Part 3 - Is Deer too Dear?
It was the first Saturday of the year and 5am. I had been woken by slates rattling on the roof and the battering of sleet on the window. I rolled over. It was a perfect morning for a lie in. No-one in their right mind would have been up at this time.
But Steve was. He had set off in the dark through the deep snow in his 4x4 laden with game ready for sale at the farmers' market. By 6.30am he and the other stallholders were desperately trying to erect their gazebos in 40-mile-an-hour winds on top of the sheet of ice that covered the car park. I could see the ropes tied to the railings holding the stall in place when I arrived at 11. No need for any refrigeration today – the meat on sale was already crystallizing with ice. It looked as if the drip on the end of Steve’s nose was about to do the same.
Sales had been poor and I wanted to buy the whole stall out of sheer pity but with Xmas over and three weeks till payday there had to be restraint. I packed my mince and stew into my bag alongside the usual pile of stock bones given away for free. Another customer gingerly approached the stall. Picking up some meat, he announced “Aat’s affa dear, I kin get it cheaper it Tesco”.
Knowing the man hours and skill that had gone into it reaching market, I barely had time to be outraged before witnessing a sales pitch to end all sales pitches. Steve began the blether with the subject of provenance, the story of where the deer came from, how he was the one who shot it, how he had hung it for weeks in order to reach the perfect flavour and how he then carefully carved the joints, packed and stored them ready for loading and transporting at 5am this morning. Next in the firing line was the health benefits and nutritional information. A conversation on value for money followed, some no-shrinkage cooking advice and then finally some chat on the wonderful taste and enjoyment to be had from this animal.
I have already talked about Steve being a one-man food chain but a one-man venison marketing board could easily be added to his list of credentials. He is a man on a mission. The personal rewards that come from sharing his passion and love of deer are evident. The financial benefits are way down the list and, it would seem, the work involved in converting just one person is worth standing in minus three Celsius for six hours.
“Weel, I s’pose I’d better try it then, seein yiv geen it a’ that trouble,” said the man. He turned towards me aware that I had been listening. “Aye lassie, it’s nae dear fin he pit’s it like at.”
This was a compliment by any other standards, a backhanded one, well hidden in a typical Aberdeenshire guise. Steve turned to me and smiled. “It's nae a service ye wid get at your local supermarket,” he commented. I had to agree.