There can be little doubt that A.A. Gill—he of the greatest review smackdown of all time—is among the most entertaining food writers working today. He’s gleefully unafraid to ruffle feathers, and he delivers the sort of old-fashioned, silver-tongued diatribes that keep Britain relevant as a bastion of culture (never stop your incredibly articulate hating, England!).
For his latest opus in Vanity Fair, he addresses our collective obsession with steak—as he says, “marbled fatty buttock is the defining mouthful of our time.” He delves into the factors that contribute to our fixation with red meat, and paints the modern steak-eater as essentially a sad man clinging to the last shreds of his waning mojo.
The whole thing is worth reading, but here are the 10 best lines about steak from the essay:
- “If food came with gender appellations, steak would definitely be at the top of the bloke column.”
- “The porterhouse used to be the dining choice of a gauche out-of-towner, a man who was uncomfortable with chic urban menus and didn’t know how to order—’Oh, I’ll just have the steak. Wipe its behind and bring it to the table,’ they’d say, just to let the rest of us cheese-eating sophisticates know that they weren’t intimidated hicks.”
- “Chefs hate steaks because their reputations are left in the hands of their butchers—two cuts off the same muscle can eat quite differently.”
- “Steak houses used to be leathery, clubbable lounges with cartoons of dead customers on the walls and faux Victorian paintings of obese cattle.”
- “[The modern steakhouse] for men—who might fear that their testicles would pack their bags and leave if they caught them talking about terroir or heirloom tomatoes—to have a detailed and exhaustively knowledgeable discussion about dry-aging, grass-fed versus corn-fed, and the state of Wagyu-Angus crossbreeding.”
- “A slab of bleeding meat is symbolic of something fundamental, something pre-banking, pre-mortgage, predownsizing, prehistoric.”
- “A steak feels, looks, and tastes like winning—a direct connection to our bipedal ancestors.”
- “Before the Second World War ordinary Joes rarely ate steak. It was the occasional meat of millionaires and cartoon characters.”
- “Today the prices being charged for prime cuts in prestige dining rooms—where the raw material is paraded to the table like a Premier Cru—can equal a day’s pay for the waiter. The expense adds to the special pleasure, the achievement, and is the secret ingredient of the filet mignon.”
- “[Steaks] are the taste of the free market, the blessing of Western capitalism, a celebration of consumerism and modernity and the arrival of the middle class.”
[via Vanity Fair]