We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Matt Moore a few questions about himself and his featured Festival title Butcher on the Block: Everyday Recipes, Stories, and Inspirations from Your Local Butcher and Beyond.
TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)
MM: As my last two books focused on BBQ and grilling, I wanted to find a way to combine those two subjects, without being limited to just one cooking method. With both time and thought, as it always takes, the idea started with my beginning, to my own family roots in the art of butchering. As the first line of the book reads, this is not a book about butchering. Rather, it is about the butcher. I invite you to befriend the folks across the counter and share the over 125 delicious recipes in the book with your own friends and families.
My grandfather and uncle, both first generation Lebanese immigrants, were WWII veterans, who then served after the war at our family grocery store and butcher shop in Valdosta, GA. Writing this book provided such a personally meaningful experience to go back in time and revisit so many of those memories, including a posthumous feature on my grandfather including my favorite recipes.
Just about everybody has a butcher in their family tree—my grandfather’s story was a portal to understanding the rich history of butchers in my local community, and can be to yours, too. A trusted butcher is vital to daily life—just like a doctor or mechanic. Striking up a friendship provides not only a connection to the community, but some delicious food to boot!”
TBF: Is this book just about meat?
MM: “No, not at all. These days, the idea of butchering has expanded its boundaries. So, in addition to plenty of meat and game, I also felt it important to shine a light on seafood and vegetables too. In fact, we feature my friend Cara Mangini, who was the first ‘vegetable butcher’ in New York’s Eataly. So, whether barbecued, grilled, raw, roasted, or fried, this book is a catch-all for any cook looking for an adventure in the kitchen.”
TBF: Many of your recipes have a southern flair with international influence – talk about how these traditions combined and created the flavor profiles? Any favorite recipes that showcase this fusion in particular?
MM: “I’m proud to have lived my entire life in the south, and I believe part of what makes up a Southern Gentleman is someone who is not only intellectually curious, but also worldly in their approach to generosity and hospitality. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a diverse background of family, friends, and travels that help me shape the rich culture of the south—something I try to embody through sharing the mantra that there are no strangers when you are cooking and sharing food. At my house, it’s always a broad range of foods from fried chicken to tabbouleh that make up the family table.”
TBF: What kinds of advice do you most commonly give—both to home chefs just starting out, and to those with more experience?
MM: “In addition to writing books, I freelance for a slew of publications including The Art of Manliness, Life & Thyme, Southern Living, and more. I enjoy teaching others the joy and lifelong fulfillment that cooking and sharing food can bring. That said, I always preach that a meal is only as good as its ingredients—this is especially true in the world of butchering. With time and temperature, you can also get great results. A pork shoulder needs a low and slow temp, and plenty of time to yield those delicious, fall off the bone results. Alternatively, a steak cooked hot and fast allows the Maillard reaction to take over, defining that brown food is good food saying that chefs live by. At the end of the day, I emphasize simplicity, quality, and practice—nail all three and you are in for some good ‘eatin!”
TBF: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
MM: “Think of this as a travel show, but in book form. I’m inviting you to sit right seat in the air, on the road, or get behind the counter to explore unique cultures and personalities. This is just as much a Saturday morning, cup of coffee read as it is a weeknight friendly reference for a quick meal at home. By approaching this book through the lens of the butcher, we uncover different cuts, methods, and techniques that can improve and expand your culinary repertoire. All-in-all, if you want to own just one cookbook—this is it! Butcher on the Block features an array of ingredients to satisfy any diet, while also promoting nearly every cooking method to either reinforce or expand your culinary horizon.”
Matt Moore is an entrepreneur, cook, musician, host, pilot, and the quintessential Southern gentleman living in Nashville, TN. He is the author of Serial Griller, The South’s Best Butts, A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen, and Butcher on the Block. His food writing has garnered critical acclaim from publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times. His Southern charm has landed him on the TODAY show, Fox & Friends, Tamron Hall, CBS, VH1, and WGN. You can see Moore at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!