January 7, 2012

The Year of Meat has come to a close. We have a winner, and his name is Peter Barrett.

Peter writes the visually stunning and always wry and clever A Cook Blog. From the very beginning, everyone noticed his spectacular, extravagent and enviable way of answering the challenges. I’d Like to Be Alone with the Sandwich for Awhile, My Salami Brings All the Goyim to the Yard, and the Charcutepalooza winning post Gratitude is the Attitude are three of my personal favorites, but any of Peter’s writings combine charm, insouciance, and knowledge, garnished with stunning photography that reveals his artistic training.

Peter is first an artist. Trained at RISD and the Art Institute, he pursues his art in many ways, and of late, cooking and food writing have become part of an already broad portfolio ranging from gallery shows of large CAD-assisted art to exceptionally fine lined, Asian-ish ceramics in food friendly colors and shapes. You’ll find his writing in Edible Hudson Valley and Chronogram, where he is food and drink editor.

Well before Charcutepalooza, Peter had been messing around with Polcyn & Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. He made bacon, pancetta and guanciale and all the other gateway meats. Following is his grandfather’s tradition, he bought a “dirt cheap Home Depot smoker” and began to regularly smoke chickens and other meats. He perfected the smoked meats, and then, for whatever reason, stopped his progression along the meaty path. He was happy with bacon and smoked chicken. When he moved from Brooklyn to Woodstock, NY, he hauled the smoker with him, but then began to think about his Grandfather’s pickles. And from there, vinegars, and cheesemaking, and bread. When Charcutepalooza came along, he turned his gaze again to meat.

Peter’s cooking, which he gamely admits might be a bit obsessive, is the result of many years of practice and who knows how many cookbooks studied. During his years at RISD, he spent time in Rome, cooking and eating and taking in the world. Graduate school brought dinner parties with the similarly gastronomically inclined, and from there a most serendipitous and unlikely job as a private chef.

Now, years later, at home in Woodstock with wife Christine and son Milo, 7, Peter has complete control over the newly renovated kitchen, admitting to a bearish growl ready for anyone who messes with his space. A “functional stove”, tons of counter space, an enviable antique farm table that seats many, his mother’s KitchenAid mixer (with original metal grinding attachments… green with envy here) and a MacGyver’d sous vide acquired through barter with a fellow blogger pretty much makes up his arsenal. You might think he’s a gadget guy, but he’s not.

Peter, a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, says he’s not a joiner. But the irreverence of Charcutepalooza appealed to him from the beginning, and the prize was never far from his mind. One thing he didn’t expect? How Charcutepalooza has brought so many new friends into his life. Sure, there is an active online community, but in real life, Peter’s son and Kim Foster‘s daughters are becoming fast friends.

Peter is off to France, thanks to Trufflepig Travel. He’ll spend a few days with Kate Hill, Stephanie, Bacon, the Chapolards and all the other wonderful people of Gascony, then on to Paris for a trip to the Ham Market with The Antiques Diva and a celebratory cocktail party. We’re all very happy for you, Peter, and wish you bon voyage.

And since I have your attention, this is a perfect opportunity for me to remind you of all the people who helped make Charcutepalooza such a rousing success.

Trufflepig Travel is a gem of a company. They’re putting together Travel Experiences in the most clever, modern, eye opening ways. And they’re taking care of Peter’s travel and lodging. Thank you thank you thank you.

Kate Hill. Well, I’ve already gushed here and here… so you know how I feel about the Duchess of Camont. Kate, thank you for such a rich education all year long.

D’Artagnan. Ariane Daguin who has been at the forefront of honest, properly farmed meat. Thank you, Ariane, for providing the community the opportunity to source meats at remarkable prices. And a big shout out to Lily Hodge, who was such a pleasure to work with, even when I gave her no forewarning.

Armagnac Casterede. I cannot wait to meet Florence in Paris, where they will be providing Armagnac for the party. We will raise a glass to the art of Armagnac then.

