I refuse to suffer through life as a vegan. I crave meat. The flavor, the texture-I relish it. Humans are not meant to be vegetarians. Our digestive systems are too short. We require too much protein. We need fat for energy–energy for exploring, inventing, thinking, hunting. Humans are designed to eat meat.*
We aren’t stupid, savage carnivores. We don’t prey on the sick, the old or the weak. They are too scrawny. Humans choose the biggest, fattest, tastiest animals. We love meat, and of all the meats, only one is in a class of its own, steak.
Steak is reassuring. I don’t love it because it’s cheap, or because it’s healthy. I love steak because of the juicy, tender flavor it delivers. Steak is satisfying like no other flesh. It has no equal among meat.** Steak is powerful.
A man remembers a great steak. That succulent, bloody, beefy juice that makes you want to tip the plate and gulp it in one big, long slurp. Steaks are not all the same. A great steak is worth seeking, and Mark Schatzker was a man willing to search for the world’s tastiest piece of beef.
What makes a good steak good? Some people know how a steak will taste, just by looking. Of the 200 meat graders employed by the U.S Department of Agriculture, 140 of those specialize in beef. In a single day, a grader can judge as many as 1,200 beef carcasses, and each grader is mainly looking for one thing, fat. Fat is flavor.
Marbling is the spots and streaks of fat within a steak. To a USDA grader nothing is more important. Steak with the highest marbling is the best steak and it is called prime. Next down is called choice, followed by select, followed by standard, which has almost no marbling.
Achieving marbled beef is easy. All you need is corn, lots of it. Before World War II, only 5 percent of American cows were corn fed, but now nearly all of them are grain fed, raised in a feed lot, injected with hormones, and fattened too fast. The result is beef that is consistent, mass produced, a commodity.
Is there other steak? How do you grow a good steak? Is a Texas steak the same as steaks in other countries? What about Kobe beef? Japanese cows that are said to be massaged with rice wine and given cold beer to drink. What about France? The French claim to know everything when it comes to food. The French must make a good steak?
Mark knew the world is a very big place. There must be a lot of steak out there. He decided to have a look. This quest became the book Steak, and it would take him to seven countries across four continents. His odyssey involved hundreds of various cuts of steak, prepared in dozens of different ways, seeking satisfaction, joy, and the perfect piece of steak. This book inspired me to hunt for better steak, let it inspire you to unleash your primal hunger…
*Humans aren’t true carnivores. Our livers can’t handle too much protein. Our fast digestion seems best suited for ripe fruit, certain vegetables, and of course meat.
**Bacon doesn’t count in this particular comparison; it is the candy, the dessert of meats. Steak is the main course, the heartier fare.
Raw? Medium rare? Or a steak done well is well done? Comment and let me know. Make no mistake about it. I like my steak, but I’m an opportunavore and I’m more than happy to meet you…