It’s what’s for dinner for the next year

By Mir
April 13, 2009

We bought a cow. Well, no; we bought a quarter of a cow.

I’m not willing to give up eating meat at this point in my life. I’ve cut way, way back—because of price, because of my growing unwillingness to eat meat that may be the result of less-than-natural circumstances, because both Foodie and my daughter are too willing to tell me how inhumane it is—but I still eat and enjoy meat.

If I’m going to eat it, and serve it to the meat-eating portion of my family, I want to make the commitment to eating natural/local. So when a friend called and told me that she’d located a source for local beef, I told her I was absolutely in. Sign me up! I’ll buy part of that cow!

Time passed and I sort of forgot about it. And then the emails began. “The beef is coming next week,” I was told. Then: “The beef is probably coming Wednesday.” And finally: “Definitely Saturday. He’ll call you before he delivers.”

We stayed home all day on Saturday and the beef didn’t end up coming until around 7:00, but that was fine. I’d defrosted our big freezer earlier in the week, in preparation, and I’d also moved its entire contents to our kitchen freezer to make sure I had plenty of room. I was rather surprised to discover that a quarter of a cow doesn’t even come close to FILLING the freezer. I still have plenty of room in there for things like homemade chicken stock that I was saving specifically for my chicken-soup-loving daughter who now won’t eat it. Not that I’m bitter, or anything.

Anyway, I was prepared for this to be sort of An Experience. I’ve never purchased meat in bulk like this, before. And honestly we’ve never eaten all that much beef, so buying a cow probably made less sense than buying a bunch of local chickens, but I’m going to divvy up my take with a couple of friends, and the result will be enough beef to feed us for a year. (Note to my father: Bring your nitro on your next visit! We’ve got STEAKS!) What I was not prepared for was Dr. Beef.

Dr. Beef delivered our meat. He’s a retired professor and friends with the parents of the friend who got me in on this purchase, and I’m sure he’s a lovely man. In fact, let me just be right up front with the ubiquitous southern, “BLESS HIS HEART,” with a little smile. The guy drove a quarter of a cow right out to our house. I’m grateful for it. But I was simply not prepared.

First of all, Dr. Beef was clearly old-school southern. And by that I mean that he spoke directly to Otto and always seemed VERY SURPRISED when I spoke. Apparently I was supposed to be seen and not heard, if my husband was available to carry on the conversation. This continued the entire time he was here, even after I was the one who wrote him the check for the meat. I got the distinct impression that he thought it was cute that I was allowed to handle the money.

Second, Dr. Beef knows everything. And he feels very sorry for how stupid we are. He knows the proper way to handle beef and that you should never thaw it at room temperature because “Ecoli is real, and that’s a fact.” I appreciate the tip, but the lecture with which it was delivered was a bit of overkill, especially given that it was predicated on the assumption that I (naturally, being the woman, and therefore the cook) must always thaw things on the counter because I’m just too daft to know any better.

At one point he went on and on about how much the kids were going to enjoy the beef, so we commented that Monkey is a big carnivore but Chickadee is a vegetarian. Dr. Beef then inquired as to her age and when I answered, he waved his hand around and said to Otto, “Oh, that’s just a phase. She’ll come around.”

You know what? It might just be a phase, but it might not. And if you’ve never so much as met my kid, I’m not really interested in your assessment of her choices. CALL ME CRAZY.

Along with knowing everything, Dr. Beef knows everyONE. And he started telling us a story about “Joe and Mary Smith, you know them, right?” and when we didn’t know them, well, that just caused him to STOP RIGHT IN HIS TRACKS and ask with EVEN MORE SYMPATHY (and you understand, the sympathy was already flowing freely, what with our stupidity about meat handling, and poor Otto having to endure a wife who SPEAKS) where we go to church. Because apparently everyone at HIS church knows Joe and Mary Smith.

In response to the church question, Otto’s eyes immediately glazed over, and as he opened his mouth—doubtless to confess that we’ve been a bit lax about church attendance lately—I rushed to name the church we last attended. Telling Dr. Beef that we weren’t regular parishioners anywhere right now would surely invoke a sermon I was not interested in hearing while my hands were numbing up from juggling packages of ground beef.

