Meat Men Offers TV's Best Meat Porn
|Tbe Meat Men are actually mostly made of water.|
Meat is all-encompassing, all-embracing. Panoptic. When marbled cuts enter the picture all talk of ramps, of ramen, of harvesting fennel in vacant lots in Oakland, of sriracha and seafoam and sous vide -- all this fucking shit -- finally stops. Meat gets us. Burn a Johnsonville and we're everybody's drunk uncle proposing to the barbeque. Even vegetarians understand meat: Meat is murder. Everybody gets meat, and meat gets us.
But you have to do a meat show right. You want to make us a little pissed at the meat. You want to make us scream ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THOSE SHORT RIBS at the television, overcome by tight shots. FUCKING SHIT THAT TOP ROUND GIMMIE.
Meat Men does an admirable job. It helps immensely that it's set in a meat butchering prison, New Jersey's Pat LaFrieda Wholesale Meat Purveyors, which serves 600 restaurants a day and processes 80,000 pounds of meat a night. All these butchers running around a freezing room in white rubber aprons with long knives, cutting and stabbing and sawing -- such intoxicating horror.
They could have left it right there -- the pure butcher-porn play -- but Meat Men picked up the reality-show script. The show stars Pat Jr., "the magician of meat," "the burger king," "the cow dissembler & life destroyer," who runs butchery stadium, with his cousin manning the phones and his father doing stupid stuff to work the comedy angle, like looking for an old sign on the premiere episode. It's like when Jeff sent Jenni to buy a low-fat mocha and she drove into a pool on Flipping Out. You saw that, right?
How do you insert drama into a show about a meat purveyor? Apparently you ask one of your butchers to stick his hand in the band saw and take one for the team, because that's what happens. All these butchers start screaming in the murder room, forming a scrum around the fallen cutter, and the camera lingers on the human blood on the walls. My wife walked into the room right then and said, "Disgusting."
The second drama is more refined: The Meat Men get a call from big-shot chef Michael While, who wants to put a burger on his menu. Now, you may not have noticed, but when Michael White ultimately unveiled this burger at the end of 2010 it was a huge deal, the $19 White Label burger of a thousand blog posts, which was presented as taking on the king of New York burgers, Minetta Tavern's $26 Black Label Burger. The shit we get excited about. Now, finally, we have the footage that led to the burger's creation, 16 months later. Post-production is a bitch.
Or maybe Meat Men re-created that historic burger-making? I don't know. It followed the reality-drama rules a little too closely. First, Meat Man Pat took two burger blends to Michael White (sirloin, top butt, brisket), and Michael White spat them out. Ptooie! I shit on your ancestors and the like. Meat Man Pat was sad. He had to figure it out. His business depended on it! So he cut some meat with a band saw -- Meat Man Pat says he thinks best when he cuts meat, this is actually part of the show -- and it hits him: dry-aged meat. Meat Man Pat puts a little dry-aged meat in the blend. He thinks he's figured it out. His father sets up a barbecue on the roof with some fake grass -- he gets into some funny situations, the old man -- and they cook the burger together. They think they've figured it, on the third try.
So they take it to Michael White, and the camera goes slo-mo, showdown-style, with some Last of the Mohicans war music thumping during the cooking montage (technique note: Michael White flips burgers with his hands, basically), and when Michael White brings the dry-aged meat burger to the table, topped with bacon and white cheese melting FUCK YOU BACON-TOPPED BURGER GIMMIE it is dressed exactly like the burger that will ultimately appear on the menu, right down to the weird little cornichon on top, almost like it was already on the menu and Michael White just had his cooks whip up a couple when the film crew showed up.
Ah, who cares. God, what a burger. I can't even fathom what this might taste like. I eat pink slime burgers. I think the last 100 burgers I ate were pink slime burgers. Somewhere back there I might have eaten a burger that wasn't full of pink slime, but that was quite a scandal and I'm the last guy who could have escaped a pink-slime scandal.
Here's what NYC's Big Burger blog thinks of it, though:
"Initially, I reacted to the burger's aesthetic seductiveness. Consisting of a circular dome above a rectangular base, its construction seems to reference architectural masterpieces: the Hagia Sofia, the Pantheon, or the Taj Mahal. My attention then quickly shifted to a superb first bite, followed by perfect pommes dauphines. The burger is sweet but salty, juicy but thirst-inducing, rich but leaves you 101 percent full."
With a nice combination of butcher porn, expensive meat, blood, famous chefs, and an old man doing pratfalls in the corner, Meat Men is the best meat show on television. Our regards to Bobby Flay.
Previously, Michael Leaverton watched:
Bama Glama, the show all Alabama loves to fight over in comment threads