Going into this project I thought beef wold be the hardest meat to eat. After a lifetime if visiting my grandma's farm in Alaska, I've come to see cows as friendly, loving creatures that are simply not for eating.
And yet, by the time I got to beef week for my experiment, eating it was no problem. In truth that was my hope on the outset. I planned on having beef towards the end because I knew that if I started with cow, I could never put the first bite of meat into my mouth.
Maintaining my interest in French food, I made Julia Child's recipe for boeuf bourguignon. I remember learning about boeuf bourguignon in seventh grade French class along with bouillabaisse and other French foods. By seventh grade I had already become a vegetarian so I disregarded the beef stew as something I would probably never eat. But, when I decided to give this experiment a go, I knew I had to delve into many of the cultural recipes I have been missing out on, thus boeuf bourguignon became a must.
The first time I read through the recipe I thought it would be nearly impossible. It seemed so complicated with all the cooking and removing and replacing and cooking some more and simmering and roasting. But, when you really break it down, it's quite a simple dish though it does take a long time to make.
Browning the beef chunks before simmering them in Bordeaux with the bacon and vegetables before finally putting the whole pot in the oven for a few hours made the meat incredibly tender. I don't recall ever having beef in my pre-vegetarian days that was so delightfully tender and moist.
While the stew simmered in the oven the smell of Bordeaux mingled in the air with butter as I fried mushrooms that would later be added to the pot. So not only is this dish delicious to taste, it also fills your kitchen with the scent of simplistic decadence. The shame of eating the stew was that the smell of cooking it eventually faded--but it was worth it.
When I was a child I loved cheeseburgers. Since becoming a vegetarian, however, I have not missed them. But, when one is doing an experiment wherein one eats meat, it is imperative that one partake of former favorites. And with that in mind, I headed to Pago.
Pago is a restaurant in the 9th and 9th District of Salt Lake City. It strives to source local ingredients from local artisan companies. The menu changes with the season and with ingredient availability. The Pago Burger includes bacon, Gouda, garlic aioli, and comes with truffle frites on the side.
When the server asked me how thoroughly cooked I wanted my burger, I couldn't muster an answer. How is a vegetarian supposed to know these things? After blankly staring at the server for a minute and asking what my choices were I finally settled on a safe medium well-done, which tasted fine. The best part of the burger for me was the aioli, Gouda, and bacon. As it turns out, while I liked the Pago burger I am not as enamored by hamburgers as I once was.
In truth, ground beef is something that still sounds gross to me even while during this experiment. In my household we make dog food instead of buying the dry stuff and sometimes we make beef. Making ground beef for dog food smells horrible, thus making ground beef for human consumption very unappetizing. The boeuf bourguignon on the other hand... perfection.
Despite the success of the boeuf bourguignon, beef still plays second fiddle to the delight that is cured meat. However, I am happy to have tasted yet another classic French dish and partake in a culinary history that holds so much interest to my palette and recipe collection.