The Antiques Diva. Toma, I still laugh when I remember our whirlwind trip around Paris. One of the best days EVER. Thrilled that a Diva will be our guide around the Ham Market.

Food52, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, who were so encouraging early on. Thank you for hosting the challenges all year, and particularly all the attention you provided the final challenge, bringing the Charcutepalooza fun to a big wide audience. Thank you so much. And Kristen Miglore – I have no idea how you keep all those balls in the air. And also write the most elegant Genius Recipe columns? I’ll have some of whatever she’s having.

Barb Kiebel and Kinetic Web Solutions, thank you for helping me navigate technology all year long, from the large issues to those you managed in 140 characters.

And of course to Kim Foster. A terrific partner in meat. Your irreverence, your tales of sausage encounters, and all the humorous ways you’ve used meat in a sentence – it’s absolutely set the perfect tone all year long.

And to every single one of you who participated and those who followed along on the adventure. Thank you.

So, what’s next?

Everyone has been asking. There will not be a Charcutepalooza 2012, but the posts will be here, so you could actually do the whole year by starting with the first challenge and working through to December. The community is still active on Twitter, so if you have a question, just hashtag #Charcutepalooza and see what happens.

I will be writing about more meaty adventures, along with other preserving projects. There is jam to be made, pickles to brine, and tomatoes to put in jars. I am learning to make fresh cheeses and will soon be writing about it, and I’m working on other projects here and there. The list of posts half started and the ideas jotted down will finally get attention.

I have been called a serial careerist, and I’ll admit, that’s true. Once again, my life is in transition. 2012 holds so much promise already.

I have closed down my landscape design business. The economy was changing the nature of the work, it was less satisfying and the lure of the kitchen was just too much. Today it occured to me that my cooking process is no different than the way a landscape design forms. My mind so filled with ideas that Dennis says he misses me. Covering the walls of my studio with inspiring photos and more sketches, piles of books joining eraser dust on the floor. Sketch madly, scraps of trace with pavement patterns and tree placement and driveway curves littering the drafting table. The final product, weeks in the making, hand drawn, carefully colored with pencils and markers and water colors. Models constructed of paper maché, balsa wood and copper wire, twisted to resemble tiny trees.

Now, cookbooks pile up, counters are flour dusted, sinks full of dishes, bowls of food in various stages tucked here and there around the kitchen. And a camera at hand. The final product, the post, the essay, the recipe carries with it all of that experience.

Beyond the creative satisfaction of cooking and developing recipes, there is an unmistakable need to write. To get words on the page. To corral my busy mind by editing and crafting and moving phrases here and there. I’m edgy and anxious when too much time has passed between blog posts, when I feel that gnawing sense of words piling up in my head.

So, in 2012, I am pursuing the life of a food writer. I have three assignments already, which both thrills and terrifies every cell in my body.

The first step is to redesign this site a bit. With any luck (and with the able help of Barb Kiebel, a renovated Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen will be revealed in the next ten days. In the meantime, if you come to visit and things are wonky, please be patient.

Here’s to 2012. It’s going to be an exciting year, I just know it.


37 Responses to “And the winner is….”

  1. Jamie Samons

    Congratulations to Peter—so well deserved! And, to you too, Cathy! I am so excited to read what you write this year. I was drawn to Charcutepalooza not only by the umami but also by the infectious enthusiasm from you and Kim. I have no doubt that your words in the coming year will garner you many more gastronomic acolytes!

  2. Karen Rush

    What an amazing adventure. I have so enjoyed the year. Thank you for sharing with all of us around the world.

  3. David Dadekian

    Sounds like congratulations are in order for both you and Peter, Cathy. Thanks again to you and Kim for a wonderful charcuterie adventure with so many great new friends.

  4. Victoria in VA

    Woo woo! Glad to know that new adventures are in the works for you! Congratulations to Peter, whose blog, along with yours, inspires me to take leaps instead of baby steps! And it’s all good!

