbs., and had to be sawed in half in order to be carried by TWO people. I remembered vividly the scene in Food Inc. where a man in protective gear took a chainsaw down a carcass in less than 2 seconds. Just like that, it was halved.

I've known Nathan and Karen for about 7 months now and on this day, he showed me his true skill and passion for what he does. On top of waking up everyday at 5 am to go to the fish market almost everyday, ensuring that his customers get super fresh seafood, he works until about 10 pm, only to experience Groundhog Day again. He says that he and Chef Nozawa of Sushi Nozawa are homeys. Nathan has also done a lot for me as well.

I walked in with my camera and he had already been working on the first half of the pig – we'll name him "Benny Hill". He didn't even bother saying "hi" to me, he was at work. And one look at his focused face, I knew I shouldn't get near him and his hacksaw. If you happen to see Dylan's Ranch whiskey-fed, taco-fed, noodle-fed pork belly for sale, you'll understand my fate.

With a hacksaw, he cut through the limbs as far as he could, and then finish off with his meat knife. Before each incision or cut, he moved around his worktable like he was on a billiards table. He'd lean to the side and eyeball, murmuring to himself different measurements. I, along with two other gentleman stood and watched him go to town – the town of Porksville. The color of the flesh was a very light pink, yet deep and rich. The same richness you see from the Iberico ham... almost a crimson red. If trichinosis didn't exist, we might've jumped upon the pig like one of those freaks from Twilight and taken a bite of the meat to taste that milk and acorn. In about 20 minutes, he had finished off the first half. And still had the rest of the pig to go.

All I could stare at was that long rack of light pink rib meat. The pig was so fresh that the marrow was oozing out of the ribs, almost looked like vaseline. I took a few photos of the head. The eyes ever so resembling that of a humans. It was clear and stared at me, and I could tell it was only dead for about a day or so. I grabbed one of the trotters and it felt like human flesh. Bizarre but beautiful. I reserved a nice section of the belly.

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

Nathan McCall and the 350 lb. Re Ride Pig

10/14/10 - McCall's Re Ride Pig from dealinhoz on Vimeo.



Over the weekend, I went into McCall's to pick up some fish. The first thing Nathan did was show me a photo on his iPhone – a line about 15 deep before the shop had even opened.

Me: "Did you sell everything?"
Nathan: "Look down. Only one trotter left."
Me: "Nice. I love that nothing goes to waste."
Nathan: "Nothing."

Nathan doesn't know when he'll get in the next pig from Lefty Ayer's farm. But you can bet it'll be gone faster each time. This time, I'm going for the 'buche' and pig jowls. Thanks for reading.

ReRide Ranch (Lefty Ayer's)
32633 Pine Canyon Rd.
Lake Hughes, CA 93532
(
661) 586-7411
Website

McCall's Meat and Fish
2117 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027-2003
(323) 667-0674
www.mccallsmeatandfish.com

11 comments:

weezermonkey said...

This post is incredible. Haunting. Striking. Awesome. Thank you for it.

Food GPS said...

I've been wanting to witness full-fledged pig butchery like this in person. Great job of documenting the process. The billiard table analogy says a lot.

e d b m said...

Sharon, thank you.

Josh, it was definitely bizarre. It wasn't like being at 99 Ranch market. Nathan approached it with care and precision.

bagnatic said...

wow that pig foot pic.
and the pig head in that container.
:(
easy to forget that it use to be alive when i can buy it all chopped up at ranch 99....
thanks for the reality check.

DAVID McGRIEVEY said...

You have a gorgeous blog, tasteful colors, fonts, and beautifully written.
You make butchery look like a fashion shoot.
My days in Los Feliz were entertaining but sadly few.
I shall return.
X David, NYC

j gold said...

Nice. I got a big chunk of the belly and slow-roasted it with fennel, fennel pollen, and a splash of Pernod. As Charlotte the spider might have said, Some Pig.

Dan said...

Those pics could be considered pg-13! Nice work.

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie said...

We have such a thing in this country about not really making the cause and effect link between our food and where it truly comes from. When you think about it - it really is immature.

In the past when people lived on the farm and did this work at home it wasn't a big deal. I'll bet people were a little more respectful of the sacrifice the animal made (the Native Americans do this) and ate a smaller portion of meat and more of the sides. It's about time we start eating more of the animal like every other country in the world.

Ulla said...

This post is stunning. Love it. No need for words even. What great style you have!

Ricci said...

Great photos in B&W

Nilcha said...

its a scary-awesome pictures!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

ShareThis