Does Meat Have Taste? You Bet Your Sweet Swine it Does (But We're Not Mad at Vegans)
Reporter, food lover and superfan Tanya Edwards talked to award-winning chefs from around the city to get their take on meat, vegetables, and the Howard Stern Show
"Meat is dead, and it has no flavor after the first bite."
A bold statement made on the show, which was echoed up by long-time vegan Robin Quivers, and debated hotly by senior producer Jason Kaplan. Both of whom have committed to very personal eating philosophies — vegan versus carnivore.
Robin Quivers — who no longer breaks out the "chor-eet-zoh" — the keynote speaker at VegFest in Washington DC, author of the New York Times bestseller "The Vegucation of Robin: How Real Food Saved My Live" has embraced a meat, dairy, and seafood free lifestyle, which she credits with helping her win her cancer battle.
Team meat is headed by Jason Kaplan — who talks about burgers like some guys talk about Heidi Klum — host of The Fat Guy Show, noted gastronome and recent VIP guest at the New York City Wine and Food Festival's Meatopia X: The Carnivore's Ball, which he described to us as "a celebration of delicious meat, and the people from the city and surrounding areas who cook it. You can ask questions about the different cuts, they have carving contests, all over you'll see full butterflied goats, steers, pigs and the smell is amazing."
Let's Talk Flavor (and Smell)
"It's something that's been in us since the caveman days, when humans first started eating animals that were burned in forest fires." says Jamie Bissonnette, James Beard Best Chef Northeast, owner of Toro (NYC and Boston), Coppa and author of The New Charcuterie Cookbook.
"I think that's how cooking of animals first started. I love it." Not only was the chef rocking out at Meatopia, but his book has three recipes for blood sausage. This guy knows his offal.
For Kaplan, this is the point of Meatopia. "I'm really looking forward to expanding my meat taste palate. I moved to the suburbs this year, and I've been really into grilling. I've been doing pork shoulder, ribs, brisket, all sorts of the standards. So now I'm really into finding out what I'm missing. I have a local butcher, what are some delicacies I'm missing, what could I be bringing home? I love steak, but any time you can try something new, or a new style or way of cooking meat, I'm down for that."
"I've been vegetarian for several years, and went vegan this year," explains Matt Holloway, the co-author of the badass veggie recipe site (and a huge fan of the show).
For Davis, "Meat is one of those things that stands alone on a plate, and vegetables work best when they're all together. You get more intense flavors with meat. It's always just that one thing. But with vegetables, you're able to layer better and get a deeper flavor."
"If you're trying to make the transition from meat to vegan," Holloway shares, "you don't want to swap out for a meat substitute, or you're just going to be thinking about what you're missing."
We don't have any pics of veggies on hand, but we do have this photo of a giant, devoured steak from the
Instead, just eat nutrient rich veggies. "Sweet potatoes are really fucking versatile. You can throw them in an enchilada, you can make french fries, you can mash 'em up, you can make a fucking pie, like for dessert," Holloway says. "Being a meat eater, and going vegan…I couldn't do all that shit with meat. There's no way."
Davis adds, "I don't think cauliflower gets enough love. It's kind of bland out of the gate, because people are used to eating it raw. But roasted, it is so fucking good. It absorbs flavor really well, we do a beer and lime roasted cauliflower taco in the book. It's cheap and has tons of flavor. People need to get on the cauliflower train.
"Even as a vegetarian or vegan when I smelled bacon cooking or a burger being grilled," Bissonnette says, "I was still like salivating." Wait. One of the most celebrated nose-to-tail everything chefs in the country was a vegan? Yup.
"Personally, as a chef that cooks whole animals, with one restaurant specifically for making homemade charcuterie and things like that," he explains, "I still eat mostly vegan in my own personal life. I like it, it makes me feel healthier."
What Would You Cook for Howard?
If Howard came to Toro NYC, "I'd ask him what he was in the mood for," Bissonnette says. "I can't ever say what someone's day was like. If they were eating all day long, I don't want to give them something that's going to be a gut bomb. We're tapas style, so I'd give him a variety of things, ranging from some vegetables, a paella with bone marrow and maybe some sausage." And if Howard won't eat it, we'll head over with Kaplan and get on that.
"Burritos!" The Thug Kitchen crew agrees, "Burritos are always a hit, for sure." "The thing about vegan and vegetarian burritos," enthuses Davis, "is you can pile all kinds of stuff, and the best part is that guacamole is fucking vegan. It's on."
H100 news - Jason at Meatopia
The Final Verdict
"I think anything, after two or three bites, you can say the flavor goes away," says Bissonnette. "Sure, if you think after the first bite your meat doesn't have any flavor, then don't eat meat. You don't like it."
According to Davis, most "Veggie burgers don't taste like fucking anything." "They kind of taste like wood chips," says Holloway. "Have a roasted chickpea and broccoli burrito," Davis shares, "you can have all kinds of rice sides, salsa, guacamole…there's nobody who doesn't love a burrito."
"My favorite food growing up was a cheeseburger. I have a very distinct memory of when I was 11 years old, driving cross-country from New Jersey to California. I got a cheeseburger for every single lunch and dinner," says Kaplan, dreamily. "Literally, every single lunch and dinner. I was 11! My mom eventually said, you can't get a cheeseburger for this meal. She said it in front of the waiter, and the waiter suggested…top steak…and I asked if he could put cheese on it. So, it was literally steak with cheese on it. It tasted like a cheeseburger on steroids, and I realized at that moment…wow, meat is awesome."
The satisfied look of a meat eater after a great steak dinner
Tanya Edwards is a writer and editor who has written for Glamour as the lead writer for the Conversation and iVillage as a daily contributer. For more information, visit her website Superfan Media and follow her on Twitter @MissTanya