Monday, September 24, 2012

Being bullish in meat lover's paradise

I learned at dinner the other night that a single straw of premium bull semen costs $20, or just about the cost of the premium bourbon whiskey I was sipping without a straw.

Happily, we weren’t there to conduct a taste test.

We were having a sumptuous dinner at Draper’s in The Greenbrier, the renown White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., resort. We were there as part of the Certified Angus Beef annual conference to promote one of the the world’s most sought after beef steaks. Only eight percent of all U.S. beef earns the esteemed designation.

If you think I paid even a dime for my meals, my liquor, my room, etc., then you haven’t been reading my stories very carefully.

And bull semen, it seems, is sold by the straw. That’s the technical term. I thought asking would make me look stupid, but I doubt it’s the same kind of straws they stick in the milkshakes down at McDonald’s. 

My table mates included people who were fluent in bull raising, bull marketing and preparing butchered bull meat for fancy dinner presentation.

What part of bull I brought to the table is so obvious further crudity would be redundant.

It was a great mix of beef people, earthy ranchers mingling with flamboyant chefs. Everyone was friendly and fun. The only beef jerkies there were shrink wrapped.

So I learned about proper soil content, feed mixes, crop yields and other relevant topics that more snooty city sorts would dismiss as pure bullcrap (if they had a session on that, I missed it).

 What’s the most memorable fact I learned?

That when good beef is free I go whole hog.

Certified Angus Beef proponents will likely wince at the metaphor but, yes, I ate like a pig.

Not wanting to appear gluttonous, I saw others showing more restraint. Not me. 

I wasn’t chicken.

Who could resist?

My wife? She’s what I call a situational vegetarian. She’s eager to reduce meat consumption for admirable reasons of health stability and animal ethics. Her ideal is Lisa Simpson, who once said she tried to avoid eating anything that ever cast a shadow.

But she straps on the bib whenever there’s some really great meat on the plate. So she’s maybe a 75 percent vegetarian, a healthy balance.

I encourage her ambitions so I felt like I was being a good husband when I told her I wasn’t taking her with me to The Greenbrier. Staying at home with the whiny kids while I was pampered for three days in perhaps America’s most splendid resort was all for her own good.

I thought about her when I strolled into the vast exhibition hall with the “Taste Drive” signs on the doors. I wondered momentarily how she would have felt at what was on the other side of those great doors.

Here’s how I felt: Exactly the way Augustus Gloop must have when he first gazed upon the chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. I felt euphoric.

Better even. I was MOO-phoric!

There were maybe 50 Certified Angus Beef vendors offering roasters full of the choicest cuts prepared the most savory ways. There were beef meatballs, shish kabobs, shepherds pie, beef stew, sausage, roast beef, steaks, ribs, corned beef, beef brisket, barbecue, cold cuts -- everything but beef ice cream

My wife is eager to emulate Lisa Simpson. I unsnapped the top button on my pants and became Homer. 

I felt like Brad Pitt walking down a red carpet flanked by beef paparazzi. Every few steps someone shoved a tray loaded with little toothpick-stabbed delicacies right under my nose.

It was uniformly delicious.

Of course, part of me is concerned with gluttony. Why should I be tempted with so much when so many others have so little?

I guess that noble part of me became smothered in beef because I just kept eating.

So now I’m well on the way to becoming one of those insufferable beef snobs extolling the virtues of proper marbling, tenderness, age and color.

I’ll bore my dinner mates with insight about what it takes to get Certified Angus Beef from farm to table, from dirt to dinner or gate to plate.

Heck, I can go clear from straw to supper.

And that’s no bull.

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