A Farmer’s Failed Feast
It had sounded like such a good idea, inviting my urban cousins to a down-home farm feast—a special menu which would be beyond their reach at any price anywhere else—certainly anywhere in the concrete warrens that they prowled in the City. I won’t deny that I was reaching a bit to provide culinary contrast. And of course it allowed me to flaunt my access to safe, wholesome, and healthy 100 percent grass-fed beef, custom aged and butchered.
I expected a bit of reserve as they were introduced at the table to new dishes, but was convinced that the delicate textures and rich flavors would win them over.
I was wrong.
The appetizers were a rough start—marrow toast, little individual marrow omelets with marrow sauce, and beef muzzle vinaigrette. The toast and omelets started well enough, but took a deep dive when I explained that they were made of beef marrow – not the vegetable. And the beef palate? You’d think that they were (Eeeew) Hollywood starlets being offered honeyed lamb’s eyeballs in a Bedouin desert tent.
I don’t have anything against pork, but as I don’t raise pigs, I’d served up calf udder in lieu of bacon. Again, a hit until a dubious niece asked about origins.
Rejection followed rejection as the evening crept onwards. The calf’s head callou was served up as soup, but by now no one would touch a dish without full disclosure. Of course the blood pudding was a non-starter. In desperation, I offered steak pasty—but when the exclamations over the beautiful crust evoked an explanation of rendered beef fat—my guests wound up dining on celery salad, pan-fried bread, baked parsnips and mashed potatoes. Of course the steamed pudding was out…no amount of flaming brandy or mountains of whipped cream could make up for the sin of suet.
What was I thinking? I’m not sure, but I know what I’m thinking now. I’m thinking that the society which evolves along a path so far removed from the food stuffs they were designed for treads a frail path indeed. It doesn’t take anywhere near as much infrastructure or machinery to raise, slaughter, hang, carve and prepare good beef than it does to do the same for a block of supermarket tofu.
Weeks later, while seeking solace down at the Grange, a friend shot me an askance glance. “Gee willikers, Mike,” he asked. “Why didn’t you just fry them up some steaks?” Why indeed? While it’s true that my family has always been in the business of selling beef, and reserving the less salable (but equally delicious) cuts for the table, the real reason is that I was indeed trying to surprise, shock, and impress. I certainly succeeded with the first two counts.
In closing, my dear reader, as poorly received as my (not so humble) repast was by my citified family members – it was sumptuous and soul satisfying to those of my table guests who owe their life to the land. And to those of you have the courage and desire to feast like your forefathers; I offer the following recipes.