“Oh, yes. I know that one,” Dr. Beef commented, nodding slightly, eyes narrowing. I’d named a church quite a bit more liberal than his own home church. He was probably considering all of the horrible things going on there. Why, they welcome people who are GAY. And who have TATTOOS. They’re practically allowing their congregation to fornicate in the aisles, and I could almost hear him thinking that every single attendee doubtless defrosts their beef at room temperature!

He looked back at Otto, even though I’d been the one to answer. “Well, you should come on out to our church, sometime!” he urged him. (“Break away from the demon woman,” was the clear subtext.) Otto nodded and said something non-committal, and by this point I was just plain annoyed.

So I cheerfully added, “Oh, we’ve been to your church! We took the kids trick-or-treating there last year!” It was true. We had a great time. And isn’t that what church is for? Candy and devil-worship? (No?)

Once the meat was unloaded, we assumed Dr. Beef would be on his way. But he was mighty comfortable, there in the driveway, chatting with Otto. He gestured at the barrels Otto was working on (we’ve gone from having a single rain barrel to an entire RAINWATER CONTAINMENT SYSTEM to the tune of 200 gallons of storage this weekend, WOOOO) and asked if he’d gotten them cheap. Otto—happy to finally have an opening to say something that wouldn’t cause this man to cluck in dismay—nodded and shared that each 55-gallon drum was only $16. “That’s not cheap,” snapped Dr. Beef, again sorry for us for being so idiotic. He didn’t offer any information as to where HE gets his cheap barrels, though, so it remains a mystery.

Finally he got back into his vehicle and drove off, calling out “God bless you!” and assuredly returning to his home… where the cows range free, Ecoli is kept at bay, women stay silent, and giant barrels are free to the Godly.

I plan to be especially opinionated on a variety of topics every time I eat some of that beef. Just because I can.


  1. Anonymous

    Hey! Having just finished too many years of grad school in the South…you just reminded me AGAIN of how happy I am to have moved away.

    Bless their hearts!

    (No not every Southern man is chauvinistic jerk, but there are enough of the bad ones to make one want to run the heck away)

  2. ben

    So he was a bit of a Dr. Beef… Jerky?

    (sorry, early in the day for bad puns, couldn’t help it. I blame the barrels)

  3. Chuck

    It sounds like he could have been nicknamed Biff.

  4. Aimee

    Aw, man! Ben beat me to the jerky joke. Oh well.

    Seriously, Dr. Beef is a jackass.

  5. Erin

    @ben: AWESOME! I love puns, bad or otherwise, and that one was PERFECT. Great job!

    Mir, the bit about Chickadee and vegetarianism being “just a phase” reminded me of something. A week or so ago, I saw a friend from college, and she reminded me that she’d been a vegetarian since she was about Chickie’s age (and she’s now in her late 20s). She says it all came about from “thinking probably way too much about her food,” but I assured her that most of us should be thinking *more* about what we eat!

    Anyway, talking to Hillary reminded me of you guys, and this entry reminded me of my conversation with Hillary, so I thought I’d share. :)

  6. Em

    Yes, Ben gets a very sincere ROFL from me as well. Beef jerky – that is awesome.

    For what it’s worth, I doubt any number would have been cheap enough to pay for rain barrels for Dr. Beef. People like that need to have a better answer for everything. Now, shouldn’t you be going to see if Otto needs a snack or his feet rubbed or something? He works hard all day and isn’t it your job to be pretty and comforting? Yeah, I wouldn’t fit in down south very well. Up here, it appears to be most car salesmen that speak to husbands and assume they are the ones that know how the checkbook works.

  7. Chris

    The “just a phase thing” never ends. It’s been more than twenty years for me & people still tell me that:) You get used to it.

  8. Lori N

    We get our cow (or rather 1/4 cow) locally too – but without the pleasure of Dr. Beef. :)

    Enjoy your beef! (And don’t be surprised if what he labeled the steaks is completely different than what you expect – it’s all a part of the buying local experience!)

  9. Megan

    I suppose I’m the only one who has a rather strange (and vague) mental image of a 1/4 cow solemnly hopping around the field, eating grass with its 1/4 head…

    Yep, well, it’s Monday all day long.

  10. MomCat

    Now, Honey, don’t you worry your pretty little head about that man! Just run along and put out some steaks for dinner.

