01.30.08

What’s Beef?: New York Times Scoops New Jersey Native On Meat-Related Ritual

Posted in Food, non-sporting journalism at 11:52 pm by

First it’s the outrageously baroque mob-douchery at Jets games, and now it’s beef tenderloin dipped in butter: even though I don’t live in New Jersey anymore, I did grow up there, and I don’t appreciate the New York Times scooping me on things that take place in my (parents’) backyard. That said, I found today’s Times‘ article detailing the long history of the Bergen and Passaic County banquet staple known as “The Beefsteak” (no words left out, there). The sports relevance in this article is negligible…until you consider that it was written, oddly enough, by none other than Uni Watch’s stirrup-sock obsessive Paul Lukas. We join Mr. Lukas in scenic (not really) Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.

About 350 men, seated shoulder to shoulder at long tables, were devouring slices of beef tenderloin and washing them down with pitchers of beer. As waiters brought trays of meat, the guests reached over and harvested the pink slices with their bare hands, popping them down the hatch.

Each slice was perched on a round of Italian bread, but most of the men ate only the meat and stacked the bread slices in front of them, tallying their gluttony like poker players amassing chips. Laughter and uproarious conversation were in abundance; subtlety was not.

As anyone in northern New Jersey could tell you, this was a beefsteak. The term refers not to a cut of meat but to a raucous all-you-can-eat-and-drink banquet with a rich history in Bergen and Passaic Counties.

The events, which typically attract crowds of 150 or more, with a ticket price of about $40, are popular as political meet-and-greets, annual dinners for businesses and civic groups, and charity fundraisers. Caterers said they put on about 1,000 of them in the region last year.

œOnce you start going to beefsteaks, it™s an addiction, said Al Baker, a Hasbrouck Heights policeman who had organized the evening™s festivities to benefit the Special Olympics. œYou™ve got the tender beef, butter, salt, French fries, beer ” all your major food groups. But it™s very unique to North Jersey. I go to other places and nobody™s heard of it.

There’s much more, including a detailed history of the Phillies old zip-up jerseys this particular tradition’s New York roots. It’s recommended, for those who don’t mind reading the word “beef” twice per paragraph.

3 Responses to “What’s Beef?: New York Times Scoops New Jersey Native On Meat-Related Ritual”

  1. Michael says:

    I’m guessing they don’t sit around and discuss Flaubert after finishing their beefsteak either.

  2. David Roth says:

    Ahmad Bradshaw, maybe. Flaubert, definitely not. I wonder what would happen if, were I to attend one of these (it’s on my list), I were to eat some of the bread. They wouldn’t kick me out, right?

    Actually, that’s academic. They probably wouldn’t let me in.

  3. Michael says:

    You should go in, quietly sit down, and then loudly ask if they have any vegetarian cuisine or sushi and take notes on the reaction.

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