Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Land Hurricane

Every few months I seem to hit a sort of wall and need a day more or less in bed. Last night I came home from work and went to bed, got up to eat and watch a little television, then was back in bed. I've had a headache and felt achy for a few days, but it hasn't turned into a full-blown illness. Still, I knew when I went to bed last night that I'd probably be calling in sick.

The weather is probably part of it. We're experiencing what the weatherman called "a land hurricane," with gusts of wind over 50 mph. I could feel the top half of the house shaking as I lay in bed, and it ripped the door off our screen porch with lots of banging and bluster. If you're going to stay home, today is a great day to do it.

I'm starting The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I've avoided reading until now. Part of it is that I have trouble getting through non-fiction books, although I am encouraged by how much I enjoyed Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea to try another. After reading the introduction, though, I skipped over the 100 pages on corn. I already have this story and could see paging through the amount of data that is in that chapter. At the end of the day, I like a narrative, which is why I liked Kingsolver and Mortenson's books so much. Give me a story and I'm yours. But I'm not a fan of the new journalism that has resulted in the history of fire, salt, guns, orchids, germs, storms, etc. I figure I can get those stories by listening to the author on Terry Gross's Fresh Air and move on. Thus, the chapter on corn. I went right to the second chapter, on grass and cows.

Mostly I dug into this book today because of our trip to the cow farm. Our friend Tim was telling me on Sunday, when I said it seemed to me the rancher's job was mostly about managing the manure and pasture, that it sounded straight out of Omnivore's Dilemma. I want to learn more about raising cows, so I'm going to read it.

Which brings me to our steak dinner on Monday night. I hate to say it, but our first try with the grass-fed steaks was a disappointment. The meat was not tender. It was tough. I'm not sure that I know how to cook steak properly, but I do have this special Le Crueset grill pan for the stove top and cooked it on a low temperature... The meal was still fantastic, with a baked potato and the sauce from the beets we had the night before and Brussels sprouts from the last farmer's market of the season. And despite the lack of tenderness in these particular sirloins (perhaps I should try a more quality cut), there was no question that the meat had a completely different flavor than beef from the store. It was delicious, and had a full, real animal flavor-- not gamey but more like game than store-bought beef. So I will not give up. But it did bring home the risk in growing a cow for beef-- that is a hell of a lot of meat on one animal, and so much higher risk for having a good harvest or bad.

No comments: