To see the butcher slap the steak before he laid it on the block, and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly. It was agreeable too – it really was – to see him cut it off so smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skilful handling of the subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.
Charles Dickens – ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’
Apologies to any vegetarian readers, but I love going into a ‘proper’ butcher’s shop. Indeed, (and apologies also to Jane Austen!) it is a truth universally acknowledged that Chris Moody, in possession of a few minutes to spare on a Saturday morning, must be in want of a nearby butcher’s… where I can sample a nugget of cheddar or a new variety of sausage, I can ogle the pork pies or scratchings, and marvel at the staff’s dexterity with some very sharp knives.
Jesse Smith Butchers in Tetbury is my favourite butcher’s. John and his excellent team are wonderful ambassadors for the town, for their craft and trade, and for all-round customer service. They welcome customers like friends: I’m often greeted with the not-at-all ironic salutation “Good day, young man!”. They’ll advise about cuts and joints, cooking tips, offer up bones for your dog, offer sweets for the kids, and their sausage rolls are amazing.
They play a central role in Tetbury’s community. The store is located right in the heart of the town, and on alternate Saturdays they operate the ‘Big Pan’. You can smell can smell the sausages and burgers and onions cooking from down the street, and it’s a terrible burden to walk past without indulging. More significantly, the proceeds from all of these ‘Big Pan’ mornings are donated to local charities and community groups. They supply burgers etc to local schools and the like for their own fundraisers at discounted prices.
Probably as a result of all this, on ‘Christmas Lights’ evening, when many stores open late in Tetbury, Jesse Smith is always packed with laughter and buzzing conversations, as customers and staff share mulled wine and sausage rolls. In the days leading up to Christmas there are queues down the street.
Long live Jesse Smith and all those like it. I hope you are as lucky as Tetbury is to have somewhere like it.