Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

by Andrew Rimas, Evan Fraser
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Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World by Andrew Rimas, Evan Fraser

Andrew Rimas and Evan D.G. Fraser have joined together to tell the remarkable story of the noble cow in Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World. In the bestselling tradition of Cod and Salt comes a lively history of our ongoing relationship with an animal that we have worked alongside, consumed, and even worshipped for thousands of years. The history of the cow is both surprising and fascinating, and Beef offers a unique overview of cattle yesterday, today, and tomorrow—from adoration to breeding to braising; from ancient Mediterranean bullfight rings to African villages to American stockyards—complete with amazing facts and trivia, wonderful recipes, and an important warning for the future of beef production.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061353857
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Pages: 238
Sales rank: 1,255,391
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Andrew Rimas is a journalist and the managing editor of the Improper Bostonian Magazine. He has worked as an associate editor for Boston Magazine and his writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, and the Ottawa Citizen, among other publications. He lives in Boston.

Evan D. G. Fraser earned his doctorate from the University of British Columbia and currently teaches at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, UK, where he also does research on farming and the environment. He has published numerous scholarly research articles and written several policy briefs on issues such as sustainable agriculture, climate change, and "the food system." Dr. Fraser lives in the Yorkshire Dales in Northern England.

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The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World

Chapter One

From Horn to Hoof

The Ecological and Evolutionary Origins of the Cow: Prehistory—8000 B.C.

The Thread in the Labyrinth

Picasso's Minotaur and the Spirit of Cattle

The Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris World's Fair opened to a puff of tepid headlines and a yawn from the summer-slow picnickers on the Seine. And no surprise. A few weeks earlier, Paris had weathered the openings of the Nazi German and Soviet pavilions—Herculean mounds of concrete erected to dueling ideologies, between which the modest Spanish building was a mere bungalow rolled out in the name of a lowercase "republicanism." Even the promised unveiling of a giant Picasso mural didn't stir up much more than froth in the café gossip.

That is, until people actually saw Guernica, as Picasso's painting is known. Its subject was an average atrocity by modern standards, but in 1937 it had the power to appall. Two months before the Paris exhibition, German bombers flying for the fascist side in the Spanish Civil War obliterated a civilian target far from the front lines. The massacre killed fifteen hundred people. Picasso had long ago proven he could make strong critics faint and send belle artistes dashing for their fractured mirrors, but he had never yet managed to horrify everybody. It took Guernica, and Guernica, to do that.

The painting wasn't horrible because it depicted war. It was horrible for depicting horror. A twenty-three-foot slash of newsprint-colored violence, it hung behind a workingfountain of red mercury. To Paris's lunching gentlemen and girls in frocks, this was something entirely new. Otto Dix and George Grosz had drawn the First World War's seas of corpses in the 1920s, but Guernica's subject wasn't dead soldiers. It was women, children, and beasts in the act of dismemberment—limbs and heads separating by means of high explosives (making it a perfect subject for cubism, for Picasso's famous splintered eye). Gray and sickly, like a bruise the size of a whale, Guernica is a particularly modern obscenity. It's now an icon of the age of broken glass, airplanes, and random blood pools. Of the age that is our own.

Inside the picture itself, among the blasted innocents, stand two animals. One is a skewered horse, screaming in the dumb, brute pain of dying. The other is a bull standing under a lightbulb, its horns bulging from an asymmetrical skull lump that echoes its scrotal bag. The bull is a fixed hulk, unmoved by the slaughter around it. It may even be complicit, since the horse looks like it's been gored. During an interview in 1944, Picasso said that the bull represented "dark forces," while the horse stood for the Spanish people. Another time he insisted, exasperatedly, that "The bull is a bull and the horse is a horse. These are openly animals, massacred animals. That's all, so far as I am concerned!"1

Well, no. Picasso didn't like to give away his metaphors, and a bull, especially one placed by a Spanish painter inside his greatest work, isn't mere bystanding livestock. A bull is always more than that. Is it Picasso's original "dark forces"? Distilled cruelty? The animal mask of war? Or is it a symbol for the Spanish nation?2

Good art, much less great art, isn't a code, like a peach clutched by some dusty medieval Virgin. To grope for an exclusive truth behind Picasso's bull misses the point that bulls, like lions, eagles, and unicorns, are charged with millennia of cultural presumptions. So while we can argue that the bull represents Spain, and its stillness is a counterpoint to the screeching female stumbling up from the lower right-hand field, thereby hinting at a dichotomy more elemental than mere political symbols, that would be playing the game of allegories.3 The Guernica bull isn't a national totem, nor is it shorthand for brutality. It's bigger than that.

Picasso understood that the bull, beyond its heraldic clutter, is a throwback to a time before cities existed to be bombed, before civilization existed to be shocked. Under the glare of an electric bulb, we see an ancient face that is neither good nor evil. It is solely dangerous.

