November 17, 2013

The Beloved Butcher, My Pap-paw.

My grandfather, or as we called him, Pap-paw, was my beloved butcher.

He was the local, uneducated meat cutter at the grocery that everyone came to see, not only for his opinions on the best cuts of the day, but also for his guidance. He was a natural conversationalist and so full of heart that he landed himself in the local newspaper, where they prized him for his friendliness, yet if one were to, “Google” him, it’s as if he never existed.

“Stan, the Man,” as he was so often called, valued school and after having to drop out after 6th grade to go to work, he encouraged everyone to get an education.

He stood behind the philosophy, “Life can take away your breath, your money, but never your education, so go get one.”

He rose to the position of head butcher which inevitably led him to losing his right index, or as he used to say his, ”Booger Picker Finger.”

I wasn’t always a vegetarian. I didn’t even know it was an option while growing up in Kentucky in the 70’s and 80’s, especially since everyone around me ate meat and considered meat the main course at every meal.

As a vegetarian for many years now, I am in awe of having come from a family with a butcher in it. A man who made his living supporting seven children by cutting, slicing, and sectioning off meat from the bones of cow, pig, poultry and turkey.

The same man that always brought home the finest selection of meat for his family and had fresh eggs for breakfast from his backyard where his chickens and rooster pecked and cockle-doodle-doo-ed within the confines of a fenced in yard, smack dead in the middle of the city. He had a barn of homing pigeons, though he didn’t eat them, he fed them, and one of my favorite past-times was lying on the floor of the barn listening to the pigeons, always feeling a little embarrassed because their coo sounded so closely to making love sounds.

I lived with Pap-paw during my sophomore year because our electricity had been turned off, back when my Mom and my stepfather could only afford a cooler filled with Velvetta cheese and crackers. I lived with Mam-maw and Pap-paw until “we got back on our feet.”

Every morning, because by then Pap-paw was too old to climb the precarious steps to the attic where my room was, he banged on the wall of the stairwell yelling, “Time to get up. Come eat breakfast.” I’d wipe the sleep accumulated from around my eyes and drag my seemingly lead filled feet to the kitchen where he had made a hearty breakfast of sausage, ham, eggs over easy and toast to soak it all up with.

After only a month of those breakfast meat filled mornings, I came to the table feeling queasy at the prospect of having to clean my plate.

Food was never something my family, with all their financial struggles, took lightly. We often knew what it felt to be hungry and I can still recall the times I’d sit looking at the blackboard seeing spots on it from an ocular migraine I was experiencing due to not enough nutrients in my growing body.

Those hearty breakfasts I came to hate the smell of, the ham and eggs, when all I wanted was a cup of coffee and a cigarette, just like Pap-paw was having, are embedded in my memory and when I smell meats cooking at restaurants or when my husband cooks it for my carnivore Czech American step girls, I am reminded of Pap-paw and our many mornings filled with meat.

During those months with my grandparents, I took a brown bag lunch that Pap-paw had also made. Every day, inside the bag was the usual bologna sandwich that he had sliced from the slab. He smothered the bologna in mayonnaise and mustard. Other hungry kids began asking, “What did Pap-paw make for lunch today?” I’d smile, hand over my brown bag and feed whoever was hungry that day. Sometimes splitting the sandwich with two different people. None of it ever went to waste.

When I think of my Pap-paw, I not only think of education and the importance of it, of meat and his life surrounding it, I also think if he were still alive, given his sensitivity and care for others, “Stan the Man,” would probably learn know how to make the best veggie burger and veggie sausage in all of Kentucky.

Though he was deeply in support of education, he also believed as Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

Pap-paw’s education was grounded in life experience and he possessed deeply an education of the heart, feeding his hungry granddaughter, and her hungry friends, while following his heart, the true seat of all knowledge. I don’t judge when carnivores devour their meat.

Even the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, states that not all bodies should be vegetarian. More recently, Ayurvedic doctors are prescribing medicinal meat for those low in B12.

Some people need meat in order to be healthy; I’m simply not one of them that do, but I embrace the memory of my meat eating days because that was a special time in my life when I needed to be fed, and also it was time in my life when I got to be alone with the beloved butcher, my Pap-paw.


Like elephant food on Facebook.

Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Krista Katrovas  |  Contribution: 7,120