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Sausage Confidential

by Gina Morey, July 2011

Recently I made Italian sausages from scratch all by myself! ...With the help of half dozen professional butchers. It all started about two months ago....

Back then a rare and amazing thing happened, even for Los Angeles. Two ambitious young women butchers decided to open Lindy & Grundy, a sustainable-minded, locavore-focused butcher shop on the northern edge of the Fairfax District—with over-the-top customer service. I can't think of a single other shop in my area that has any of those qualities, let alone all three.

The two are Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, and I visited them on their opening week. I found the pair happily chopping away at sides of beef, eager to strike up a conversation as they did. The place is amazing. The ladies are amazing. Their crew is amazing. They dispelled the normal image of taciturn, middle-aged men peering at you from over the fridge case.

Their maniacal devotion to meat has paid off in terms of publicity. There was a food-world buzz about them before they opened, with Food & Wine probably planning to write them up before the two had even sorted out their keys. High-end restaurants and celebrities are already clamoring for their meats.

What is more, they are happy to educate. Not just on how to prepare a cut, but how amazing it is to have that cut come from animals locally-raised (as far is possible in Southern California) by small family businesses. If you ask them, they can tell you where every piece of meat, poultry and pork comes from, who raised it, and how. That is because they buy directly from a rancher whom they have met and have come to know personally. They will also tell you why all this is important. Not just for sustainability reasons, but for reasons of health and flavor.

Volume, in terms of what they purchase, is low, and they sell out of various cuts regularly. However, you can ask for something special and probably get it. One woman asked specifically for five cow eyes. She got them. I asked for a pound of ox tail. They pulled the intact tail from the cooler and let me select the joints.

This brings me to my sausages. A few weeks ago I began pressing them for tips on how to make sausage without a machine (which I lack). Could I do it by hand? Could I use a pastry bag? Which meats? When I returned for a second round of questions I confessed to them my reasons. I wanted to make sausages for Father's Day and my dad loves Salsiccia con Peperoni—sausage and sweet peppers, the popular Italian dish.

Proposal, polite decline, encouragement, insistence, acceptance. Two weeks later I was behind the counter, after hours, with everything I needed to make sausages. I was assigned Alex as my tutor, supervised by Erika, and photographed by Amelia.

While we got down to work, we discussed the lack of connection Americans have with the food they eat—especially meat. By and large, people have no idea what it took to raise it, dress it, bring it to market, and, in the case of things like sausage, make it. They have no idea what local, grass-fed, cut-to-order beef tastes like. They don't know that red beef doesn't necessarily equate to fresh beef anymore.

If they did, would people demand fresher for a few pennies more? If we knew how much bad stuff went into commercialized food, would we eat better? If we knew how much fat was in processed meats, would we eat less?

I liken it to the roads we drive on. If we knew how much oil and treasure it took to make the tarmac, ship the tarmac, lay the tarmac—would we want so many wide boulevards? If we held in our hands the tire dust we create, the wasted water that washes out to sea because it can't soak into the ground, would we want so many cars? If we knew how freeways, acting like a storm drain, sluice customers and revenue past the communities they divide, would we want them less?

So it was for me around Father's Day. Lindy & Grundy coaxed me off the superhighway of industrial meat and into the happy byways of fresh, locally-grown, conscientiously-cut, and personally finished town-square butcher service?and let me out the door with sausages for Dad, made by my own hands.

Lindy & Grundy
801 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 951-0804

Gina Morey