Disappearing butchers


We planned a dinner party with Sukiyaki. It is food for an omnivore’s paradise: beef, tofu, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, cooked in soy sauce, sake, and sugar. Nobody has disliked it in my experience unless you are a vegetarian: a Swiss friend called it “sublime.” Like Fondue Boeuf Bourguignonne, Sukiyaki needs paper thin Kobe beef or prime rib. I went to the Lethbridge’s best butcher “Alberta Meat Market” as I had done a few times. He knew exactly what was required for Sukiyaki. But he told me he could not do it any more. The new rules prohibit slicing meat by hand nor machine at the shop.

I didn’t give up. I went to the supermarket which sliced Sukiyaki beef once for me before. What do you know? There was no butcher behind the glass window. I was totally stunned. Come to think of it, lately all fresh meat in the refrigerated tubs are all pre-cut and vacuum packed. The regulation does not allow a butcher to butcher any more, except in a factory! We live in a strange new world.

Then I wondered that it could be the result of the measures taken after contaminated meat from a big meat packer company caused deaths and sickness a few years ago. It is ironical that the regulations that are supposed to safeguard the safety of little people like me but end up punishing neighbourhood Mom and Pop butcher shops. The supermarket still cut luncheon meat as thinly as we want. I thought that the fiasco was caused by contaminated processed meat not fresh meat. It’s ambivalent.

You may think this is trivial. It’s for the sake of public safety: just “suck it up.” Maybe. But I am worried about the trend to favour big money industries forcing the Mom and Pop operations to go under. What happened to the corner convenient stores? What happened to shoe repair shops? Recently I had to go around a few jewellers to change a watch strap. It wasn’t easy. You are supposed to buy a new watch, if the strap is broken. I miss a watch repair shop. Creativity comes from independent people. Communities are made up of small businesses who know everybody in the neighbourhood and know their exotic needs.. I know: Time’s changing. I should shut up and fade away. No! I refuse to give up Sukiyaki.

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