Adam Nixon from The Ginger Pig with Gamaliel Pye
Gamaliel Pye (c.1514-96) by an unknown artist, dated 1596 © Museum of London
History and tradition still play a huge part in butchery; it is a skill that is passed down from governor (veteran butcher) to apprentice. Every country has its own unique cuts and variations, as does every butcher, so everything I do has been passed down through a long line of butchers before me. Who knows, some of that wisdom may well have come from the Elizabethan era. History is present even in the way we talk, and we sometime use a bit of butchers’ slang - “bir of feeb” for rib of beef and “pmur” for rump. It’s just a bit of fun (though we do get weird looks sometimes).
Working in Borough Market is amazing, it is so vibrant and diverse, but sometimes it can feel like being a character in Disneyland rather than a butcher. There are cameras flashing around us as we work, and being on show in an open stall means we’re a bit of a spectacle. Having said that, interaction with customers and getting to know the regulars is my favourite partof the job. Before I became a butcher two years ago, I was a chef in New Zealand; the only interaction there came from comments passed on from the waiting staff. That’s one of the reasons I started staying late after the restaurant closed and teaching myself the basics of butchery. I spent hours breaking down carcasses and curing my own prosciutto and bacon; before long I found myself surrounded by pigs’ heads bobbing in brine and strings of sausages.
Although I really aspired to be a butcher, I’m not sure that the profession is today quite as well regarded as it might have been to Pye’s peers. However, it seems to become more popular each year. We run butchery classes every week in our other shops to teach butchery and the process of ‘farm to fork’, which is something we practise at The Ginger Pig. These classes are always full of enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. It is my hope that, as people become more careful and conscious about what they eat, a butcher’s trusted place in society will only become more and more valued.
Find out more about The Ginger Pig