Calling All Foodies
Photo: Hank Jackson’s Blood of the River Boucherie, photo my BJ Peart
For millennia throughout the world, people have been butchering and processing their own meat, as an excuse to come together as a community and using it as a way to store up the spoils of the harvest season. The centuries-old Cajun tradition of a boucherie has spread across the southern United States in recent years, picking up influences from other cultures as it goes. Even the Cajun background has a combination of influences, from the Native Americans to the French to the Spanish to the Germans. It’s a melting pot within a melting pot of food culture and history, founded on the idea that not a single part of a hog, goat, chicken, etc., is to be wasted. The day typically starts off with a Butcher’s Prayer – giving thanks for and to the animal for the life that it is giving to feed the participants, followed by processing and cooking, and then a feast. It is an experience that few people have been able to share in the last 100 years, as the traditions have waned in favor of the ease of mass production in the meat industry following the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. But this has resulted in a lack of education regarding the process and a lot of waste as a byproduct.
The resurgence of interest in boucherie events in the last decade or so has been brought on by chefs throughout the nation who want to educate the public and help spread an appreciation for where our food comes from and going “back to the land.”
Chef Dave Smoke-McCluskey, originally from Boston and a member of the Mohawk tribe, has more than 30 years of experience working in restaurants throughout New England and the South and now lives in Augusta. He’s a huge advocate for “snout-to-tail cooking” and The Three Sisters diet – a traditional and native concept of growing corn, beans and squash together in a truly symbiotic relationship that’s ideal for both the land and our bodies.
An author and passionate food educator, he brings his background and expertise to partner with Amy and Patrick Sutter of White Hills Farm in Dearing to bring the first boucherie event to the area.
“We want to honor the spirit of the animals and the tradition of how food was made,” said Amy, as she and Smoke-McCluskey excitedly talk about all they have planned. The farm itself provides the perfect setting for such an event, with different fields dedicated to the butchering process and cooking process, allowing people to come and go as they please and participate at will.
“Whole hog barbecue has almost become a fading art for the convenience of shoulders, butts and ribs,” said Smoke-McCluskey. Teams of chefs with various backgrounds from across the area and nation, including indigenous chefs, award-winning chefs and professional pit-masters, will be working with local farmers, who will be bringing in stock and vegetables to offer all sorts of dishes, both traditional and innovative. As for the attendees, there will be short educational talks and opportunities to participate in this harvest festival-type event. If you’d rather just try all the amazing food, there will be plenty of opportunity for that as well, with myriad dishes to choose from like boudin, rooster bog, pork cracklins, barbecue hash and more.
The event kicks off at noon on Friday and goes until sunset, focusing that first day on the preparation of different types of poultry and smaller game, from chickens and turkeys to rabbit and duck. Festivities resume Saturday morning at sunrise, with breakfast and coffee available from Harlem Java House. There is the pig-picking and roast and throughout the day are scheduled lectures and demonstrations to learn about where food comes from and responsible ways to eat sustainably, whether you live in the city or out in the countryside. There will be bonfires and hayrides and games and a bar on-site as well. Proceeds of the event go to support the nonprofit Augusta Locally Grown – specifically to help start a Farm Internship Program.
The Augusta Boucherie takes place at White Hills Farm in Dearing, Nov. 8-9.
Tickets can be purchased for Friday, Saturday or for both days at www.augustaboucherie.com.
Appears in the October 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.