Our nation is divided on so many fronts these days, matters big and small, global and, er, townal.
Our beliefs are routinely challenged by friends and family, not just strangers. One of the most serious divisions is relatively new. I refer, of course, to how we feel about… charcuterie. I’ve never shied from sharing my opinions so let me be among the first to say it’s time to say “Buh bye,” “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya,” “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” etc.
Oh, we will miss the roasted marcona almonds, tossed like jack rocks onto a platter piled with meats and cheeses and a supporting cast of pulpy fig jams and alarmingly complicated mustards.
But it’s time for someone to sound “Taps.” Day is done. Gone the sun. Followed, we hope, by that weird fat-speckled sausage thing we weren’t entirely sure it was safe to eat and, if we’re being honest, was almost impossible to chew.
Where will all the undersized okra and overpriced gherkins spend their retirement? Where?!?
I’m not saying it wasn’t fun. Oh, Lord, it was fun. You never knew whether you’d find charcuterie on a simple IKEA cutting board or a 6-foot length of lovingly crafted live-edge from the black walnut tree split in half after a lightning strike at the old homestead. Or maybe it was Home Goods. I forget.
The presentation was half the fun of charcuterie. Oh, I lie. It was a good 97 percent of the fun. The other 3 percent was wondering who would have the stones to scarf up the last of the hot honey, a highlight of this Lunchables that went to private school.
It was charcuterie that taught us about Ashe County cheese, which we like to reference because it’s the only cheese on the board we can pronounce with confidence.
Like new parents, we relive many times over the first time we spotted charcuterie listed among the appetizers. And then we howl, as if at the story of an infant’s first gassy smile, at the memory of the waiter’s pronunciation. We didn’t correct “Shock-a-terry” at the time because, to us, it sounded 100 percent correct. Ahhh, 2012, you seem so far away…
Here’s why I think we all got so excited: For years we’d been told to eat healthy and now, quicker’n you could say “acute myocardial infarction,” you were presented an eye-popping assortment of the stuff everyone used to say would quite possibly kill you overnight. Perhaps the tiny bunch of artisanal Concord grapes would negate the, uhhh, rest of it.
Meat and cheese boards trace their origin to 15th Century France (thanks Google) but lately there have been rumblings. Rumblings that threaten charcuterie’s future.
Charcuterie isn’t going down without a fight, of course. (Or with a bottle of Mylanta, just sayin’). There are literally millions of Instagram photos of the stuff and younger folks have become rich and famous simply because they are “charcuterie influencers.”
As I write these words, I can hear my late father, raised on a farm where sausage came from a hog you’d named the previous spring, sigh deeply and ask, “Is there a whole lotta call for that?”
When a friend bravely confided, “To tell the truth, I’m over charcuterie,” a hushed silence fell over our little group, followed by a sea of slowly nodding heads. Enough already. Can we just have a fried pickle and some ranch dressing again?
Charcuterie caught our eye because of it’s sheer over the topness. If we had walked into a party gnawing a footlong beef stick from Hickory Farms back in 2008 we would’ve been shunned. Charcuterie gave us permission to eat bad stuff because it was so dang pretty. A fine legacy, I’d say.