Marian and I don't eat a lot of meat. We don't think of ourselves as borderline vegetarians or beady-eyed vegetarians (eating only things with beady eyes). We don't do this for health reasons or religious reasons or political reasons. We just don't eat a lot of meat. Don't get me wrong ... we like meat. Some of our best friends are made of meat. But when we prepare meat at our house, it is never the shining star of the meal. We'd never, for example, feed you steak and baked potatoes or rack of lamb. We do, on occasion, make a pork roast with cauliflower mash and a green salad simply because the girls love it. But, typically, meat plays a supporting role in our meals - and it usually isn't red. So how is it that we left Earth Fare - the "healthy supermarket" - with oxtails, ostrich filet, and ground beef heart in hand?
First, the oxtails. We've been talking about oxtails ever since I wrote an essay for my gastronomy program on the evolution of oxtails in American cuisine. If you turn the history dial back to 1619, that's where this story begins - when 15 indentured servants from Africa were brought to this country in the hull of a Dutch privateer's ship. The story of slavery in America is one of the bleakest chapters in our nation’s history – strong, proud, and creative men and women wrested from their villages and families to live in bondage and servitude first to the Jamestown colonists and, by the 1860s, to plantation owners in the 15 states where slavery was legal. By the time the first shots of the Civil War were fired, four million black people lived as slaves, the vast majority of them in the American south. The diets of slaves consisted largely of the food the plantation owners didn't want, including oxtails and other extremities and organs of animals. The oxtail - perhaps the lowliest cut of meat from the hindquarters of a beast of burden - is now chic, cooked by the likes of Emeril and Mario and served in hot and happening restaurants from San Francisco to New York. Marian is sizzling up a pan of oxtails as I type. Stay tuned for a full report.
Next, the ostrich. The ostrich filet, oddly enough, was right there on the shelf next to the oxtails. We had to look up to make sure we hadn't wandered into the "Weird Meats" section. We really like the idea of ostrich - red meat that comes from a bird. No fat whatsoever. A beautiful plank of meat that we're going to thinly slice for a stir fry. We'll enjoy it with a South African red wine as a nod to the homeland of this regal flightless bird. We first had ostrich at La Maison, chef Heinz Sowinski's restaurant here in Augusta. He does a lovely ostrich carpaccio. When we eat out, we like ordering things we don't typically whip up at home - so any time something like ostrich or kangaroo or llama (or a strange vegetable, for that matter) appears on a menu, we're on it.
Lastly, the ground beef heart. Let's just say that the dog has absolutely no idea what a wonderful day she's going have.