NEWS

Butchermania

February 19, 2009
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta

It was an invite to attend a luncheon of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. But this time, the luncheon was at the Worshipful Company of Butchers. A beautiful place. Unfortunately, I had to take a call in the middle so I was shown into an office.

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Here’s the back of a leather backed chair with the logo emblazoned on it.

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Here’s me during the call, with the laptop open. Can you see the chair? Beautiful handiwork.

 
The luncheon was held in the Great Hall.

Can you see the table plan? pretty complicated. I was sitting half way up the middle table on the left. Then, after the call, I hot footed it back to the lunch. The food was absolutely delicious. The Angus Beef was so smooth, I think it has to be rated to be one of the best steaks I have eaten in London. But to be expected, if you dont get good beef in the Butcher’s hall, where else would you get it?


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I took a sneaky picture of the main window as I was leaving. Can you see the stained glass showing the butchers on the bottom? The top window shows the various animals which are used in the trade, like sheep, lambs, cattle, etc. It was full of grandees and thus felt a bit embarrassed in clicking away…

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But outside the hall, down the stairs and the hall has the most amazing dioramas. This was showing a butchers diorama, with cuts of beef, pork and lamb hanging.

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I am afraid this photograph did not come out quite right, but shows some kind of a letter of patent relating to the fact that the Princess Royal became some kind of member.

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Turning my head, there was another diorama with a huge cleaver on the top.

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Took a close-up of the note. There are two flags, first the flag of New Zealand and then the flag of the United Kingdom, some kind of an association, I guess, established in 1809. It says:

“This chopper was used by Mr. Edward Jeffreys at  Buckinghamd Palace to cut up the first New Zealand Lamb carcasse shipped to the United Kingdom in the S.S.Dunedin and presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria in May 1882”

Pretty neat, no? to capture all this history? I know this is not big news or a big historical event, but it actually is very big news once you think about it. This lamb trade has impacted the history, economy, and culture of New Zealand for more than 100 years. And this cleaver was there when the trade was born.



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Another diorama with the tools of the trade.

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Here’s the Hall.

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And here’s the Smithfield Market where you would get the butcher’s with their stalls.

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And on the way, saw this, the Kinky Barber, who gives you a beer with every haircut! :) As long as you dont worry about the type of haircut, you should be happy with the beer :).

But lets take a side trip, its the history which interested me. The history of this company goes back to 975AD. Now that’s impressive and goes deep back into the hoary mists of time. When we eat a steak or a chop, do we know that there is this level of history of professional attention paid to how to deal with meat? I did not. This company is deeply involved with the meat industry, it deals with a variety of industry issues ranging from hides to food hygiene, etc.

It is a fine art, this bit about dealing with meat. You simply cannot kill an animal and hack it about. Oh! no. You have to know the physiology of animals and there is a whole terminology around which cuts of beef comes from where?

I was taught how to carve meat by my ma, she used to hunt in her childhood with my grandfather. So dealing with poultry, goat and beef was very interesting. It was almost like surgery. Which you should not find surprising, after all, for quite a long period of time, barbers and butchers used to be the surgeons of those ages. Anyway, it was quite interesting to sit there looking around at the crests, the stained windows, and know one was sitting amongst the ghosts of butchers past for a thousand years. The next time one see’s a big juicy medium rare sirloin steak on the plate, one would know that there is quite a strong possibility that the way it was prepared had some links of some sort to the Worshipful Company of Butchers.

The full slide show here.

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Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta works in the city of London in various capacities in the financial sector. He has worked and travelled widely around the world. The articles in here relate to his current studies and are strictly his opinion and do not reflect the position of his past or current employer(s). If you do want to blame somebody, then blame my sister and editor, she is responsible for everything, the ideas, the writing, the quotes, the drive, the israeli-palestinian crisis, global warming, the ozone layer depletion and the argentinian debt crisis.
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