  5. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Congratulations to Peter and you you and the whole ‘palooza crew. I can hardly wait to see where 2012 takes you and I simply cannot wait to hopefully see you in person this year again 🙂 Cathy you are a true inspiration – I wanna be like you when I grow up!

  6. Eve Fox

    Soooo pleased for Peter! And also looking forward to whatever amazing class he comes up with to share his new knowledge with us once he returns. And, Cathy, good for you! Hope it goes incredibly well.

    • Cathy

      Lucky you! Classes w/Peter must be terrific. I have to get there for a bread class. (and thanks!)

  7. Linda Langness

    First of all, congratulations to Peter! His blog posts were inspiring, his meals creative, and his humor well-appreciated. I am green with envy about his impending trip to Europe and dearly hope that he provides the Charcutepaloozers with the kind of post we’ve come to expect. Thanks also, and so very much, to you, Cathy, and to Kim. What wonderful hosts, leaders, and teachers you have been. Like so many others I have loved this year. Aside from the Charcutepalooza Facebook site, I think I’ll finally have to get myself a Twitter account. Finally, like you, I want to do more cooking and writing about it. We shall see what 2012 will bring.

    • Cathy

      Linda, it’s been such a pleasure reading your blog this year. I can’t wait to see what you are up to next. See you in TwitterLand.

  8. Sally

    Congratulations Cathy on a year well-lived and a great project completed! Hope 2012 brings takes you to exciting, fulfilling places!

  9. Lynda

    What a wonderful year! It was so much fun to participate. Thanks to everyone involved and congratulations to Peter. I look forward to seeing your next career take off, Cathy!

    • Cathy

      I think I could say the same thing about your career, Lynda. I can’t wait to see what you are up to. And here’s to Copenhagen, where you know Dennis is destined to ride his bike.

    • Cathy

      How very astute, Rachel. I hadn’t even gotten there yet, I’ve been so busy trying to catch up to my own life! Did I tell you how much I loved Lil’s video debut?

  10. A Canadian Foodie

    Congratulations to the winner. Sad there is no year 2… we could follow the challenges from last year, but need a coordinator to guide the group that wants to pursue each challenge to unite the new community.

  11. bob del Grosso

    Don’t you think the winner looks a little crazy? The broad forehead that appears to be restraining an overexcited brain, the eyebrows cocked in a manner that suggest the hypervigilance of a mind wracked with paranoia, the pitchfork ready to address all insults real and imagined. I’m kind of feeling sorry for France right now. 😉

  12. Cathy

    Thank you all for the lovely comments. It’s so gratifying to know you’re reading.

  13. Naomi

    Cathy, congrats and good luck on your new career path! I first found your blog through charcutepalooza and have thoroughly enjoyed reading every challenge and post you’ve written ever since. As all these comment, and this past year of meat curing can attest to, your food writing changes lives. I’m looking forward to following more of your cooking and writing projects in the coming year!

  14. BrianS

    Congatulations to Peter and Cecilia. I look forward to Peter’s autobigraphy, if only Bob will come through, or at least a flavorful blow by blow of his week with Kate. Deffinitely feeling some envy.

    And thanks to Cathy and Kim for year filled with meaty camaraderie. I don’t know if I’ll continue to blog, but I will continue to smoke, cure, grind and render tasty meats.


  15. anna saint john

    many congratulations on all your successes — past, present and future! the year of meat has been an inspiration to me — i’m working on a guanciale from a buckland farm gloucester old spot (lance). and by working on it, i mean waiting to work on it. many thanx for all you do!!

  16. Gail

    I can’t believe it’s taken me 3 days to read this post, but it’s true.
    Such a great post, Cathy….I love how you introduced us to Peter.

    I can’t wait to read your filed assignments…you’ll let me accompany you when you pick up your Pullitzer,right?

    Well done, my friend…well done.

  17. Jess

    Best of luck, Cathy. It was so great to meet you this year. Can’t wait to see what you do in 2012!


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