Moments – The Beef Bully

Day 1 of 31 of my monthly theme, Moments

What is it about A-1 Steak sauce that roils forth scoldings of diners with such fierce betrayal of steak flavor deep from within my husband’s soul?  He can’t stand it.  And he can’t keep quiet about it, either.

My sister-in-law loves A-1 on her steak.  I, too, was a fan from an early age as a child in a poor preacher’s family.  We put the sauce on our clearance steak to add flavor and liven it up a little bit.  We even put it on our hamburgers from time to time and pretended they were “for real” steakburgers.  

So imagine the scene in O’Charley’s Restaurant when both my sister-in-law and my husband ordered steak, medium rare, charred grill lines on the outside reading as perfection when the knife cut into the warm pink center.  

The waitress asked, “Can I get you anything?” 

“A bottle of A-1, please,” my sister-in-law requested.

Immediately the beef bully threw a jab.  “You ruin perfectly good meat that way, you know. Why in the world would anybody do that?  All you taste is the A-1 when you cover up the taste of the beef.” 

I almost kicked him under the table, he was so passionate and feisty.  Them’s fightin’ words, I thought.  He’s going to start a family brawl over a steak right here in the O’ Charley’s in Griffin, Georgia.

His family grew up on a cattle farm, so they always had tasty steaks.  My sister-in-law and I, however, grew up without the privilege of frequent red meat.  I thought about this.  A wine connoisseur acquires a taste for all that is perfection in wine and can tell the vintage year, the type of wine, and where the grapes were grown practically with a swirl of the glass under the nose and a mere drop on a single taste bud.  

That’s what the Johnson boys can do with steak.  They can smell a steak and tell which breed of cow and how old it was at slaughter, and where in the United States it ate which variety of grass and the pH of the soil that grew the grass that fed the cow that yielded the beef that’s served on the plate.  They know steaks.  They need nothing to enhance what they have been trained to savor.  

Raised on the east coast islands of St. Simons and Hilton Head, I can do that with shrimp.  I can tell someone whether they were caught in a cast net or a shrimp net, the exact GPS location of the river or ocean at the time of hatching, the day and time and tide on which they were caught, and whether they were boiled with or without the heads (not really, but go with me here…).  Sweet Georgia jumbo shrimp caught fresh in the afternoons and boiled for supper need no cocktail sauce.  But to those who grew up on cattle farms of middle Georgia, a shrimp is a shrimp.  To a coastal Georgia girl, a cow is a cow and a steak is a steak.  

Imagine my delight when my sister-in-law and I set out for the mountains of North Georgia and Western North Carolina for a girls’ trip and both ordered steaks for supper.  

“Can I get you anything?” the waitress asked.

“A bottle of A-1, please,” my sister-in-law requested.  

We both poured from the bottle as we properly sauced our steaks.  

For kicks, I sent a picture of our plates to my husband, at home with the dogs, to let him know we had arrived at Stop One on our journey and were butchering our steaks.  

Dinner at Fatz, Jasper, Georgia, April 2, 2022

Romans 14:3 

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

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