Recently, I had shown the kids a movie about meat. I thought to enlighten them (and me) about where that Golden Arches “beef” patty they so naively order originates. I’m not sure the movie served my purpose of scaring them into eating less of the fast food, processed meat, in so much as it diverted their attention away from ordering burgers and substituting them with chicken. The fact that these fast food chickens were also processed didn’t seem to register with them. What they had seen mostly in the movie were beef cattle. Compared to them, the chickens didn’t seem so bad. It’s amazing the amount of mind-bending adolescents can manage in the name of fast food noshing.
Even though the movie didn’t satisfy all of my intentions, it did manage to remind me of a time when meat was meat. There were real butchers with real bloody-white aprons running family shops who knew where their meat came from. A few of those butchers supplied Kaukab with her’s. Usually every other Saturday, Kaukab would pronounce to my father that it was time to go to the West Side Market to buy enough meat and fish to feed her family of seven. In those days, the Market was better known to middle-class immigrants who knew the importance of quality food products at a good price.
Once home, the meat and fish (sometimes, octupus) were carefully unwrapped from their paper wrappers and sorted out for partition to be used for numerous meals throughout the next few weeks. They would often buy large slabs of beef, from which my father would carefully cut several assortments to be used in stews, soups, and various stuffed vegetable dishes–my father pushing cubes of meat into Kaukab’s hand meat grinder while I watched, mesmorized by the yarn-like product spilling into the large bowl below.
The best part came when my father fed us a special treat of raw sirloin or filet he’d cut into small squares, lightly dusted with salt and wrapped in a small torn piece of pita bread. There we were, five little kids all seated around Kaukab’s table, waiting for our pieces, noshing quietly on raw meat, like contented lion cubs.