When is a cow not a cow? That's the question asked and answered in a little pamphlet sent to me by American National Cattlewomen, Inc. The answer is, "When it provides for the good life." The pamphlet goes on to explain in alarming detail that a cow is much more than cholesterol on the hoof. Apparently, Americans use beef as completely as the Sioux did buffalo and this piece of paper is crammed full of did-you-knows about how, beyond hamburgers, our lives are enriched by these ruminants.
Evidently--and why should I disbelieve my sisters at American National Cattlewomen?--cows provide the gelatin in ice cream, yogurt, candy, marshmallows, and mayonnaise. More surprisingly, parts of cows become key ingredients in chewing gum, cake mixes, candles, cellophane, deodorants, detergent, insecticides, linoleum, luggage, wallpaper, emery boards, photographic film, piano keys, floor wax, plastics, and sheetrock, and that doesn't include all the pharmaceuticals and automotive necessities that rely on mysterious, unnamed, cow-derived substances: antifreeze, brake fluid, machine oils, car polish, car textiles, and upholstery.
Want to know more? Of course not. This is more than anyone ever wanted to know about how we use cows, unless you're curious whether these are the by-products of USDA prime or select beef.
I considered all this and worried whether my part of a cow would still be there for me as my dining companion and I rolled up our sleeves to fix a flat last Friday night precisely at the time we were supposed to be digging into steak at Bob's Chop House on Lemmon. We were late, but our table was held even though the smoke-filled bar was crowded with people and there was a rehearsal dinner going on in the back room. We were glad to see the beef when it arrived on our plate--simple, uncomplicated, perfectly cooked, still the feast food, the perfect reward for tribulation endured and tires changed.
Why we eat what we eat is an example of the mystery of human nature. It's inexplicable that, though we've never been more informed about habits of healthy living (which includes eating things like bean curd), we've never been more supportive of "big food" places where we can indulge in cigars, hard liquor, and high-fat meat. It's a celebration of traditional rich men's pleasures and Bob's Chop House is right on this trend. The wine list features a nice list of single malts, a perfect match for our appetizer of hickory-smoked salmon, and prelude to a big, big piece of meat.
No one cooks meat as well as a steakhouse. Our 12-ounce strip (the smallest on the menu) had a lovely salted dark crust on the outside which glistened with rendered fat, and when slit by the steak knife, opened to a fibrous red interior that flowed with juice. The rack of lamb was even better--equally expertly prepared, deeper-flavored and more tender, with no frills, just the atavistic extravagant pleasure of the fatted calf.
Each entree comes with potatoes, of course, as well as a giant, uncut, and unabashedly phallic cooked carrot, an appropriate garnish for such a manly plate of food.
Bob's makes no concession to "light" or "chic." Appetizers are uniformly rich, entrees are all heavy meat, and there's not a chicken to be seen on the menu. The dark wood and big chairs give Bob's the atmosphere of a club whose members are all beef-eaters who really don't care what we do with the rest of the cow.
--Mary Brown Malouf
Bob's Steak and Chop House, 4300 Lemmon, 528-9446. Open for dinner Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Bob's Steak and Chop House:
Hickory-Smoked Salmon $8.95
New York Strip Steak, 12 oz. $21.95
Rack of Lamb $21.95
Skillet Potatoes $3.95
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