Woodworking again: Spoiled brat wants good meat

By Dave Wood
Posted 2/14/24

We’re a bunch of spoiled brats if we complain about life in the 21st century. We’ve been blessed with a super active media and abundance: Have you seen the recent data on corn production …

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Woodworking again: Spoiled brat wants good meat


We’re a bunch of spoiled brats if we complain about life in the 21st century. We’ve been blessed with a super active media and abundance: Have you seen the recent data on corn production and sugar beets? Our automobiles last longer than they used to; witness my 2002 Chrysler Concorde. Folks live through diseases that once amounted to a death sentence.

Still, there’s one thing I miss from the days of yore when I was a young fellow, and that is lots of good meat: animal flesh, all manner of it. Years back it was taken for granted. Our family was relatively poor, and so we had to eat the cheap stuff, like side pork. My mother would announce: “It’s side pork tonight, kids. Think of it as “Chicken of the Trough,” as she plunked down platters of crisp rashers of side pork and milk gravy over boiled spuds. These days we call side pork “Pork Belly,” and the price has risen from 39 cents to $8.50 per pound.

When times got better our diet improved. Sunday dinners were always the same. Mother seasoned not one, but two roasts, one pork and one beef rubbed with Pleasoning. She browned them both in her old roaster lined with sliced onions, put the fat pork atop the lean beef, set the oven at low and went to church. Hours later she uncovered six pounds of meat, just for us. We bellied up to the table to dine on this fit-for-a-king feast, surrounded by the garden vegetables mother had sneaked into the old roaster upon her return from church.  

I let this all good-meat time roll until a couple of decades later when grass-fed beef became all the rage – as tasteless as boneless, skinless chicken breasts. “Healthy!” said the experts. At that same moment, hog meat was being touted as “the other white meat,” suggesting that pork was becoming as tasteless, boring and lean as boneless skinless chicken breasts!

Not long after that, my stepmother opened a restaurant, and my father got into the act. He’d buy an entire steer, fatten it in our little barn, butcher and hang it until it got strangely green, scrape off the mold and cut it into roasts, chops and hamburger. Our restaurant catered to a modest clientele, and somehow no one ordered the T-bones, the choicest of the beef cuts. My father thought it was irreligious to grind good steak into hamburger. His solution: offer a grilled one-pound T-bone, a pile of hashbrowns, and a green salad —for ONE DOLLAR! The T-bones disappeared.

But that’s not the end of my adventures with juicy protein product. A miracle occurred when the Meilman Brothers of New York City purchased the slaughterhouse in our tiny Wisconsin town and converted it to a kosher operation. Kosher dining dictated that only the front quarters could be eaten by those of the Jewish persuasion, meaning all the fanciest cuts had to be disposed of elsewhere. Mr. Meilman’s solution was to grind the lesser cuts like chuck into hamburger and ship it to McDonalds. He then took a leaf from my father’s game plan and sold fancy loin cuts on the cheap to Gentiles in the region. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Poles and Scandinavians in west central Wisconsin lived very high on the rear of steer until Meilman’s shut down years later. So it goes.

Currently bedded down in Sarasota, Fla., Ruth and I, with thoughts of rich, juicy beef dancing in our heads, wended our way to the recent revival of our favorite local steakhouse, the Waterfront. We were happy to see the same staff managing the new venue. I’m unhappy to say that they have not returned to their ribeye supplier. Ruth ordered a choice ribeye, which turned out to be less than a half inch thick, trimmed of all visible fat, stringy, tasteless, and, yes, tough.

So I’ve become one of the spoiled brats who will not allow “the healthy white meat,” tasteless chicken and spongy pork to pass my lips. What’s left for me? Nothing but lobster I guess. What a shame. What a crime. What a spoiled brat!

Woodworking again, Dave Wood, meat, column