I’ve had occasion, recently, to write a lot about meat. I mean, a lot. I spend a good part of my time writing about meat ordinarily, of course; and when not writing about it I am eating it or thinking about eating it. But recently it got really out of control. I was plugging Meatopia, my giant meat event, nonstop; and I found myself ghost-writing a meat guide.
That meant describing every single cut of every single animal, and it didn’t make me hungry. I could barely stand to think about meat by the end of it (even though I badly wanted a hot roast beef sandwich with fresh mozzarella and roasted garlic, and didn’t understand why I didn’t have one). I did, however, have a somewhat refreshed feeling for the continuities between animal bodies. And this feeling was to be found most strongly whenever I contemplated the chop.
From the point of view of a tree, or a nematode worm, or a coral reef, there’s really not that much difference between one tetrapod vertebrate body and another. Legs, arms, a head – what difference does it make if one has feathers and another wool? This might seem less far-fetched if you were to look at animals from the inside out, as a butcher does. The “top round” of a Hereford steer might taste different than the “thigh” of a Rhode Island Red chicken; but you would have to blind not to see it’s the same muscle.
Even more obvious is the brotherhood of chops. The beef “rib steak” is the exact same thing as the “pork chop,” only bigger and redder. Likewise with the lamb chop. The muscles even have the same name: there’s the big longissimus muscle which forms the “eye” of the rib-eye; and the little cap or lip atop it, sometimes affectionately called the “deckle” by meatheads. They all cook the same way, but of course they taste significantly differently – at least, from the point of view of somebody just like them. I doubt that the Cloverfield monster, say, or a column of Argentine marching ants, would find them that different.
As for me, I always think of where the cuts are on my own body, just to keep them straight. But that may be going a bit too far for the average person. There are limits, after all, to the extent to which you should identify with meat.
All this beef talk make you hungry? Let Josh teach you how to grill a pork chop — just in time for the Fourth of July!