  11. Michele Bardsley

    Were you wearing shoes? Because that was probably an affront, too. Not visibly pregnant, either, were you? My goodness. You must be on his prayer list now: And God, help that poor woman who suffers from opinions. Amen.

  12. Meg

    HAHA! Oh, Mir. My boyfriend and I recently moved in NC from Beijing. In China, questions were always directed to him, because he can pee standing up, and it was always shocking when I answered, and added that I’m the one who speaks Chinese. Always gave us a laugh.

    We thought this would be over back in the US, but I’ve found that in the South there are definitely man questions and woman questions.

  13. Katie in MA

    MMmmmm….steak. I think you should grill some right now and tell us if it was worth it.

  14. Tracy

    I’ve got a visual picture of Dr. Beef, he’s the brother to Mr. Applianceman and the cousin to Mrs. Greenthumb. I think I know his whole family now that I think about it and NO, they don’t go to my church. =o)

  15. Anna Marie

    We women here down south are just supposed to stand around and look purty, haven’t yew figgered that out yet Mir?


    Enjoy the cow. I am a lapsed vegetarian myself – I still can’t eat chicken but I looooove me some beef. Moo!

  16. Scottsdale Girl

    So you don’t spend all day barefoot and cooking? Huhn.

    What an asshat that Dr Beef is. Hopefully he is OLD and his chauvenism will die with him.

    Not that I wish death upon him…that’s bad karma.

  17. Steph

    bleck! at least you have your meat, and he is gone…

    and fyi, my dad is 56 and has been a vegetarian since he was 13 even though no one else in his family is…

  18. Mara

    My little sis went vegetarian at 14. It was a “phase”… one that’s lasted 12 years or so now. Funny how nobody seems to give kids credit for knowing what they’re doing, huh?

  19. bob

    you know, there’s a reason why I don’t read comments much, these days. I disparage for my gender and my upbringing after having done so.

    I hope that your locally-grown freezer (not)full of beef tastes as good as it should, despite (or because of) being delivered of Dr. Beef.

  20. BethRD

    At least he didn’t do what my sister in law (bless her heart) does. “Oh, you don’t know Joe and Mary? Why, they live out on Lickity Split Rd… or was that their OLD house? They might live on Sassafras now… I’m not sure, though, let’s see, they still lived on Lickity Split when I went to see them after Mary’s gallbladder operation, oh, what a time that woman had…” You learn to be pretty careful about just nodding and pretending to know everybody.

  21. Burgh Baby

    I think you need to bust out two of those steaks, defrost them on the counter, and then hold a little ceremony joining them in marriage. Just because you can, now that they’ve been freed of their opinionated keeper.

  22. liz

    I’ll express my opinion when I eat the beef too. Just because I can. Jake will be so pleased. Granted, this will be after he grills it since only men are allowed to start fires.

  23. The Mother

    We used to get sides of beef when I was young. The only downside was that you end up with lots of cuts that are better served ground.

    Our delivery guy was pretty quiet. I guess we got lucky.

  24. Kelly

    So how do I find a local cow to get? I’ve always wanted to do that!

  25. JennyM

    OK, I was doing fine until Burgh Baby’s suggestion that you defrost the steaks on the counter and then join them in marriage. Now I am wiping tears from my eyes and imagining sending a beefy little wedding announcement to Dr. Beef. What can I say? It’s been a long day.

  26. Lucinda

    We are in the process of buying a quarter of a cow. I’m glad to know it didn’t fill the entire freezer. And I’ll pray that Dr. Beef doesn’t deliver to me (although highly unlikely here in Oregon).

    Personally, I would have left and let Otto deal with him because I just don’t have time for people like that. I’m not going to change them so why waste my breath. It also makes me more appreciative of my husband. Sorry you had to deal with just a dork.

  27. Meredith

    Be grateful Dr. Beef delivered your quarter of a cow. I had to drive to the middle of nowhere to pick up my quater cow from the “processing facility.” Let me tell you that was enough to put me off meat for a while (the fillets were just too yummy to let a little thing like a slaughter house to deter me for long).

  28. Brittany

    To Kelly, and anyone else that wants to find a local cow (or chicken, pig, vegetable, or anything else), the Eat Well Guide is an online directory of family farms, CSA’s, farm markets, etc. You can search by zip code, or check out one of the state local food guides. It’s a really great resource!

