Monday, April 19, 2010

The Secret's Out

Normally on Mondays, I post an article from this same time last year. Last year at this time, however, I was galavanting across France and Switzerland with my sister and eventually my Mom and took some time off from writing. there! Today we shall live in the present.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this…. I really don’t want to say this…. it pains me to type this sentence on my keyboard…you’ve heard it here first…. and you’ll never hear it again.

I miss my ex-husband.


Now let me qualify that statement. You really must let me explain!

That guy knew how to make a steak. Oh yeah! I have never eaten a steak… anywhere… that was as delicious as the steaks he would occasionally make on the grill. Garlicky and buttery and full of flavor, tender and thick and moist…and PERFECT!

If you say a word to him I’ll have to kill you. Because really, other than that, I don’t miss a thing.

Last night, I fired up my little green BBQ grill and took a stab at preparing this precious slab of animal protein. I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect because I really haven’t been able to find a great piece of meat around here (as in steak!). The French seem to think their meat is good, but I haven’t found it. In fact, a few moments ago the caretaker of my building promised to take me to a good boucherie where he says I can find better meat than I've seen at the grocery stores. But after my battle with le bifteck last night, I’m reluctant to waste the money.

When I was young, I spent a couple of years as a trail cook in Northern British Columbia, where I actually learned to cook. In fact, I got the job because I told them I knew how to cook! In reality, I didn’t have a clue and there was nothing they could do about it once they had shipped me high up into the mountains, except bear with me as I learned to bake bread in a tin stove, bannock over a fire, cut hunks of meat off very large carcasses hanging from trees, and prepare all manner of entrails to perfection. In my cooking repertoire, I now have mountain sheep brains and eggs, elk testicles, deer tongue flavored with cloves and sliced thin for sandwiches, stuffed moose heart, and liver countless animals, fried tender with onion.  To be sure, these cowboys were always so hungry, I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered if I prepared all these delicacies in bleach…they were always willing to eat it (except for my first attempt at bread which they used as a doorstop for the cabin!) I wasn’t. That’s when I became a peanut butter addict. And I never had a well-cut, big-old beefsteak to lovingly nurse to perfection.

When I was a student I didn’t have the chance to practice either. No money. My staple diet then was potatoes and if I had enough tip money that week, I would buy something delicious like cheese or sour cream to transform my spuds into a special treat. Another favorite was canned spinach (4 cans for a dollar), garnished with a hard-boiled egg. I still love that!  But a steak? Never!

When I was a wife, I avoided cooking beef. It’s not that I didn’t want to cook it. It’s just that the ex-pectorant did it so much better. And he was willing. He would spend hours at it and I was able to do other things much more interesting.

Last night it was my turn. All I can say is, that was the worst piece of shoe leather I have ever eaten…or tried to eat. What am I doing wrong? It didn’t help that the meat was all of ½ inch thick but I can’t blame the steak. I know it was the technician. I tried to remember watching the ex-pec as he went through his preparations but apparently my memory is hazy…more likely I just never paid attention.

I will give myself one last shot. I mean really, I’ve got a grill, which is the best thing ever. And Americans are simply expected to know how to cook a steak. I’m letting my country down! I’m a bad ambassador!

I truly hope that my ex-pec taught his sons to make a proper steak. It would be a shame for such a fine art form to be lost forever. And a real shame for me because one day, when I’m visiting the boys and doing something interesting like playing with their babies in the sandbox, afterwards I want to be served a glorious, grilled, buttery, garlic- infused hunk of meat. And then I will never, ever have to say “I miss my ex-husband” again.



  1. I have never bought a decent piece of steak here. I've eaten it in restaurants but it is not grilled or fried - it is usually marinaded first here I think. I've given up the hunt to be honest.

    Good luck trying with your grill. I've tried my George Foreman, my griddle pan, a normal non stick pan, my oven grill - all ended up tough.

    Glad you don't miss him really.

  2. Oh Julie, that's good to know. I probably won't bother anymore then, either. At least after the next try, which I promised myself. Why do you supposed the beef is so horrid?