Painters all have their favorite monsters, and Picasso's was the Minotaur, the man-bull that crouches, steeped in a Freudian fog, at the center of the artist's twists and feints. Picasso hammered out Minotaurs like a refrain.4 He drew them attacking women, or raising a glass to toast the spent bodies in an orgy, or being held at bay by the frail light of a child's upheld candle. They are dark forces, masculine ones. In one etching from 1934, a blind Minotaur walks hand in hand with a girl clutching a plump, white dove—dark forces tamed. But that was before the German bombers flew their devilish sorties over a living city in the north of Spain, leading Picasso to paint a bull that stands, unflinching, in the jagged nexus between primeval force and the phosphorus bomb.

The paradox of Guernica's bull is that it exists in two worlds, an ancient creature bathed in an antiseptic, high-wattage glow. Bulls have become beasts of the stockyard and the chemical feed trough, but their bodies are testaments to long-vanished grasslands and unmarred skies. To understand the spirit that infuses Picasso's painting you have to look at history—a maze more tangled than the logical weave of silicon circuits. This is history as a labyrinth; by turn and corner, this has to be felt to be explored. Artists are naturals at doing this, and Picasso, in the electric dawn of the Jaded Age, was the great artist of his time, proving his mastery by showing the Paris crowds that, despite our newfound knack with motors and steel, we are no different from our grandsires who scraped at flint in the starlight. The story behind the Guernica bull must begin with its flesh, its meat, and its horn.

In Picasso's Spain, bulls lived both in bleached concrete pens and in an ancient place of symbols, sun, and blood. They still do today. Spain is where the thread leads into the labyrinth.

The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World
. Copyright © by Andrew Rimas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

How to Eat Beef xiii

Culinary Interlude: Rib Eye Steak xv

Big Trouble in the Beef Business xvii

Section 1 Audumla 1

1 From Horn to Hoof (The Ecological and Evolutionary Origins of the Cow: Prehistory-8000 B.C.) 3

The Thread in the Labyrinth: Picasso's Minotaur and the Spirit of Cattle 3

What is a Cow? 9

Culinary Interlude: Nine Primal Cuts 14

Domestication: How the Cows Came Home 16

Meat, Milk, Muscle, and Dung 24

Pity and Fear: Ernest Hemingway's Bullfights 29

The Coconut Theory of Animal Husbandry 32

The Reddest Meat of All 36

Culinary Interlude: Bull's Tail Stew 37

Delamere's Cattle 38

2 The Food of the Gods (The Origin of Religion: 8000 B.C.-400 B.C.) 43

Bull Gods on Hadrian's Wall 43

Culinary Interlude: A Mithraic Dinner with Meatballs 46

First Rites 48

Early Myths and Legends: The Cattle of the Sun and the Bull of Heaven 53

Culinary Interlude: Homeric Roast Beef 55

Early Myths and Legends Explained (Part I): Metamorphoses 57

Early Myths and Legends Explained (Part II): A Man of His Times 60

The Bible's One, True Bull God 64

Culinary Interlude: A Fatted Calf 70

The Cattle of the Sun, Revisited 71

A Lucky Killing 72

3 The Brown Bull of Ulster (Wealth and Honor: 400 B.C.-A.D. 1500) 75

King Servius Tullius Strikes Gold 75

Cow Heroes: Rustling for Fun and Profit 77

Culinary Interlude: Prophecy Broth 81

Monks and the Rise of Cheese 84

Culinary Interlude: Cheddar 86

Culinary Interlude: A Catalog of Noble Cheeses 90

A Medieval Banquet 92

Culinary Interlude: Beef y-stywyd, or the Ribs of Henry IV 94

Cow Villains: TheReivers 95

Ole Lemurt's Hero 98

Section 2 The Cloven Hoof 103

4 Gene Pools and Paint Pots (The Birth of Modernity: The Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries) 105

A Perfect Teat: Dutch Milkers 105

Culinary Interlude: Jersey Cream and Fresh Berries 110

"All Is Useless That Is Not Flesh…": Bigger, Better Beeves 111

Culinary Interlude: Lumber Pye 115

Toro Bravo's Brave New World: The Conquest of New Spain 122

The Woman of Narok 132

5 Cattle Kings And Dairy Queens (The Industrialization of Food: The Nineteenth Century) 139

War, Pandemics, and Famine 139

Culinary Interlude: Steak Tartare 140

Chemical Solutions: Making Food Last Longer 149

Culinary Interlude: Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding 150

Cowboys and Barbed Wire 154

Culinary Interlude: Barbecue and Beef Jerky 163

Bubbly Creek and the Union Stock Yards 164

Cuchulainn Defeated? 166

Carnivore 170

6 The $300 Sirloin (Cattle in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries) 175

Death of a Small-Town Butcher 175

Two Dodos: The Beef and Milk Industries Today 179

Culinary Interlude: The American Hamburger 182

A Dry Future 185

The Criollo Solution 191

Ethical Eating 197

Meden Agan: Japanese Wagyu Beef 201

Culinary Interlude: Wagyu Sashimi 204

Titus Salt, the Great Paternalist 204

Epilogue 209

Acknowledgments 213

Endnotes 215

Index 229

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yall here?