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USDA Prime Cut

I went grocery shopping on Saturday with Esteban… a thing that only happens twice a year because his primary goal once we walk inside the store is TO GET OUT OF THE STORE. He makes me crazy. He insists upon walking every square inch of the store, down weird aisles, because “You never know…”. I out rightly refuse to walk down the laundry soap aisle, as it makes me sneeze for several minutes afterwards (if you’re wondering how I get laundry soap, I make furtive reconnaissance missions and carefully planned dashes to grab the largest Tide Free container possible.)

He questions every purchase, makes judgments, discourages me from buying ANYTHING with a “You’re not going to eat that.” or “I won’t eat that.” or “You’ve still got tons of cereal in the pantry, why do you need two more boxes?” He’s a pessimistic shopper, whereas I am entranced by the possibilities. That is not just a box of muffin mix… it’s a concept, the smell of perfection, the warm contentment that comes with the knowledge that twelve neat little cakes are waiting for you, warm as beds at twilight and tempting as pure vanilla, and you made it all happen. It is a blueberry wonderland in a box all for $3.99. Esteban just doesn’t get it though. He sees groceries that must be stowed away in our jumbled pantry. He sees dirty dishes, mixing bowls, annoying muffin pan, measuring cup. He sees little bread with fruit in it.

Esteban’s primary goal for going to the grocery store is that I do not apparently shop for the things he likes. For instance, I tend to not buy very much meat, and when I do, it is cuts of specific things and not hamburger or in our case, ground sirloin. He is right. I don’t like to think about ground beef in general. I’m very particular about the stuff I do buy. In truth, I only feel really comfortable with buying it directly from either the meat store that is only open during the week and for three hours on Saturday or the little old-fashioned grocer near Ward & June’s house that is known for their meat. I trust them. Their ground beef looks normal, not that scary light pink stuff they pass as meat at certain grocery stores. Back when I slowly turned into a vegetarian, the very first thing that I stopped eating was ground beef and the very last thing that I was able to resume eating was ground beef. It squicks me out very quickly and if I suspect it of being anything less than pure unadulterated fresh lean meat, it makes me tight throated and urpy and I cannot eat it.

I just looked up at him and said “It looks ucky.”

What followed was the Great Hamburger Snit of 2002. It was ridiculous that I didn’t want to buy meat at the grocery store and wanted to instead either go to the nice meat shop that was closed right then or fifteen miles away to the little grocery store. It would have basically amounted to making a total triangle around Green Bay, since I had insisted upon trekking completely across town IN THE SNOW to go to the GINORMOUS grocery store (seriously, it is ginormous. It’s like the size of fourteen football fields or something. It’s the only place where you work off your groceries as you buy them.) He got crazy stubborn mad because my only answer is that the meat at the other grocery stores, particularly the ground beef, is gross and suspect.

Thus, he tried to reason with me.

“I can’t look at it.”

“You don’t have to look at it. I will get it.”

“I’d have to look at it when I ate it.”

“I’ll cook it.”

“No, when I eat it.”

“It will be cooked then. What’s the difference?”

“I’ll be squeamish. I can’t… I just can’t. It’s just ucky.”

“GOD! YOU ARE SO HIGH MAINTENANCE!”

And then he proceded to sulk throughout the produce section.

So then we’re in the meat department, and I nonchalantly mention “Don’t forget to get some ground sirloin or something.” as passively as I could muster because I have no opinion on the matter. I am without complaint. I am the least controlling person in the world. You could walk up to me and shove ground up feces into my mouth and I would sit there and chew it, placidly as a cow.

“No.” He utters sideways at me.

“Oh?” I ask, completely without interest. “Why not?”

“It looks ucky.”

I looked at him without saying a word, trying in vain to keep from raising my eyebrows.

“Look… just don’t…I, uh… argh!” And with that he walked quickly into the dairy section, leaving me surrounded by packages of suspiciously pale pink packages of ground meat.

A lesser woman would have walked around smugly for the rest of the day but I… Oh, who am I kidding? I was smug. I was all about The Smug.

We are still without ground beef.

So now we’re thinking about purchasing half a cow. You can do that here, purchase half an animal, either pig or cow. They will chop them up and wrap them into nicely labeled little white packages. Labeled with the cut inside, not with the animal’s name, which is always what my mind fills in. “Blossom’s Rump” “Tucker’s Chuck” I’m having a hard time committing to this though. In the first place, apparently half a cow is a substantial amount of meat. Apparently one needs a Buick-sized freezer for such enormous amounts of protein. We have the top of our refrigerator and an antique white freezer from my great-grandfather(which had been used solely in his endeavor to de-perch all of Wisconsin’s glacial lakes. My great-grandmother felt that it made her freezer jam taste like it was made with lake water.) We keep mass amounts of freezer burn in it, including a rather impressive frost ball that dates back to 1996. Everyone needs a hobby. Every once in awhile, I’ll clean it out and then start to store stuff in it, stuff which is quickly forgotten because I never go looking in the freezer when I’m planning dinner or trips to the store. But according to Esteban, the little freezer, even with the vintage frost removed, is not enough to store half a cow.

I’m having problems with the commitment to this endeavor anyway. I mean, when it’s an anonymous thing, wrapped in shrink on a foam tray with the little blood sponge, that’s one thing, but apparently this is all from one cow. What if our cow is a strange cow? What if she only ate junk food, cheetos and Twinkies? Or worse, what if she was an athletic cow, making tough muscles by jumping regularly over other cows for fun in the pasture? What if she was a cow bully? What if she was an antique cow? Are there cow years, like there are dog years? What if she was 178 in Cow Years? What if she was upset that she ended up fifth place in the Borden Elsie The Cow competition and was all bitter? Would the resulting hamburgers leave us cranky and feeling somehow empty inside, as though our lives were meaningless unless combined with garlic and ketchup?

Tonight’s dinner: wild rice pilaf, homemade bread, carrots and an English roast. It’s from a nameless random cow. It’s all for the best, really.

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