  3. French beef is unspeakably bad for anything except stews.

    The neighbour, who keeps beef cattle, feeds his on badly made silage and pellets, and tells me that his male animals are sold in Italy and Greece,as the French prefer to eat cow!

    I only once had a good steak.
    Didier cooked it on his home made BBQ - a lorry wheel sans tyre, using vine clippings as fuel.
    I asked him where he got it and it turned out to have been a secret illicit slaughter job of a young steer by a friend of his.
    Yet another French myth - the biftek - bites the dust.

  4. I laughed out loud when I read your post. Memories of (good) food are the best memories...even of people we don't care to remember.

    I worry about the good beef thing in France. And now that I'm thinking of it, D's mother has never cooked beef to my knowledge. It's always lamb or chicken or rabbit or some other game. Interesting.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  5. Delana...did you know that I am actually selling steaks in my extra time now through ManCave?!? Go to:
    I wish I could grill for you!

  6. PLEASE with a statement like that prepare me before I read your article again. It sure got my attention. I can find out from pat how to cook a Great steak but we both have in common a WONDERFUL steak chef. MARCIA. Now find a good piece of meat ( one that can be eaten) and give her a call. She will have the secret for you. Miss you

  7. Mugs will get you the butcher in Aix who knows ,at least, how to cut a t-bone!

  8. Kiki - you and I are going to Marcia's for dinner, pick me up! See you there Delana!

  9. LOL

    I can sooooooo relate. I don't even bother to try anymore. There's just something about me and the whole piece-of-meat-cooking thing . . . like oil and vinegar.


  10. Fly: I have to believe I can find a good steak somewhere. It is now my "in search of...". I'll keep you posted.
    Tanya: I know, why is it when my family talks about where we've been and what we've done, we always talk about the food? And truly, there are so many other glorious foods here, I don't really miss the beef. I will prevail, however.
    Doug:Well, that was just a tease...because I checked and they don't deliver to France. They also do not provide men who cook steaks...a product decidedly lacking in their catalog!
    Kerry: Gotcha! I didn't know Marcia make a great steak! She always cooks such wonderful meals but next time I'm home, I'll have to press her into service!
    Anonymous: I don't know who you are but if you don't tell me who Mugs is, I'm going to come looking for you.
    Margeaux: wait for me!
    M: Yep, I'm on the low end of the learning curve when it comes to beef. But if I can learn how to speak French, I can learn how to make a steak. Wait a minute, I haven't learned to speak French...much.

  11. I read all the comments in case someone had a tip for where I might too get a good cut of steak.I love the sound of Didier's barbecue that Fly wrote about.

  12. Delana,
    I laughed at you missing your ex-pec....but only for making you a steak! I don't know if it's that P and I became so used to horrid grass fed Irish beef and its gamey flavor but we've found the grocery store steak to be fabulous. I buy the pave or faux pave I think it's called and then slather with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook it on the stovetop with butter, 3 min on each side for rare to med rare, basting with the butter and olive oil juices as it cooks. So good! Really. I don't know about outside because, like you, I never pay attention to outside cooking other than to ask when it will be ready!

  13. I can not believe I read those words! But have to agree the man can cook. My ex's mother used to marinate in Wish Bone Italian dressing before throwing on the grill. It was always yum - but the beef is going to make a huge difference - nothing like midwestern beef. Deb

  14. FF: Keep reading, the suggestions are coming in. And I will publish them. I'm not yet willing to do a personal slaughter, however.
    Aidan:thanks for the suggestion...from a seasoned traveler. I will look for that...whatever it is.
    Deb: Yep, couldn't believe I wrote those words. I've been getting recipes by email too and it seems a marinade is in order. We don't have Wish Bone here but I think I could make something like that. And you're's the cut that's important first and foremost.

  15. Great post...again! No, great steaks simply do not exist in France...that's my opinion! Tasteless, tough, thin, overcooked: all of these and more. Nothing like the U.S. for good red meat! (which I rarely eat!)


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