Meat and pictures

April 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

Good news, friends: I am now in the apartment, with cheapo temporary IKEA mattresses to hold us until our container arrives from Boston, and with appliances, one of which (refrigerator) is actually plugged in and working. Hurrah!

Since Luca was away, I took the chance to skip dinner last night and had nothing this morning but a tin of sardines that I generously decided to share with the cats, since a bit of struggle with my jeans revealed that this all-souvlaki diet is upholstering me with unseasonal insulation.

One of the difficulties in being married to an Argentinian-Italian-Frenchman is the impossibility of convincing him that there is any good reason at all to skip a meal of grilled meat and salad, if the opportunity exists.

In Buenos Aires, there is a thing called the parillada, which he told me about while dabbing discreetly the drool away from the corner of his mouth, which is what we in the States might call a mixed grill, though it is not nearly as comforting as that. They have of course many meals of ordinary muscle meat, which any redblooded American could dive into without fear. But the parillada that Luca meant was the complete grill of offal.

Eating as much red meat as they do, quaffing all that wine, I wondered how Argentinians manage to survive past 50. It turns out they rather don’t, according to a friend who did a residency at a Buenos Aires hospital: many croak of massive coronaries at early age, choked up with arterosclerosis, presumably with a bit of salty grease on the last smile on the lips.

As a lifestyle the parillada may be insupportable, but as a tourist event it is, for all non-vegetarians, worthy of the effort to keep smiling and chewing, trembling as you are, through all the little charred tidbits they bring to you, whose names mean nothing, whose flavors are alarmingly different, though all from the same animal. Come to think of it, why is it that all animals taste different? Why should tissue shaped for the same purpose—to contract, to release—take on a different flavor even from herbivores that eat the same roughage? And why should different tissues in the same animal—tongue, heart, gizzard, leg, loin, kidney—taste so very, very different? These are the questions with which one may distract oneself while chewing through something small, contained, and greasy and urinous, greasy and cheesy, greasy and tangy, smiling, washing it all down with a good red, breathing hard, looking one’s partner in the eye, carrying on a conversation despite having just been informed (causing sympathetic twinges) that one is eating kidney, cow udder, or intestines filled with milk.

Compared to this ordeal, there is something reassuringly American about the massive cylinders of gyro meat, spinning across the red heat, about the perfect rotisserie chicken and the kebabs. These are not organs. So they inspire confidence. It is not like watching my mother eat a plate of chicken feet or lustily suck the eye out of a fish head. It is as relaxing as being in a burger joint, or as a local Greek establishment would have it, a Burgering House. (“Burger me with a pitchfork,” said Luca.)

I do like my grilled meat on pita the Lebanese way, with a lot of yogurt on it. And incidentally, there is a dish I happened upon in the Saha cookbook, which excellent book I found by way of Victoria at Bois de Jasmin, called “kid cooked in its mother’s milk.” Which indicates to me that the kosher law against this may be a law against eating dinner with those historical neighbors, since what is more natural, once you have slaughtered the kid, than relieving its mother of the milk?

These questions are perhaps turning some of you kindhearted readers to thoughts of spinach.

As recompense, I now upload a slew of recent photos to entertain you with. All were taken with my phone, with apologies for the quality.

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§ 2 Responses to Meat and pictures

  • vanessa says:

    Enjoyed this post – it was the Butcher’s Choice equivalent of “nature red in tooth and claw”! At the opposite end of the spectrum, the recent reappearance of my Beau’s Lines (intriguingly, on just one thumb), may indicate malnutrition. There may prove to be a direct correlation between this nail deformity and my serial dating of vegetarians since 1992, not that I am one myself.

    I will admit, however, to being squeamish around less sanitised body parts, as indeed were the sales assistants at the Estee Lauder counter in our local department store when my mother went to grab her purse to pay for a lipstick, whereupon a slimy piece of tripe flopped out of her handbag – and its loose plastic wrapping – and skidded across the counter to a sticky halt.

    • Vanessa: thank you for that indelible image. I wanted to make a joke (“did they have the stomach for it?” or “beauty comes from inside”) but as you can see they are not really funny so I will now desist.

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