I miss the old days when there were real meat markets. The butchers back then had hands like bears and arms as strong as iron. I lived around the corner from a family grocery store. They also owned the apartment building where I lived.
Every month it was my job to bring them the rent money. To get to the tiny office, I would wind my way around the store, past the butcher shop and around where big men cut slabs of meat bigger than me. The office was just past the blood and the saw dust.
Being a quirky kid, I was fascinated.
Today, the only butcher shop I know is inside Kroger, where they let you see nothing of the inner workings of meat cutting. Men (and women) in clean white uniforms greet you. Their uniforms are so pristine you'd think they worked in offices.
Still, they're quite generous and amenable to any request from a customer. Here are a few things most butchers will do for you.
• If you buy a big hunk of meat or roast on sale, ask them to grind up half, or take out the bone for you. The same cut already trimmed or ground could be significantly more.
• Whenever I go into town, I run a lot of errands. During Texas summers you don't want to leave meat in the car too long. Many times, if I do my grocery shopping early, I'll ask the butcher to hold back my selection until I finished my errands for the day.
• Many butchers will tenderize a piece of meat for you.
• Check out the expiration date on the meat. Stop by the day before or the day of, you'll find it greatly reduced.
• Ask your butcher what time of the day they mark down meat. It's usually in the morning. By me, it's around 9:30am.
• If you don't know how to cook a particular meat, ask your butcher. They're very knowledgeable and eager to help. I've never had a bad experience with them. They're the friendliest of all the grocery personnel.
Have you ever been to an old time meat market? One of the things I miss are the big knuckle bones they'd give you for free. There was lots of meat on them and my mom would make wonderful beef stock. My favorite part was sucking out the marrow.
In later years we used to buy them for the dogs. They'd be content for hours.
Nowadays you can still get the knuckle bones if you ask, but they charge you for them. They are surprisingly expensive for something they used to give away for free.