Blogging for Beef

by Betty Fussell

A funny thing happened on my way to a beef tasting: I fell into a blog. Or rather into the rabbit hole of Blogville, flickring and twittering. As startled as Alice, I found in an apartment right in my own neighborhood a well-lit gang of young impassioned foodies, each equipped with cell-phone cameras, video cameras, mics. Yikes.

Chief blogger was a handsome private chef, Mark Tafoya, who with Jennifer Iannolo had set up a Food Blogger Playdate for some of their blogging pals. Like Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, who was introducing us to black garlic; Anu Karwa of Swirl Events, who was vocalizing the wine; and Grace Piper of Fearless Cooking, who brought an awesome turnip puree. You can see the whole thing for yourself below:

I came with play-pal Carrie Oliver of the Artisan Beef Institute (also see her blog on artisan beef), who I introduced earlier on my blog. And it was Carrie who provided the main event —a tasting of five different beef steaks, some grass finished, some grain finished, some aged longer than others, but all of them from different breeds.

There was a Holstein-Frisian, a pure-bred Angus, an American Kobe (meaning Wagyu crossed with Angus), a Charolais, a Belted Galloway. What with the different breeds and feeds and places they came from (call it terroir if you must), they were a bit hard to compare but exciting to taste. All those subtle differences of flavor and texture. My tasting notes say such unhelpful things as “tastes of buttercups,” “caramelized nuts,” “Parmesan cheese,” “maple syrup.” Oh well. The language of wine tastings is just as idiotic.

What I really discovered is how food blogging has brought in a resurgence of older forms of communal food sharing, where dishes and information are shared as openly, joyfully and proudly as at an old-time church supper. We oohed and ahhed over Grace’s turnip dish and immediately took notes on how to do it at home. The bloggers are returning home cooking to our homes at the same time they’re enlarging our way of getting new, unheard-of ingredients from everywhere — like that black fermented garlic. Earthy Delights advertises it on Jaden’s blog and Jaden served it with chopped tomatoes as bruscetta.

And just as I’m finding my footing in the blog, I find the sky blackened by tweets. The New York Times alerted me to Maureen Evans’ recipes in tweet lingo sent out to the universe from her home in Northern Ireland. I hope her 140-character “tweets recipes” are going to obliterate with a touch of the keyboard the claims of greedy publishers over this last half century to any recipes they’ve published as THEIR property, instead of as shorthand notations of how-to, which by federal law cannot be copyrighted. In case you missed it, here’s one of Evans’ most triumphant notations:

Strudel Pastry: cut 2T butter/1c flour/mash tater. Knead w 2t yeast/2T h2o; rise 1h. On flour cloth gently pull 17×25”;trim-1:/butter well.

Next time I have a potato, I’ll try out her strudel because it seems perfectly clear in all its essentials. And that’s all you need in a recipe. A tweet for steak might read:

Thick Beef Steak: s&p both sides; sear on h grill 5m; turn; rmove&rest 10 m. Srv w butter+herbs.

That took a mere 97 characters. No wonder Tweety Bird has always been one of my favorite characters. I wonder if I could video blog her eating a steak?

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Posted on Apr 24, 2009