This week, a return to our roots (steak) by plugging a book currently in my possession, a book I discovered as we research and pursue the best beef that we can get our hands on. The name of the book is Steak (One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef). Shared below is the inside front and back covers of Mark Schatzker’s book. I hope it stirs you to read it (and I believe it will):
“While Scotch lovers have long had their tasting clubs, cigar aficionados their magazines and specialty shops, and oenophiles an elaborate culture of wine appreciation, the same degree of serious attention has yet to be devoted to a cultural cornerstone that is centuries older and stirs yet greater passion: steak. Nothing that humans have ever put into their mouths in the name of nourishment has been the subject of such devotion, such flights of gastronomic ecstasy, or such grave connoisseurship as this most adored of meats. Porterhouse and rib eyes, hanger steaks and strips, sirloins and T-bones all satisfy, as no other food can, a deep-rooted hunger for meat in its most essential form: rich, redolent, and right off the hoof.
In recent years, however, steak enthusiasts have begun to discern signs of an alarming trend. The glorious beefy flavor has faded to a wan if not downright sour taste; texture that was once a buttery softness has turned tough and stringy; steak that was once lush with meaty juices has become a desiccated affront to the molars. What, exactly, is going on?
Mark Schatzker, an award-winning food and travel writer and a member of this disillusioned throng, decided after one too many inadequate meals to get to the bottom of the Steak Problem. So began an odyssey that took him to four continents, across thousands of miles, and through hundreds of various cuts of steak, prepared in dozens of different ways. Steak is his account of this quest, an impassioned, funny and enlightening look at the fate of this beloved and beleaguered food in an age of globalism, homogeneity, and mass production. From the sprawling feedlots of Texas to the ubiquitous parilla grills in Argentina, from a rare herd of prehistoric cattle resurrected by Nazi scientists to the legendary Kobe and Matsusaka beef of Japan, Schatzker seeks out renegade ranchers, world-renowned chefs (one of whom prepares him a memorable sauce made out of hay), scientists, and fellow steakophiles in his search for what might be the last of the great steaks. The news, he discovers, would be truly grim were it not for the inspired visionaries who are determined to keep an illustrious tradition of flavor alive.
‘The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook,’ Julia Child memorably decreed. In the meantime, nurture your steak hunger with this wonderful celebration of the meat that would be king.”
If you want more from Mark Schatzker, the author of Steak, I’d highly recommend this piece which he wrote for the Wall Street Journal entitled “Having a Cow About Steak Quality.” It’s an enlightening synopsis of the causes of the gradual decline in steak quality in the United Steaks and where great steaks are to be found.