We won't be writing about hunting very much, but this story is integral to Left Bank Butchery's roots. We aim to share more about the shop, the amazing farms that supply our meat, and interesting things going on with food. Thank you for helping to support our journey! - Aron
My wife and I first met on a blind date, and there was an instant connection. It took us more than two hours to get around to ordering any food, and we were still sitting there when the cleaning crew started vacuuming around us as servers put chairs up on tables for the night. Everything was fantastic right from the start, but there was also a huge problem. She was a vegetarian and I was anything but.
At age 9, my wife chose to be a vegetarian after seeing video and reading about commercial livestock operations. 20 years later, she was still fervent in her belief that it would be hypocritical to practice a career focused helping and healing animals while purchasing products from an industry with little to no regard for the health and welfare of the animals from which it profits. Like most consumers, I had never given the issue much thought, and dinners at home were often logistically difficult and full of tension.
It didn’t take long for us to come to an agreement whereby we would only bring animal protein into the house that was sourced from local farms focused on humanely and pasture raised livestock. We visited many of the farms who’s stands we purchased from at the farmer’s markets. These made for fun outings but also had the wonderful, unintended consequences of strengthening our connection with our community and learning a lot more about our food. This in turn has made us much better cooks.
Not too long after this compromise, my wife looked at me during dinner one night and told me that she wanted me to go hunting. In response to the surprised and puzzled look on my face, she informed me that it was important to her that I understand and experience, as a meat eater, everything involved with putting meat on the dinner table. The next day I talked to a colleague I knew was a big hunter. Two months later when deer season opened, I was out in the field.
At sundown one evening, with snow steadily falling, I shot my first doe. North Carolina shuts down when it snows, and when I called my colleague asking for help on what to do next, he told me that he didn’t want to drive in the snowstorm. He instructed me to drag the doe into the brush, cover it with snow, and that we would go back for it together the next day when the snow had melted. This was not optimal, but was the best I could do at the time.
Temperatures didn’t change the next day and the roads didn’t significantly improve. My wife overheard me talking to my colleague, who was unable to get out of his driveway, and told me that she had enough confidence in her experiences from veterinary school to help me figure out how to clean the deer.
We drove up to the hunting property together and she helped me load the deer into the back of our SUV after we had wrapped it in a tarp. Together we drove to the processor, where we (really just she) figured out how to hang, skin, and clean our first game animal. This is a process that can be completed by an experienced hunter in as little as 3 minutes. It took us more than 45. Throughout our learning experience, guys in pickup trucks were pulling up to the processor, hanging their deer on gimbles, and cleaning them before finally tagging them with processing instructions and hanging them in the cooler. Some of the other hunters gave me odd looks of disapproval, while others were vocal in joking about how great it was that I had my wife out in the snow cleaning my deer for me.
This would prove to be the first of many learning experiences that have, and will continue to strengthen my interest in and understanding of the outdoors and where our food comes from. It also gives me a visceral connection to the cycle of life, and allows me to supplement the amazing pasture fed meats at the shop with wild game.
Do you have to be a hunter to eat meat or even just visit us at the shop? A gun owner? Of course not. Hunting in and of itself is not a lifestyle requirement for any of us at Left Bank Butchery, nor is it a requirement for our customers. For me, it is the result of desire for a stronger connection to nature, a simpler way of life, and most importantly, a deeper understanding of the impact that our consumption choices make on the world in which we live. And ultimately, it was the first step down the path that led my wife Lisa and I towards our involvement with Ross and the shop.