Last Saturday, we joined over 350 chefs, butchers, and guests at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge for Chef John Folse’s 4th Annual Fête Des Bouchers, a traditional Louisiana boucherie.
The tradition of the boucherie, or communal butchering of pigs, has deep roots in Louisiana culture. Before the days of grocery stores, refrigeration, and the onset of industrial farming, families or small communities would come together to share in the work of harvesting and breaking down the animal for food. It would be an all-day event, with everyone sharing in the yield from their labor, and none of the animal going to waste. Not only did this instill a greater sense of community, but also an appreciation of the food and the life of the animal.
Boucheries would often take place in the winter months, to provide fresh meat and also smoked and salted meats for longer term use. So many of the Cajun delicacies we love - boudin, cracklins, hog head cheese (to name a few) - were born from this tradition.
Chef Folse is doing his part to keep the boucherie tradition alive. His event proved to be a true celebration of culinary arts, Cajun cuisine, the animals that feed us, and the age-old craft of the butcher.
To begin, the hog for the day’s meal was carried to Persimmon Hill in a silent procession, followed by a Butcher’s Prayer by Bishop Michael Duca.
While meat from the pig was prepared, there were educational sessions. Chef Folse and other experts shed light on a slew of culinary topics. There were Charcuterie 101 sessions, a demonstration of how to make sugar-cured ham, and a lesson on the importance of the butcher and pig in our society and economy, to name a few.
Then... there was the Spoils of the Boucherie lunch buffet, which included 10 mouth-watering stations:
And of course, there was crawfish! If you’re in Louisiana and you didn’t eat crawfish, did you really even go?
It’s hard to imagine a better location for the boucherie than White Oak Plantation, and we were thrilled to get a tour of the grounds while we were there. You can see that this place is steeped with history.
We saw several antique tractors at White Oak, but you might not know how old they were at a glance. For 60+ year-old tractors, these look as good as new!
We assumed they were showpieces, not for actual use, but John quickly corrected us. They use the tractors regularly, even as recently as that weekend. After each use, they are thoroughly cleaned and any scuffs repainted to keep them looking as good as new.
The Fete des Bouchers reminded us of an old culinary mantra, “Every animal deserves a good life, a good death, a good butcher, and a good chef.” While we aren’t certain of its original origin, it rings true for us every day in our business. Meat has been part of the human diet since the ice age, but only recently have we seen the emergence of “bad meat” - meat raised industrially, in excess, without care or respect for the animal, the environment, or the health of the people consuming it.
Chef Folse visited us for a farm tour last fall, and it was great to return the visit and “talk shop” on his stomping grounds. It’s clear he has a true passion for traditions and old-world methods in all he does, much like we do for old-world breeds and farming methods. Thank you for an unforgettable weekend, Chef!