Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat July 5, 2014

Butchery

  The sun was hot and bore down on a shirtless man holding a shining silvery saw. It was 1957 and we were in Miami Beach. I was with my parents and two sisters and we were amidst a crowd. Everyone sat in rapt silence in front of a cement bandstand near the hotel's swimming pool as he evoked other-worldly musical sounds from a standard carpenter’s tool. 

A collection of knives and other tools used by butchers.
Credit Norman Van Aken

Beads of clear sweat ran in a river off his face. He looked skyward as if to ask God how in the world to wreak notes from jagged steel. Who better to ask? The answer was coming in searing, plaintive sounds of quivering octaves that stoned my consciousness in ways I would look for in years to come in harmonicas,fiddles,slide guitars and saxophones.

A butcher 's tools ...just as the carpenter 's are mostly near ancient ones. Rendering an animal into parts is still the same task today as it was in the times of Noah Abraham or Abraham Lincoln. Saws, handsaws, gravity slicers many forms of knives and even axes are put to uses both brute and delicate.

Reports indicate that humans used tools to butcher meat at least 3.4 million years ago. One study of anthropologists, archaeologists and geologists proposed that the early human species "Australopithecus apheresis" which lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania used stone tools. Because early man species had large teeth, it was asserted they were primarily vegetarian. Does that strike anyone else as oddly as it did me? Bigger teeth for mowing down vegetables than meat? Life stuns me at least once a day.

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