A Carnivore’s Delight

Last week at this time, I was in Palm Desert with my brother, my sister-in-law Lori, my niece Hilary and her family, and my niece Jennifer. We were looking in amazement at what Dan had prepared for us: a feast featuring various cuts of meat that would make any carnivore drool. There were also several varieties of roasted vegetables, such as the artichokes pictured below. To make it a truly gourmet experience, Dan had prepared a batch of homemade Béarnaise sauce which was so good that it seemed to go with everything.

Since the onset of my Type II diabetes about ten years ago, I have been more of a part-time vegetarian. But there is something about my brother’s cooking that cannot be denied. The last time I overindulged in meat was in Buenos Aires, when I went to a parrilada, ate a huge steak, and got picturesquely ill from several of orifices, missing my bus the next afternoon to Puerto Iguazu. This time, I merely sampled the cuts on display and suffered no untoward effects.

Roasted Artichokes

It was a delicious meal. I consider myself a passable cook, but not fit the touch the hem of Dan’s garment when it comes to a comparison. If I am overweight, it is fo a good reason. My great-grandmother Lidia Toth was an excellent cook. My mother was also good, but most notable for her soups and baked goods. (I am wearing those baked goods to this day.) I take after my mother in making good soups—the one area I might be able to give Dan a run for his money.

People have always told Dan he should open a restaurant. He is much too canny for that form of slavery. He has at times prepared dishes for restaurants and made friends of restaurateurs, but he was never tempted to go into that profession. Why should he? He is a superb home builder and has just finished building a log home in Idyllwild that he completed the sale of just this last week. Too bad: I would give much to live in a house that he built.


Going Whole Hog

Go Ahead, Pig Out!

Go Ahead, Pig Out!

Dan and I were in Otavalo, two hours north of Quito. Famous for its textile and other handicrafts, the town of some 90,000 inhabitants is also famous for fiestas. In addition to the Ecuadoran equivalent of carnitas (shown above), there are other local meat specialties, such as cuy, or guinea pigs (shown below). In both Peru and Ecuador, I have seen paintings in cathedrals of the Last Supper in which Christ and his apostles were dining on cuy. (I’ll try to post one of them at some point in the future.)

Cooking Cuy, or Guinea Pigs

Cooking Cuy, or Guinea Pigs

Dan resolved to try some cuy, but I guess he didn’t have the heart for it. I guess it reminded him too much of the hamster named Mutzi that we had as a pet when we were kids. Also, they are famous for their paucity of meat combined with a plethora of tiny bones.

The Yuck Factor

A Mixed Grill for a Couple in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

A Mixed Grill for Two in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

I shot the above in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, in November 2011. It represents a mixed grill ordered by a young couple who graciously allowed me to photograph their lunch with a broad smile on their faces. It represents various cuts of beef, including sausages with a blood sausage in the middle accompanied by various organ meats.

The number of people who would find such a meal disgusting is growing by leaps and bounds, especially among the young. Let’s face it, meat can be gross—even if the animals are grass-fed the way South American beef and lamb typically are. American feedlots, if anything, result in even stranger meat, including such additives as “pink slime,” which was in the news recently, as well as various exotic antibiotics and hormones.

One of the best American growers with which I am familiar in the Harris Ranch located midway between Los Angeles and Sacramento on Interstate 5. Just north of the hotel and restaurant building is a huge feedlot whose odors have passersby on the freeway quickly pulling up their windows and recirculating their interior air for about two miles. And that is better than most beef you are likely to find at your neighborhood supermarket. I imagine that most Midwestern feedlots would be the mammalian equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.

Now Martine and I are both meat-eaters, but in a relatively small way. You might even say we’re part-time vegetarians. Would we ever become 100% vegetarians? Perhaps, if circumstances forced us, we would. In general, however, we shy away from vegetarian restaurants. It is not because we don’t like vegetarian dishes: It’s just that there is a certain vegetarian cuisine—particularly in the United States—which is almost offensively bland. If one is a vegetarian because one finds meat yucky, then one is likely to eat exclusively blah food.

One example of a vegetarian cuisine that I like is that of India. In fact, whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I usually concentrate on the vegetarian dishes exclusively, unless some fish is on the menu. Indian food is almost never blah. (One exception: The Govinda’s Restaurants run by the Hare Krishnas, who have managed to banish all flavor from their menus.)

There are two vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my office. I do not patronize either of them. As I am a diabetic, I have to avoid carbohydrates as much as possible; and American vegetarian food is usually fairly heavily laden with carbs.

As I write this, I am thinking of cooking a Chana Dhal next week (a curry with chick peas), if Martine is willing.