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Mitchell on Beefsteaks: The Awesomest Article I've Read in Ages

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , ,

Thank you thank you thank you Ben Miller at the Internet Food Association for writing a post about the awesome local tradition of “beefsteaks” that mentions this marvelous New York Times article by Paul Lukas from nearly a year ago, which cites “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks,” by Joseph Mitchell, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. If you have a subscription or access to The Complete New Yorker, I highly recommend that you go check it out. It just oozes awesomeness.

The heyday of the beefsteak tradition stretched from about the Civil War until Prohibition. The idea was that men (and only men) would gather in a saloon or a hall and consume meat (specifically, slices of grilled steak) and beer until the act of ingestion was no longer conceivable. They would sit on crates, with sawdust on the floor, and silverware was prohibited.

I think that covers the essentials. Needless to say, Mitchell was able to paint quite a picture on that subject. (I’d love to see Trillin or McPhee try to improve on it.)

I’ll end this with three awesome quotations from the article; the first two are spoken by people who appear in the story:

“The foundation of a good beefsteak is an overflowing amount of meat and beer.”

“When you go to a beefsteak, you got to figure on eating until it comes out of your ears. Otherwise it would be bad manners.”

“Women do not esteem a glutton.”

And there’s a lot more where that came from.

The best part? The tradition still survives, in New Jersey.

Update: The article is also available in Mitchell’s renowned collection Up in the Old Hotel.

Second Update: Not surprisingly, Emily was on this whole thing when the Lukas article first appeared last year.

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