Whenever someone offers me a fancy meat I can’t pronounce, I won’t question it, I’ll just eat it. Unfortunately, this life choice has resulted in me appreciating good meats but never really knowing a damned thing about ‘em. So, to remedy my ignorance, I decided to visit one of Salt Lake City’s OG butchers, Frody Volgger of Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli.
Frody Volgger loves meat more than you.
When I met up with Frody last Friday morning, he was busy chopping up a goat. I was hoping that he would at least let me butcher the damned thing, but Frody is a professional and he didn’t want me to cut myself. Or at least that’s what he told me. I believe he just didn’t want me to fuck anything up. Anyway, I wasn’t allowed to touch anything, especially the goat.
This little guy came from Christiansen Farms in Vernon, Utah, where it had lived a happy, hormone-free goat life. It was raised to be butchered, unlike those lazy milkin’ goats.
I'll admit I was little disappointed that I couldn’t help out. I really wanted to let loose on that goat. But as I discovered, cutting meat is a science and Frody is like a damned meat scientist. He’s been in the business for over 45 years. “You can read books till you’re blue in the face, but none of them have it right,” said Frody, as he pushed the goat through a meat saw. “You just have to do it for a looong long time.” Frody learned how to carve meat as a young boy growing up on his parent’s Austrian dairy farm and he loves meat more than I could ever understand. In other words, he handles it, smells it and cuts it as if he were a sculptor, carving a beautiful woman from a block of polished tenderloin.
This is the meat saw. “No one touches the meat saw!” -- Frody
I should point out that watching a goat get sliced in half with a medieval torture device is somewhat of a transcendent experience. One moment you’re a happy little goat doing goat stuff on a goat farm. The next thing you know, you’re being processed into ribs, chops, roasts and, hopefully, sausage. It’s good to be human.
While Frody worked, I stayed out of his way as much as possible. It was clear that he was in the zone. The only thing I was allowed to do that was remotely butcher-like was hold this big-ass knife long enough for him to snap this picture…
Look, Mom, I’m doing it. I’m butchering.
Well, that’s not completely true. Frody uses every little piece of animal that he butchers. So after he finished up with the goat, he had to whip up some dog treats from a pig he had processed a couple of days ago. With his careful oversight, I was allowed to make a few doggie roll-ups from left over pigskins:
My finest creation. They're like Fruit Roll-ups minus the fruit.
All right, the most impressive thing about Caputo’s butcher shop is its humidity-controlled walk-in freezer. Basically, it’s a massive meat-seum that’s filled with Frody’s side projects. Because he’s the sausage king of Salt Lake City, customers bring him whatever they’ve killed on a regular basis. So, in every corner there's salmon, trout, elk, pig, beef -- any animal you would ever want to see inside a sandwich. As Frody and I toured the walk-in, it felt as if I were following Willy Wonka through his chocolate factory. When you watch this, just mentally replace all the candy with sausage:
Before I left Caputo’s, Frody insisted I sample a piece of his famous speck. Essentially, it’s a type of bacon that he’s been drying out for a couple of weeks. He sliced off a thin piece and handed it to me. Before I put it in my mouth, I expected it to be chewy and tough, like bacon jerky. I was wrong; it was soft and supple and it melted on my tongue like a bacon-flavored Listerine strip.
Pronounced "shpeck" like you have a wad of peanut butter on the roof of your mouth.
As I sampled the speck, I understood why Frody didn’t want to me touch anything. You see, as much as I thought the speck was the best thing I’ve ever tasted, Frody looked unsatisfied. “Eh, it’s not salty enough,” he said as he chewed it slowly. “It needs to sit a while longer.” The man’s a perfectionist when it comes to meat and therefore it only made sense that I was relegated to making dog snacks. But I'm OK with that. From now on I’ll just go back to enjoying the things I can’t pronounce and let this guy do what he does best.