My Favorite Food Is Steak
My Favorite Food Is Steak
I have one ritual in my life, and it revolves around meat. Every Sunday night I cruise to the grocery store and pick up a huge slab of yummy ribeye, red red shrink-wrapped meat laying on a styrofoam platter quietly soaking in it’s own blood. I don’t need euphemisms: I know it is dead cow muscle torn from the side of a huge suffering mammal in a maggot infested slaughterhouse. I know that you could feed 100 people with the grain it takes to produce 1 pound of beef (I hear they’re serving grain at the soup kitchen today) and that you can float a battleship in the amount of water it takes to bring one cow to slaughter. I know about the hormones, the antibiotics, and the dye, but none of that stops me come Sunday night.
As I stand in line, all I feel around me is resentment. My shopping cart? 2 cloves of garlic, a bottle of rum, butter, and a big bloody steak. Everyone hates me. The health freaks see me throwing my life away at such an early age, the scummy customers are pissed that a little shit like me can afford to eat steak. Once I paid for steak and beer with a grocery store gift certificate that I won in a drawing. I heard the lady in line behind me whisper “I can’t believe what these people buy with their food stamps – we pay for that!” I then held the gift certificate up for everyone in line to inspect, proving that their tax money was not paying for my Sunday night steak dinner, and hopefully defusing a dozen “you wont believe what I saw at the store last night” anti-welfare tirades in the process.
I wasn’t always like this. A good portion of my life was spent avoiding meat and animal products. I was a strict vegan for 4 years, but then I left college. Actually, I got really really sick and was borrowing money to go to see doctors. No one could find what wrong with me. Desperate for a cure, I started eating tuna, and after a week, I started feeling better. A can of tuna a week turned into fish and chips, which turned into shrimp pastas, which eventually led to chicken.
But I felt I had to hold the line somewhere. If you’re a vegetarian for a while, you get this thing in your head where you feel bad about eating meat, like you’ve broken some sort of sacred vow the second flesh passes your lips. You could be completely foaming at the mouth for a burger, but you’ll deprive yourself, keep the party line, and just eat 4 orders of fries, asking the girl behind the counter “are those fried in animal fat?”
But there is a kind of superior feeling that goes along with being a vegetarian. It’s a “you” against “them” situation. Because you have discovered this great thing that lets you live without spreading cruelty, be environmentally conscious, and be healthy at the same time, you figure there must be something seriously wrong with a person who still eats meat, and that fatal character flaw keeps them at a level of humanity below you. It disgusts you, but at the same time elevates you in your own mind. You have this label on yourself, and you live up to it. I finally reached a personal eating balance where I decided that I wouldn’t eat anything with eyelashes; everything else was fair game.
I guess if you’re from California or some large city, vegetarianism is no big deal. But growing up down South in Louisiana and Georgia, and then living in the Midwest for a while, you knew that vegetarianism put you in the ranks of communists, liberals, satanists, and queers. It just ain’t normal. It’s even harder to be a vegetarian when you are a poor scumbag trying to survive on the generosity of others. Like if someone offers you the rest of their roast beef sandwich and you haven’t eaten in a day. Your body will tell you where to stick your ideals, it needs fucking food.
The worst was when you had to deal directly with people from the carnivore planet. Like going over to the girlfriend’s house for dinner to meet the parents for the first time. When Mr. “You’re Screwing My Daughter” slaps a fresh-grilled burger on your plate, or the Mrs. dishes you up a chunk of her famous sausage lasagna, it’s a tough call. I mean, do you live up to your beliefs and hold strong, or do you cave into the pressure exerted by a society that demands your conformity? Will they respect you more for standing up for your beliefs, or will you become known as “The Freak” in their family? For them meat ain’t political, it’s something you eat.
When I was in 8th grade I brought home this cute girl that had just moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles. My mom made fried chicken for dinner, which the girl wouldn’t eat because she was vegan. She wouldn’t drink milk and she wouldn’t even use the salad dressing. She ate a pile of dry spinach, drank a glass of tap water, and sat, visibly nauseated by my family tearing into dead bird carcass. My parents called her “The Rabbit”. I haven’t seen the girl for 10 years, but my mom still brings her up – “Have you seen The Rabbit lately?” I suppose my years of spinach eating in other peoples’ homes would have labeled me “The Rabbit” in various households, if I wasn’t already known as “The Good For Nothing Piece of Shit.”
So where does that leave me now? Years of learning to cook vegetarian means that I mostly eat vegetarian, more out of habit than out of concern for my karma. I don’t eat very much as it is, and there are enough taco joints around here to keep me in bean burritos all week long. I don’t really trust meat that someone else cooks; there are too many things that can go wrong. You know they’re in the back room with rotten chickens cutting off the good parts and throwing them in the stir-fry. Fuck, put enough soy sauce on anything and it’s edible.
Plus, eating twigs and leaves all week makes Sunday night steak all that more vulgar. What a carnal experience! A hunk of vicious flesh fried in a stick of butter, filling my apartment with black smoke, staining the wall above the stove with yellow grease. I sit down at my rickety dining room table and eat the entire chunk of cow, meat, fat, gristle and all. I wash it down with a glass of rum and a handful of fried potatoes. No TV, no reading, no conversation, no conscious thoughts. Just pure, invigorating, primal lust. The only thing that would make it better would be if I could chase down the cow myself, snap its neck, tear its jugular with my teeth, and eat fresh from the animal as it slowly expires, whispering a silent prayer to the Great Spirit for making this kill possible. The heavens would open up and God would look down and say the words I wait for all week: shut up and eat the meat.