One of many perks of being a butcher is that you don’t usually have to worry about dying on the job. You might spend days surrounded by various sharp and pointy implements, but unless you hire a particularly psychopathic employee or are accosted by an overly-aggressive vegan you can be assured of relatively safe working conditions.
As it turns out, however, danger can still lurk in unexpected places.
Chris McCabe of Devon nearly discovered this to his cost. In early January this year, McCabe, 70, left the counter of his butcher’s shop in Totnes to fetch something from the industrial walk-in freezer out the back of the building. As he hunted for something for a customer, McCabe became suddenly aware that the heavy door of the freezer had blown shut behind him.
As McCabe reached for the automatic internal door release button, annoyance turned into alarm. The button was frozen shut. Now stranded in temperatures of -20C, and faced with the imminent possibility of freezing to death, McCabe initially attempted to kick the button into action, to no avail. After banging and hollering to try and make himself heard, he soon realised that he would have to get creative in order to extricate himself from his predicament.
He began casting his eye around for a suitable implement that could assist him in his plight. His plan of action was to use one of the objects in the freezer to bash the button into submission. It quickly became clear that the only things that could possibly fit the bill were meaty. He began sorting through the assemblage of frozen flesh to find the right tool for the job.
The beef was too slippery. The lamb was too big. On the third attempt, this goldilocks of butchery settled on something that was just right - a frozen, hefty log of premium black pudding. According to McCabe, “It was the right shape...It was solid and pointed and I could put plenty of weight behind it.”
It’s worth noting that this was no ordinary stick of blood sausage. McCabe’s black pudding had royal connections. For 20 years, he has been importing his black puddings from the Queen’s butcher, HM Sheridan of Ballater, Aberdeenshire. Whether the pedigree of this particular specimen provided any extra assistance to McCabe is uncertain.
Seizing his sausage in both hands, McCabe began frantically pummelling at the button. Describing his technique later, the butcher stated that he “used it like the police use battering rams to break door locks in.” After a series of lusty blows, and much to his relief, the button gave out and the door swung open.
McCabe’s escape owed as much to good fortune as it did to quick thinking. Later speaking to BBC News, the butcher said that "I'm lucky really. We sell about two or three each week and that was the last one in there." It doesn’t bear thinking about was would have happened had there not been a handy pudding available.
Treats like the traditional black pudding often come under fire from health professionals for being potentially unhealthy. Often cited as causes of cancer and heart disease, sausages are, in particular, increasingly viewed with suspicion. If this story has taught us anything, however, it’s that a sausage can be essential in any number of surprising ways. The anti-sausage lobby would do well to remember the narrowly avoided frozen fate of Chris McCabe next time they try and condemn this mighty meat.