  29. Dawn

    You mean you LEFT THE KITCHEN???

    AND you SPOKE???

    That is just downright uppity.

    Poor, poor, Dr. Beef. The modern world with it’s uppity TALKING WOMEN must be such a trial to him.

  30. Wendy

    Sometimes Dr. Beef might have been right. The story goes that my grandmother answered the phone one day while my grandfather was out in the back 40. The butcher said that he hadn’t asked Ed how he wanted the cow butchered and if she knew. To which she replied, “oh, just grind the whole thing up.” and the butcher asked if she was sure and she said yes, she was very sure. And about 2 days later, an entire cow arrived in the form of ground beef. My mom says they ate ground beef at every meal for almost a year and that the next time my grandfather sent a cow off to be butchered, when the butcher asked how to butcher it, my grandfather said, “I don’t care what you do to it as long as NONE of it comes back as ground beef.”

  31. SD's Husband

    HOOOO! That’s funny stuff, right there. I grew up in a really little town in Iowa (see: Mayberry) Very familiar with clearing out a deep freeze in preparation for not just a quarter – try a whole damn cow. And yes, the tongue. But that usually sat on the lower shelf, towards the back with last years tongue and the liver from 5 years prior. I’ve seen your show many times with the owners of the meat lockers back in the day, but its STILL funny hearing stories like this. Thanks for the laugh.

    Now all you need is some Ted Nugent in the iPod when you are firing up the grill this summer!

  32. Brigitte

    We’re splitting a cow with some neighbors, and I’m sure glad that I already know the one who’ll be doing the butchering! He’s got his quirks, but he’s no Dr. Beef Jerky!

  33. Michelle

    Good lord. Are you going to let him deliver to you again?

  34. margie

    well, the rest of us can only hope that you and otto will be smarter, more g*d fearing, and well socialized through the eating of the beef. i mean, we’ve known all along that the two of you could use some work. lol

  35. Nancy Mehegan

    I do applaud your own efforts to move away from eating beef. I suggest all beef eaters go on Youtube or Google to see the pictures of the poor hapless, gentle cows on their way to the slaughterhouses. Barbaric and cruel.

  36. Foodie

    *conspicuously ignoring condescending comments because insulting meat-eaters is never a productive way to win any arguments about veg*nism…*

    Mir, do you know if Dr. Jackass slaughtered the animal himself? One of the things that I’ve been told (in vegan brainwashing school, where one of the required texts is Slaughterhouse: ) is that all (or most?) beef, even the most happy cows who have classical music played for them, daily massage, and organic free range grass on which to graze, are (because of legal requirements I think?) required to be slaughtered at the same slaughterhouses as conventional, antibiotic ridden, unhappy cows. And I’ve always wondered if that was true.

    anyway, this guy sounds like a piece of work! Now shut up and get back in the kitchen, woman! ;) (don’t you need to be making me some veggie soup???) xo

  37. Summer

    I am amazed that your head didn’t explode when Dr. Beef finally insulted your bargain-finding ability.

  38. Brigitte

    Hate to comment twice, but as far as I know, our beef is being killed by the farmer (a friend of ours) who raised it, then butchered by the same guy who runs the local market and who also butchers any deer that hunters bring in. Ah, life in the boonies!

  39. Trish

    Ok, I’ll help out :)

    Yes, animals that are butchered are (legally) required by the FDA to be butchered in facilities that they regulate/certify (for what that’s worth, if you read the news about the FDA’s inability to keep tabs on the slaughterhouses they allegedly regulate).

    However, that being said, it’s entirely likely that the cow you got, Mir, was butchered in a small-scale house that only does the local animals, and yes, also the deer hunters bring in sometimes. Actually most slaughterhouses don’t like doing deer, because they then have to steam clean everything after butchering the deer. Most hunters (and my hubs is from a family of hunters) bring their deer to some local guy who butchers deer, or (less common) they do their own deer.

    So if you buy your beef locally, you have a better chance of avoiding the god-knows-what-infested large-scale slaughterhouses.

    Oh, and Brigitte, the farmer could very well be FDA-certified, though that’s not hugely common (and it’s possible he just slaughters without an FDA license – not saying that makes him any more or less safe for slaughtering); but for the reason above he might not do deer (but they could).

    And yes – life in the boonies (of upstate NY, on this end)! :)

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