A Trip to the Butcher
For the first time in my life, I went to an honest-to-god butcher. I was driven to do so by reading Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years, where he lobbies hard for people to find local butchers, and an article Lady Aravan posted about growth hormones in meat. Afterwards, I decided I would find one near me. I did, and Lady Aravan and I took a trip up there. I was intimidated, I have to admit. After a lifetime of just grabbing whatever I wanted from little individually-wrapped packages, here was someone waiting for me to tell them what kind of cut of meat I was looking for. I choked, and the man kindly suggested that he had a really nice piece of sirlion. I said that would be great, and got a steak that he said would feed four people (I assumed that might be enough for Lady Aravan and I). He cut it, weighed it and wrapped it, then I talked about pulled pork and he suggested something else (a pork butt that he deboned). They sell Boar’s Head products, which Lady Aravan and I both love, so we ended up getting a pound of bacon – cut from a slab – along with Boar’s Head mustard, hot dogs, pepperoni, and bleu cheese.
I went home and decided that the steak was for dinner. I pulled out Brown’s book, read his guidance about steak to refresh everything, and went to work. A little oil on the steak, along with kosher salt and black pepper. Nothing else. I have experimented with a million rubs and marinades, and have a lot of favorites, but this time I wanted to see if I could tell the difference between high-quality meat and supermarket filler. I grilled the steak to a nice medium rare, carved a hunk for the wife and I, and tasted it.
Quite literally the best steak I have ever eaten in my life.
It was transcendental. We both could taste the difference, and it was extraordinary. So simple, and so perfect. We couldn’t even finish the whole thing – I, who have stopped at eating 3 strip steaks for dinner only because I had given the fourth to my wife – and I was not regretful. In fact, it was so good I did need to eat a lot. I have never experienced that before.
I made the bacon two days later. It tasted like no bacon I’d ever had. Too much bacon and I get a headache: even the smell will give me one after a time. The lean bacon that I got from the butcher, however, was unreal. It tasted exactly what apparently bacon is supposed to taste like, only I never knew what that was.
Wherever you are, find a butcher. You owe it to yourself. For health reasons, for flavor reasons, whatever – it’s really effing cool. Herman’s Quality Meat Shoppe has a new customer for life.