Excerpt from Meat: The Pleasures of Flesh

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A man in Wyoming calls his lover in New York. It's been 11 days since he has seen her, and it feels long and terrible because their relationship is new. "It's midnight here," he says, "so I know I must be waking you. But I have to tell you about my dinner. Are you there? This is important." He cradles the receiver to his cheek, sitting on the hotel bed with his socked feet rubbing against carpet. "We went to dinner, and I need you to know about the prime rib I ate. It was swimming in a gully of juice. I mean, sopping and red, and..." He catches his breath now, recalling the bites and the texture, the moments of flesh. "It could only make me think of you," he tells her. "I was the only one at the table without boots or a cowboy hat," he starts laughing. "I was supposed to be talking about raising capital, and about getting it into Cheyenne fast. But I was thinking of you between each swallow, and all I could think of was your body."

    The woman in New York says, "God, I miss you lots. Hurry here; hurry home. It's two o'clock in the morning, and now I'm not going to be able to sleep."

    "Then I shouldn't have told you."

    "I'm glad you did."

    He says into the receiver: "You make me hungry. I'm hungry now." He's wide-awake.

    "Say more," she says to him, suddenly.

    He has a handful of bedspread drawn into his fist. "I want to hunt you. Inside your clothes."

    There is the smell: steak, grilled over charcoal, colluding with a breeze, while dribbles of sizzle impregnate the air. And there is the taste: the seared, tender flesh, trickling mouthfuls of juice at each bite. Like monkeys, we are omnivores. We have been eating meat since we first discovered we could - since the first Homo erectus realized that killing for food made the stomach feel good. In the days when there were many gods, and many of them were wild and choleric, we sacrificed animals to them, and sometimes we even sacrificed ourselves.

    Meat is about celebration. It's alimentary sex. Tristan Tzara, the great Dada poet, said in 1920 after a performance: "For the first time in the history of the world, people threw at us not only eggs, vegetables and pennies, but beefsteaks as well. It was a very huge success." The fiction and food writer Bob Shacochis recalls an anecdote about his girlfriend, the formerly vegetarian Miss F., whose doctor diagnosed her as severely anemic and prescribed liver pills with enough iron to turn her into an I-beam. "She left his office and made a beeline for Safeway, where she purchased two pounds of the antidote in its nonpharmaceutical form," Shacochis writes.

    It's only an observation that people in health food stores often look sick. It is an indisputable truth that kissing a woman after a meal of steak and red wine is different from kissing her after you eat tofu. It is better.

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