The "butt," in butchering and in barbecue, does not come from anywhere near the rear end of the pig. Instead, the pork butt is a cut of meat from the shoulder of the pig. It's actually the thicker, fattier section of the shoulder as opposed to the "picnic," which is the second, leaner part of a pig's front end.
So there you have it: pulled pork 101. If you smoke a pork butt for, oh, about 14 hours or so over locally sourced apple wood, you have the makings of a mouth-watering feed. Toss in a sourdough bun, maple-baked beans, Southern slaw, Mac & Cheese, and vanilla-peach cobbler, and you have this year's menu at Nuru's take on New Denver's annual Merchants' Night.
We're sharpening the knives and stocking the shelves in anticipation. Guy and Derek - Nelson Safeway's Dynamic Duo of all things meat - have once again procured the best pork in the region for us. We have seating for 25, can serve 50 plates total, and don't have the logistics to take reservations. It's a sell-out every year, so if you plan on getting the first "pullings," you might have to wait at curbside until Tamara rings the triangle and opens the door.
Then it's all hands on deck as jaws pump and plates empty. Tamara and me love to see the smiles on people's faces - lips greasy and stomachs full. A couple blocks down Main Street, in front of Kootenay Savings Credit Union, the biggest stomach of all holds forth as Santa puts smiles on kids' faces while they line up for free hot dogs and hot chocolate. Across the street a bonfire warms frigid fingers while young and old alike take in the festive sights and smells. Volunteer firefighters mingle with toddlers in strollers. A man from Kelowna says he comes every year, because this is "Christmas as it's meant to be - we have nothing like it back home."
New Denver has Merchants' Night. Silverton has its Christmas Market. Nakusp has the Celebration of Light. I imagine every town, village, and Kootenays backwater has its version of a holiday street-fest. And why not? It can be a grey, gloomy time of year, with high expectations and unceasing demands. Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays and, before you know it, every darn day of the week has been taken up with lists, buying ... lists, buying. Santa can't keep pace, but somehow Amazon can.
If I have one qualm with Merchants' Night - albeit a small one - it's the name: yes, New Denverites and visitors can appreciate the businesses so vital to their village's prosperity, but this isn't about consumerism. It's about the grin on children's faces. The brandy snifter passed around the bonfire. The carolers stomping snow off their boots as they circulate from building to building, singing their hearts out before sipping mulled cider as a token of thanks.
Merchants' Night is Dec. 8, five- to eight o'clock. Hopefully we'll see you there - either at the $15-a-plate Nuru dinner or down the street with a free 'dog and drink in your hands. It doesn't matter. The point is to participate, enjoy, and embrace the community spirit we share in common.