Plate of the Union: Meat: The flavor of love

November 6, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about meat lately. Maybe because two of my housemates are vegetarian, I get a sort of odd little twinge of guilt when I’m browning the ground beef for my chili or frying up some particularly fragrant chicken dumplings. Yet meat has always been a part of my diet, a nicely regulated quadrangle on the food pyramid.

When my mother unilaterally decided our household would transition to a “plant-based diet” in the early days of high school, I was a bit apprehensive about the influx of vegetables. They were terrifying at first. I remember running my hands over a bulbous, smooth, purple eggplant and scowling in confusion at what bizarre magical land it had come from. The first time I woke up to my mother grinding a kale smoothie instead of frying up bacon was another sad day. Quite a few years later, vegetables and I have finally come to terms with one another. I even go out of my way to buy myself a misshapen eggplant every few weeks, because, underneath the otherworldly exterior lies what I have discovered to be a delicious food, especially when battered and fried.

Yet as much as I have embraced the beauty of vegetables, I cannot give up meat. I have three reasons for my loyalty to my carnivorous ways:

1. Bacon: As any of my housemates will tell you, I eat a lot of bacon. Bacon seems to have established an almost cult-like following as of late, primarily consisting of boys who associate it with some bizarre kind of masculinity and chocolatiers who have decided that bacon ought to be a novelty component in their newest fusion milk chocolate bar. While I am not a member of either group, I love bacon because it is easy to cook and makes pretty much everything more delicious. Breakfast time? I cut an avocado in half, crumble bacon into the tiny semicircle left from the pit, and drizzle some sour pomegranate sauce on top. Lunch or dinner? One of my favorite go-to meals is mac and cheese—but not the kind you would think. Instead of opening a box of Kraft (which is still pretty delicious), I boil up and drain some pasta, add whatever cheeses are in the fridge (goat cheese, feta, cheddar, Gruyere, blue cheese, cream cheese… you name it, I’ve tried it), and then add some crumbled bacon to the mixture. Nothing is more comforting, filling, and delicious. Want something slightly healthier? Add bacon to a quinoa salad with your buttery sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese. There’s something about the bacon that just ties all the other flavors together. Bacon is that friend of yours who is weirdly good at bringing different groups of friends together and not making it awkward.

2. Kebabs: Kebabs, unlike bacon, are a stand-alone meat. When I eat a kebab, I don’t want it mashed up in mac and cheese or mixed in with a salad. When I eat a kebab, I want to eat meat in all its juicy, pleasurable, guilt-inducing deliciousness. I first discovered the joy of kebab culture (yes, it is a culture) while living in Adana, a city in Southeast Turkey known primarily by its prevalence on menus in Turkish restaurants around the world. The spicy and delicious Adana kebab is not made by normal Turks in their homes. It is made by masters of the craft of kebab making in special restaurants, each laying claim to the best, original Adana kebab. The master chefs combine freshly ground lamb meat with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, sumac, red pepper, and a myriad of other spices and squeeze it onto a long, thick skewer, roasting it until the juices drip down into the coals below. There may be no more pleasurable and satisfying moment for me as when a kebab arrives on the table, lying on top of a bed of hot pita bread. An Adana kebab is a show stealer and an attention hog, and it entirely deserves it.

3. Barbecue/barbeque/BBQ. It doesn’t matter how you spell it. It’s delicious in any linguistic form. Growing up in Memphis, barbecue was something my family ate with great frequency. From ribs to pulled pork sandwiches, each restaurant has its own way of preparing and seasoning the meat, in addition to its own special sauces. In May, the air would smell of barbecue as the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and all its related revelries occurred downtown on the banks of the Mississippi. Barbecue is a staple of Memphian life. Family get-together? Let’s order barbecue! Birthday party? Barbecue! Funeral? Uncle Henry would have wanted us to eat this barbecue. Barbecue is certainly delicious, but it is also the most nostalgic of my reasons for eating meat. Barbecue reminds me of home, of childhood, of sauce dripping all over me, of summertime, and of joy.

I am not here to make an argument for meat, but I am here to make an argument for eating food that makes you happy. As epicurean as it may sound, one of the greatest privileges a person can have is being able to eat food that makes her happy. Perhaps one day, vegetables will be able to satiate me entirely. Until then, though, I’ll be adding bacon to my mac and cheese, indulging in the occasional kebab, and dripping barbecue sauce all over myself on the banks of the Mississippi.

Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments