“... And now the ecstasy of the chase over, there was a different ecstasy to come, for buffalo meat was the greatest of foods. Butchering for meat was done thus: The carcass was propped on the belly, with the knees bent or with the legs stretched out. The tongue was taken first – and was always taken as a trophy, as proof of the kill, even when a tough old bull quite unfit for eating had been killed. Then the butcher made an incision along the spine and cut away the skin down one side, using it as a table for his meats. What cuts he took depended on how plentiful the buffalo were. He always took the 'boss,' a small hump on the back of the neck, the hump itself, and the 'hump ribs,' which were the prolongations of vertebrae that supported it; then the 'fleece,' which was the flesh between the spine and the ribs, and the three-inch layer of fat that covered it, the 'side ribs,' and the lower 'belly fat' that was considered one of the greatest delicacies. He would probably take the liver too and such portions of the intestines as his tastes suggested. Then he would butcher out a thigh bone and use it to crack such other bones as might provide the best marrow. Francis Chardon, a celebrated factor of the American Fur Company, listed as specially choice 'the nuts' – the earliest Rocky Mountain oysters, therefore. But when buffalo were scarce all the meat was eaten. Nor are the books right when they reproach white hunters alone for reckless waste of meat, for the Indians were just as wasteful when it was plentiful and took only the cuts they liked most.
(There were special, empirical skills even in butchering. 'Ti-ya!' exclaims Old Bill Williams in Ruxton's Life in the Far West, 'do 'ee hyar, now, you darned greenhorn, do 'ee spile fat cow like that whar you was raised? Them doin's won't shine in this crowd, boy, do 'ee hyar, darn you? What! butcher meat across the grain! why whar'll the blood be goin' to, you precious Spaniard? [More likely, you damned greaser.] Down the grain, I say, and let your flaps be long or out the juice'll run slick – do 'ee hyar now?')
There were few delicate feeders in the mountains. The Indians preferred their meat high and kept the surplus till it began to rot. The river tribes like the green, putrid flesh of bufallo drowned while crossing the ice and hauled ashore weeks later, 'so ripe, so tender, that very little boiling is required.' They ate the kidneys raw, but the delight of an Indian gourmet was to eat his way down a ten-foot length of raw, warm, perhaps still quivering gut – in one snapshot by an appalled white the gourmet squeezes out the gut's contents just ahead of his teeth. Guts or boudins were delicious to the white palate too, but they were first lightly seared above the fire. 'I once saw two Canadians,' Ruxton says, 'commence at either end of such a coil of grease, the mass lying between them on a dirty apishemore [saddle pad] like the coil of a huge snake. As yard after yard glided down their throats, and the serpent on the saddle-cloth was dwindling from an anaconda to a moderate-sized rattlesnake, it became a great point with each of the feasters to hurry his operation, so as to gain a march upon his neighbor and improve the opportunity by swallowing mor than his just proportion; each at the same time exhorting the other, whatever he did, to feed fair and every now and then, overcome by the unblushing attempts of his partner to bolt a vigorous mouthful, would suddenly jerk back his head, drawing out at the same moment, by the retreating motion, several yards of boidin from his neighbor's stomach (for the greasy viands required no mastication and was bolted whole) and, snapping up the ravished portions, greedily swallowed them.' The white man would eat the liver raw as soon as it was taken; he seasoned it with the gall or sometimes with gunpowder. But the feast was still to come.
'Meat's meat,' the trapper said, and he ate what meat was at hand, from his own moccasins, parfleche, and lariats, in 'starvin' times,' on through the wide variety of mountain game, of which some tidbits were memorable to gastronomes – boiled beaver tail, 'panther,' and as an acquired taste young Oglala puppy. But when coming out from the States you shot your first fat cow, or when after finding no buffalo for some weeks you reached them at last, you touched the very summit of delight. Nor can there be any doubt that buffalo meat, an indescribably rich, tender, fiberless, and gamey beef, was the greatest meat man has ever fed on. The mountain man boiled some cuts, notably the hump, and seared or sauteed others, but mostly he cooked them by slow roast, skewered on his ramrod or on a stick. Every man to his own fire (unless messes, each with his own cook, had been appointed) and no man with more tableware than his belt-knife – gravy, juices, and blood running down his face, forearms, and shirt. He wolfed the meat and never reached repletion. Eight pounds a day was standard ration for Hudson's Bay Company employees, but when meat was plentiful a man might eat eight pounds for dinner, then wake a few hours later, build up the fire, and eat as much more. All chroniclers agree that no stomach rebelled and no appetite ever palled. Moreover, to the greases that stained the mountaineer's garments were added the marrow scooped from bones and the melted fat that was gulped by the pint. Kidney fat could be drunk without limit; one was moderate with the tastier but oily belly fat, which might be automatically regurgitated if taken in quantity, although such a rejection interrupted no one's gourmandizing very long.
...This, then, is the mountain epicure's moment of climax. Hump and boss boil in a kettle, cracked marrow bones sizzle by the fire, there are as many ribs to roast as a man may want. Crosslegged on the ground, using only their Green River knives, the trappers eat their way through six or ten pounds of fat cow.”
I heard one of the chefs back in the kitchen yell out "Steaks ready to go!" and I went inside. One chef was slicing the big steaks with a knife that resembled a cavalry sabre and the other was dipping the slices into a pan of rich, hot sauce. "That's the best beefsteak sauce in the world," Mr. Wertheimer said. "It's melted butter, juice and drippings from the steak, and a little Worcestershire."
At a table near the kitchen door I heard a woman say to another, "Here, don't be bashful. Have a steak." "I just et six," her friend replied. The first woman said, "Wasn't you hungry? Why, you eat like a bird." Then they threw their heads back and laughed.
Five or six years ago some glutton revived the barbarous practice of eating great chunks of steak without knife and fork. It was the season of "Beefsteak Clubs." A place - sometimes the loft of a stable - was rented by a party of gentlemen for the evening. The steak was cooked in a square iron box. The wood fire in the oven was allowed to burn until the embers formed a red-hot bed several inches deep. Cubical slabs of beef were placed on an ash grate, which is poked into the embers, where it is broiled to a turn or charred mass. The steaks, each weighing a pound or more, are served on hot pewter plates, together with crackers and pieces of bread, and washed down with copious draughts of ale and porter. One rule governing a beefsteak club is that there must be no chairs, tables, knives, forks or napkins. And so the New York "swell," like little Lord Fauntleroy, seated on a cracker box or barrel, helps himself to meat and bread with his dainty fingers. The Beefsteakers have grown tired of gastronomic fooling, and one must look elsewhere for midnight scenes of savagery and revelery.
It didn't take women long to corrupt the beefsteak. They forced the addition of such things as Manhattan cocktails, fruit cups, and fancy salads to the traditional menu of slices of ripened steaks, double lamb chops, kidneys, and beer by the pitcher. They insisted on dance orchestras instead of brassy German bands. The life of the party at a beefsteak used to be the man who let out the most ecstatic grunts, drank the most beer, ate the most steak, and got the most grease on his ears, but women do not esteem a glutton, and at a contemporary beefsteak it is unusual for a man to do away with more than six pounds of meat and thirty glasses of beer. Until around 1920, beefsteak etiquette was rigid. Knives, forks, napkins, and tablecloths never had been permitted; a man was supposed to eat with his hands.
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