Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raising the Steaks

My dear friend Laura is married to a lovely man named Mark Schatzker.  He's an increasingly-famous, James Beard-nominated writer holding a serious torch for beef.

His first book was released today, just in time for BBQ season.  Steak, as the cover says, is one man's search for the world's tastiest piece of beef.  Last year Mark scoured places including Texas and Idaho, Italy, and France in this search, not to mention the heifer (named Fleurance) he raised here in Ontario.  In cahoots with local celebrity chef, Michael Stadtlander (famous for his farmhouse-cum-restaurant near Georgian Bay), they fed her nothing but apples, acorns and carrots before sending her to slaughter.  Delicious slaughter.  Doesn't get much more local-organic than that.  But does it make the best steak?

As Mark investigates, he notes that steak is in a category all its own: "There is no such place as a lambhouse or a porkhouse, but even a small town can have a steakhouse."  Culturally, globally, we're big into steak, as my very own blog can attest. Travel with him to all corners of the globe, including Japan where Kobe might not be the best of the bunch.  Who knew? We've been led to believe it's the gold standard.  Turns out something better might come off a campfire at the hands of a real-life cowboy.

Tonight, at old-school hotspot Pangaea, Mark boozed and beefed a room full of literary-types, friends, and meatlovers beautifully.  As I sipped my house-branded wine, I flipped through the pages of his book.  It's a strange feeling, to read about people you know, babies you've held in your very own arms.

On page 229, Mark writes about the glory of feeding his three (gorgeous) children the meat from his very own cow:

Almost three months to the day before Fleurance was killed, my wife had given birth to a baby girl, whom we named Violet, and a twin brother, Henry.  By March, they were on solid food, and the first meal they ever tasted was Fleurance.  The preparation was not one an Argentine would respect - the steak was pulsed in the blender and mixed with stewed mango - but the babies loved it.  They finished the bowl and smiled, their cheeks streaked with bright orange and flecked with meat.  
Feeding Fleurance to my offspring satisfied an inner desire I hadn't realized I possessed.  It feels right and good to chop meat from an animal you have grazed personally and put it into little mouths.

Head to Amazon to buy Mark's book, if only for his foolproof 15-step guide to cooking steak.  While I haven't, so far, read more than a few passages, if I know anything at all about Mark, it'll be funny and nerdy and charming out the whazoo - A great gift for any Dad this Father's Day, or that lesbian aunt you always have trouble buying for.

(Above, left to right: Mark, Laura, the book, and me.)


  1. Zoinks.
    Although your writing was on par with your typically witty posts, I was just a touch more than physically turned-off by your friends book. I've been a vegetarian since I'm 8 years old, and can't imagine raising an animal to kill and feed to my offspring. Ugh.

    Yours faithfully,

  2. A vegetarian! Who knew.
    My blog must get your blood boiling fairly frequently, then.

  3. They sound like a great family, and the cover of that book is great. I'm not much of a red meat eater, but I bet he cooks a mean steak.

  4. That cover is luscious. While I've always been a seafood guy (true to the Maritime stereotype), and was a near-vegan for three years, I have to admit there is *nothing* like beautifully cooked beef.

    So his writing is "funny and nerdy and charming out the whazoo?" Sounds perfect. I'll definitely check it out.

  5. Did you see his nearly 3 1/2 page review in the Globe yesterday?! It was fantastic. So exciting!

  6. Ummm...I want to read this book.