“Is this the man who won a Gold and Silver at the Blas na hÉireann Awards?” I ask as I reached my hand across the counter to shake Jerry’s hand.
He smiles proudly as he takes my hand. “And the Rogha na Gaeltachta to top it off,” he beams.
The Blas na hÉireann Awards, given each year at a ceremony during the Dingle Food Festival in early October, celebrate the very best in Irish food and the people who make it. Jerry has won medals in the past for his lamb sausages and for his Dingle Distillery mash-finished ribeye steaks, but never multiple awards in one evening.
Sara and I had missed the food festival this year because we were on a trip back to the states, so this was the first that I had seen Jerry since his big night.
He set the awards on the top of the cold case so that I can admire them. There was a Gold for Herbed Rack of Dingle Peninsula Lamb and a Silver for Lamb Lollypop Chops. To top it off, the Rogha na Gaeltachta recognized Jerry as the best meat provider in Ireland.
“Tell me about the night,” I prod.
“It was like the Oscars, it was. Everyone dressed in their finest, so. We were in the cinema in town. All the big meat producers were there. People from Aldi and Lidl. They spend big money hoping to win awards so they can use them in their adverts, like. They didn’t look too happy when I was called to the stage three times,” he chuckled.
“And then there was an after party,” he continues. “All the bigshots were there. The woman from Aldi was dressed up like she was going down the red carpet. They were all asking me how I won.”
“’I know my farmers and I know my animals,’ I told them. ‘How many animals at a time do you send to the abattoir?’ I said to them.”
“’Five or six hundred, I suppose,’ they said, confused like.’”
“’And do you know when you send those five hundred in the front door that you’re getting the same five hundred out the back door?’”
“’We can’t know that,’ they said.”
“Now I was giving out to them, talking shite like,” Jerry says with a twinkle in his eye.
“I took my phone out of my pocket and set it on the table,” he tells me, setting his phone on the counter between us. “’Can any of ye pick up that phone and call the farmer who raised your lambs or cattle?’ I asked. ‘They all shook their heads. Embarrassed like.’”
“So I picked up the phone and called Seamus,” Jerry says. (This is Seamus Ó Ciobhán, one of Jerry’s best lamb suppliers from out on the end of the peninsula.) “’Seamus! We won!’ I told him.”
“The lads from Aldi and Lidl were speechless, like. ‘You know the farmer who raised that very lamb?’ they asked me.”
“’And the very field he grazed in,’ I say.”
Jerry stops to adjust his hat before going on with his story.
“Just then The Kerryman comes up to the table, wanting to take my picture for the paper.” (The Kerryman is our local paper, a weekly.) ‘You can only take a picture if you come to the shop on Monday so that Seamus and John can be in it. These awards are for all of us.’” (John works in the shop with Jerry.) “And so they did. That’s the picture over there on the wall,” says Jerry, pointing to the wall behind me.
I turn to look at the story from The Kerryman hanging on the wall, with a picture showing Jerry, John, and Seamus in the shop looking proudly at the awards on the table in front of them.
“Jerry,” I said, turning back to him, “I always tell people you are the finest butcher in all of Ireland and now I can prove it.”
“Haven’t I been at since I was this tall?” he says, moving his hand to knee level. “I have an eye,” he said, pointing to his eye, “and a hand,” holding his hand in front of me. “I know the best farmers and I pick their best animals.”
Just then Sara walked in. She had been at the fruit and veg shop next door, so Jerry took the opportunity to tell her the whole story once again.
“I’m on cloud nine, like,” he concluded.
“Jerry,” she said to him, “can we get three of those lollypop racks for Christmas? And maybe two of your t-bones, about two inches thick? Oh, and a nice beef tenderloin? Our granddaughters will be here for Christmas and they’re real carnivores.”
“Of course, you can indeed. Just let me get the book,” he says.
As he walked to the back of the shop to get his holiday special-order book, he was smiling and strolling like he was still on the red carpet.
“The finest butcher in all of Ireland,” I say to Sara. “Aren’t we lucky to have him?”