By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
After watching Steak (R)evolution, I’m never buying my beef from a grocery store ever again. Sorry Thrifty Foods but I’m going to a butcher instead! I’ve often gone to them for bacon and burger patties, but for steak, I never thought about the differences in what gets sent to market or to what I like to call a meat broker. Yes, prime sides of prized bovine do go to auction, and the education does not end there about humanity’s relationship with the cow.
This movie not only provides a look in what makes for a perfect cut of beef but also shows how regional bovine can impart a special taste upon the product that gets eaten by humans. I’m not talking about Kobe Beef, to which I’ve sampled once in my life (I do want more, but the prices were the primary deterrent). At the same time, just how I want to cuddle my favourite cow (one species, the highland cattle with their winter coats are too adorable to consider slaughtering) might lead me to giving up the meat altogether. Some subspecies are just that darned cute (alpaca like if I had to draw comparisons) and they should not be considered for slaughter. To realize that they are bred to feed connoisseurs is difficult to fathom, but yet, to understand the intricacies of how these beasts are raised to being brazed on the grill or pan needs people to have more than an iron clad understanding of why we, as humans, have gone from a hunter-gatherer species to an agriculture-based society.
Perhaps that’s the only aspect of this film that does not get fully explored. Some cows are allowed to roam freely and others are put in a pasture. Had more details been put into context, then we could understand why cattle are coveted throughout the world. Well, not so much in India or where the cow is revered but the cultural contexts could be explained further. A bit of an anthropological context is explored but it gets lost in director Frank Ribière’s quest for the perfect steak.
The tastes are sublime, and just what goes into the meat through how the cow is raised is important. You just want to lick your lips at what’s being cooked up in the film, and you can only pine to visit that country (and restaurant) that offers that gently braised and flame kicked slice of beef.
At the same time, I just have to wonder how hard is it to leave behind centuries of our own human evolution of what we require to survive as cattle gets sacrificed for the sake of feeding a hungry civilization. In Ancient Egypt, I know this animal is highly revered; Hathor is a cow goddess and she is respected as a divine mother, representative of love, sky and music. Or as Jack O’Neill put it in Stargate SG-1, Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll. To diverge into this history would have been distracting but strangely aspects of how the bovine is fed (how the chemicals in the grass can affect the taste of the meat), gender roles in this industry (one female herder had difficulty in gaining acceptance) or use of Mozart to relax the cow (can you imagine heavy metal as a relaxant?) makes for some interesting viewing! The two-hour run time makes for a long program but just imagine how the cow must feel. All these beasts have to do is to chill to the curious humans infatuated with them. While aspects to how they are ethically slaughtered is missed, to see how they are much-loved shows that this movie is truly a love letter to what their meat becomes when it hits the dinner table.
3½ Stars out of 5
This article was originally published on the Two Hungry Blokes blog.