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  • Writer's pictureFoodiesan

The Meaning of Beef

Updated: Jun 14, 2018

I did a little bit of research into the term “beef” because it is used in so many ways in the English language having nothing to do with food. There are many hypotheses about the etymology of “beef” as slang.

Beef. Singular or plural?

One source says that the term, "having a beef," originates from the complaints US soldiers had about the quality of the beef they were given.

Another says that the term refers to the complaining sound made by a herd of cattle. One rather strange explanation of the expression is that it comes from the 1820’s-30’s Cockney custom called “rhyming slang,” when “hot beef” meant “stop thief.” As the theory goes, that term “hot beef” then evolved to become a cry of alarm (As in BEEEEEEFFFF!). Hmmm.

The Urban Dictionary has over 150 entries that define BEEF, some of which are quite surprising. We all know about the use of the term in reference to an argument or conflict (as in, “What’s your beef?) or as a reference to the idea of strengthening (as in, “We need to beef up our argument”). But the English language is always living, always evolving.

Guess its meaning in the following sentences:

  • “Dude, who beefed?” (HINT: it smells)

  • “Whoa, that’s beef!” (HINT: it expresses admiration)

  • “He sure beefed on that skateboard.” (HINT: it hurts)

  • “You really beefed it.” (HINT: not intentional)

  • “Have you seen her new beef?” (HINT: companion)

BEEF: it evidently can mean anything you would like it to mean as long as it has a somewhat masculine, low-brow connotation. Except for sometimes. And I won’t even go there. Except to say that those uses are even more low-brow.

Beef has also gotten a bad rap among health professionals and environmental advocates, who point to heart disease and the large carbon footprint of the beef industry. Dr. Neal Barnard once said, “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.” Ecologist James Lovelock said,” If we gave up eating beef we would have roughly 20 to 30 times more land for food than we have now. “

Call me irresponsible, but there is hardly anything I love more than a rib-eye grilled rare over goals. You just don’t have to eat so much of it, or as frequently. And what you eat should be grass-fed and locally sourced; because the mass produced stuff has little taste and comes from cows that did not have a happy life.

So let’s assume that you do have that perfect, responsibility grown, big, thick, juicy cut of beef. This is what I would suggest you consider doing to it.

Luscious Herbaceous Rib Eye

Mince together about 8 sage leaves, 1 T fresh rosemary, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 T fresh marjoram and 2T Italian parsley with 3-5 fat cloves of garlic. Combine with about 3T olive oil, 1 t. kosher salt, 1 t ground paper and 1 t chile flakes. Let it set a bit so the flavors marry. Then take some globs of the mixture and massage into 3 or 4 rib eye steaks, and let it set for as long as you can. You can grill it right away, but it is even better if you let the whole pile soak with the rub for a few hours.

Grill it rare or medium rare. Well-done steak, in my mind, is beef-abuse and disrespectful to the bovine from whence it came.

This is very good served with a wonderful crusty bread, some salad and a big Cabernet or an icy-cold martini.

Smoked Beef Ribs

This will make you think of summer, even when it’s not.

The day before (if you have been able to plan ahead), rub those meaty ribs with a rub that you have made that includes 1 T each of cumin, garlic salt, onion salt, kosher salt smoked paprika, white pepper, black paper, red pepper, brown sugar and thyme. Taste it and see how you like it before rubbing on the ribs. You may want to add more salt or some chili powder. Up to you. Plop it in the fridge over night.

Smoke them at 250 degrees for 3 or 4 hours. You can mop it every 30 minutes with a combination of ½ cup each of cider vinegar, soy, water, and Worcestershire (Lea & Perrins only please!) seasoned with 2T each of brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste. If you want to make it really messy, serve it with a BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce

To a cup of ketchup add 2-3 T Worcestershire, 1 t liquid smoke, 2 smashed cloves of garlic, 1 T onion powder, 2T mustard (the yellow kind!), ½ C bourbon and ¼ C fresh oregano.

Simmer, taste, and add S&P.

Serve it on the side of your ribs. Along with the slaw and the potato salad and the beer.

And the napkins.

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