Walking up to Kitchen, Inc. in Union Square, one wouldn’t assume that this funky space—heralded by a faded bakery sign—is home to a family of small food businesses, but just step inside and it’s immediately apparent that something edgy is happening here. A small library of cookbooks beckons on the shelf by the front door. Four fridges and a quick-freezing Popsicle machine span the middle room. Before I even get to the kitchen, Heather Schmidt greets me with cider and a smile. I’m the first to arrive for her latest class at City Chicks, soon to be Homemade Modern Co.,
and tonight we are learning to butcher.
As Vadim Akimenko, our teacher for the evening, sets up, guests trickle in. We nibble on grapes, cheese, and salami and get acquainted. It’s a varied crowd. One woman is a chef at Cutty’s sandwich shop in Brookline. Another gentleman is a fishmonger. He’s never butchered a mammal before. When we’ve all gathered, Heather ushers us into the back kitchen. On the stainless steel table lays a whole pig. It’s split right down the middle. Vadim rests his hands on the two inner pig-halves as if to begin an in-depth explanation of pig parts, but then chuckles and backtracks.
“Let’s start with safety.” He instructs us how to hold a knife for butchering. Chefs are taught to never cut toward themselves. Butchers often do the exact opposite. Once the basics are covered, Vadim explains the cuts one by one: picnic roast, pork belly, fatback, leaf lard, shank, loin, shoulder, butt, ribs, and “everything but the snout” will be portioned and used (Vadim goes by a rule of having only 2-3 percent waste). After we’re familiar with the cuts, the real fun begins. On one half of the pig, Vadim begins to “take it down”—the butcher’s term for portioning. He wisely instructs us to watch first and ask questions after. We’re going to have to imitate what he does with the opposite pig half.
An intimate silence surrounds the first cutting—we want to get this right.
First the feet, then on up into the shoulders and hocks, finally to the ribs and belly. He demonstrates a cut, then a member of the group takes a turn. I get the tenderloin and gently use the blade to scoop the muscle from its place inside another muscle group. Vadim seems impressed with us—for a room full of people unfamiliar with butchering. When the pig is totally broken down, we create an assembly line to wrap our work. Everyone leaves happily with armloads of pork.
In the modern world, basic home skills are commoditized.
We don’t have to sew our clothes, cook or grow our food, build our homes, or know anything but how to swipe a credit card in order to meet our basic needs. Fortunately, humans like to feel useful. It is our inherent nature to create and learn. Now that the void has opened up, skill holders are rushing in to educate each other and the average Jane. By building community ties through education and enabling self-empowerment, Heather is sharing her belief that “there’s more to life than just cooking and baking.
At a Homemade Modern class, [you] garner a host of skills (many from our grandmothers!) and learn how to apply it to our modern life.”
To sign up for a class, grab a gift certificate for the upcoming holiday, or to hire Homemade Modern for your private event, visit homemademoderncompany.com. They will teach you about everything from sausage making to holiday drinks to coffee and donuts, and if you want to take a stab at butchering, there’s an upcoming class in January.