I’m an omnivore. There. I’ve said it. It’s true. Gasp! Shock! Horror! In whatever is left of my lifetime, it is unlikely that I will become a vegan. Or a vegetarian. Or a lacto-vegetarian. Or an ovo-vegetarian. Or a pesca-vegetarian. Dairy gives me gas. Eggs give me gas. Fish gives me — well, I love fish, but even a seared Bluefin tuna steak can’t hold a candle to a veal chop. (And is there any Bluefin tuna left for the average person?)
I’m sorry. I would, if I could, but I can’t, so I shan’t. I love animals. Some of my best friends are animals. I feel really bad about eating them, and I am ever so grateful for them, but I am so weak, and I just love red meat. It’s the way I’m genetically wired. I’m an addict, but, I hope, not an abuser. If I buy meat, I make sure that I eat it fresh or freeze it. “If I buy meat?” Who am I kidding? I eat meat almost every day, except when I realize that I haven’t had meat at lunch and turn it into a “meatless” day. [In that case, I eat popcorn for dinner.]
Long before the Paleo Diet became all the rage, I was a kid who ate a very limited diet of meat, potatoes, corn, and canned green beans. That was it. And grape jelly. (But not together. That would be gross, although I have had cocktail meatballs in a sauce made with grape jelly, which was weird but not gross.) I drank milk and ate carbs, but that was it. My Mother made sure that I had a multi-vitamin every day, because she was so concerned about me. Our family doctor asked her, “Is Suzanne sick very often?”
“She’s never sick.”
“Well, let’s not worry about her, then.”
I eat beef in all forms, hamburgers, meat loaf, pot roast, tartare, short ribs, stew, Stroganoff, steaks real and “Swiss.” Or stuffed in peppers or in chili or spaghetti sauce. Trying to recreate my childhood memory of succulent Midwestern beef, I once dragged the Veterinarian to a Famous Chicago Steakhouse, when we were visiting the Windy City. My dinner was ruined before it started, when the waiter rolled up a trolley of raw meat as we ordered. As much as I love meat, I don’t want to smell it raw, under my nose, at the dinner table. The portions were at least a pound or two each. The restaurant’s motto must have been “The Bigger, the Better,” because the potatoes were the size of footballs and the asparagus as big as tree limbs.
“How do you prepare the asparagus?” I asked warily.
“We steam it,” the waiter beamed.
“Do you peel it first?”
“Oh, no, ma’am. We steam it and serve it just as it is.”
“I’ll have the broccoli,” I replied. I can eat broccoli raw, if I must.
I love pork chops, especially fried. Fried pork chops are like eating fried chicken. You can pick it up, but My Mother taught us to cut off the fat first (always trim the fat). I love pork roast and ribs (you should try my dry rub recipe) and whole roasted pig and all manner of smoked and cooked pork products, bacon, ham, Vienna sausages, hot dogs, baloney (or bologna, if you want to be picky about it). I’ll even eat Spam, and I’m not Hawaiian. There is still no vegetable that can’t be improved by a smoked pork product. Beans and wienies? Green beans with salt pork? Greens and ham hocks? Sauerkraut and kielbasa? Brussels sprouts or spinach sautéed with bacon? Fresh corn chowder with ham? Canned deviled ham? A favorite on crackers, which are not a vegetable — technically, even if they’re herbed.
Worst of all, I eat veal. I’ve eaten veal in Europe, God help me. I feel really, really bad about the European veal, but I rationalize it because I don’t get to Europe that often, so I can’t be part of the problem, can I? Plus, I’m 50% Italian with a French great-grandmother thrown in. Osso bucco? But, of course. City chicken? I’m from Detroit. Grilled veal chop? Marinated in olive oil, lemon, and rosemary? Oh, my!
I do not eat lamb, unless you serve me those cute little lamb chops, and my wine glass is full of a fine red wine to wash the flavor away. An appreciation for lamb seems to be acquired, or, maybe, it’s genetic. I’ve never acquired it. You can’t mask the flavor with mint jelly, which I also can’t stand. And little sheep are so cute!
Like most of my vices, I blame it on The Veterinarian (and he can’t talk back, so, why not?). He ate everything. We were enjoying Chick-fil-a sandwiches and discussing the company’s trademarked cows encouraging us to “Eat more chikin.” I said I shouldn’t eat anything with big brown eyes.
“Get over it. How old do you think that chicken was that you’re eating?” He asked me. I didn’t know. He told me. I was surprised. (Google it. You may be surprised, too.) “This is how we humans are designed. This is what we eat.” I could tell you more about meat production, but you probably don’t want to hear about it any more than I did.
You can argue with me and send me hate mail, but please don’t recommend tofu, which has the texture of mushrooms, which I won’t eat, either. I am happy to share my only recipe for tofu:
This summer, I’ve been eating a lot of skewered steak, because I really don’t ever eat an entire steak by myself. I’ve also skewered chicken, shrimp, scallops, lobster, and fish, and I feel so virtuous when adding veggies like peppers, sugar snap or snow peas, or corn. I’ve even added cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and squash, for those who like their food tasteless. [Really? What is the point of squash? To make zucchini bread?]
Lately, I’ve been grilling tenderloin chunks, which were a great buy, because they’re what’s left when you butcher a whole tenderloin into steaks or a nice roast like a Châteaubriand. [Sudden thought: I have to tell you about my disastrous honeymoon that was almost saved by a Châteaubriand and Captain Kangaroo.]
I have no recipe to share this week. I marinate the meat for about an hour, longer if it’s a tougher cut, and about 30 minutes for chicken, fish, and shellfish. Sometimes I make a little teriyaki (soy, brown sugar, garlic, ginger) or the aforementioned lemon, olive oil, and rosemary (great with chicken) or even just a little white wine, garlic, and thyme (for the seafood).
I love these skewers. They are short, with two prongs to securely hold the food and keep it from spinning when you rotate them. They are easy to grill on all four sides. There is also a “slider-thing-y” that pushes the cooked food off the skewer.
As with all grilling, make sure you preheat the grill and wipe it with a paper towel dampened with cooking oil (hold it with barbecue tongs), so the food won’t stick. I also saw a tv chef wipe the grill with an onion dipped in oil, which eliminates the risk of flaming paper towel, but I’d be wasting an onion.
My secret technique for grilling with skewers is to place a disposable aluminum cookie sheet under the handles, which keeps them from burning, even if you use bambo skewers that have been soaked in water.
Enjoy this last gasp of summer!