Step aside, small fries! Mooove over, chicken! Beef is where it’s at, at least according to mitBEEF, MIT’s one-and-only beef appreciation club. To see whether that was true or just a load of bull, I headed over to Random Hall to do some “investigative journalism” at the first Miscellaneous Cow Part Competition, where a plethora of unusual beef cuts were laid out for us to taste and identify.
Before the event, I met Lauren R. McGough ’12, the President, aka Master Carver, in Pecker kitchen. Along with her were a herd of other club members frying, chopping, and scooping cow parts in preparation for tasting. In between slicing bread and artfully arranging stomach tips on plates, she told me a little bit about the club. MitBEEF has about 30 to 40 regular members, but about 100 people have shown up to at least one event in the past year, making mitBEEF one of MIT’s larger interest clubs. They hold “meatings” 3 to 4 times a semester, where members gather to graze on delicious beef.
I then headed downstairs to Foo lounge, where members were milling about tasting food — some with gusto, others with trepidation. The dishes varied from scrambled eggs and brains, to ordinary gelatin, to “mystery meat,” which was actually a plate of hotdogs. Between bites of something fried and chewy, I talked to Alevtina Asarina G and Eric C. Price G, long-time members of the club. They told me that in addition to the usual meatings, mitBEEF has a wide variety of events, like beef caroling, with songs like “Hang the Halls with Strips of Jerky.”
“One of the times we were beef caroling, there was a huge snowstorm. There were five No. 1 buses stuck between Random Hall and 77 Mass Ave. So we went on the No. 1 buses and caroled for people there,” Asarina said. “Some of the audiences were more receptive than others,” added Price.
MitBEEF can also be an educational experience. At the meeting, a club member’s father worked in a slaughterhouse came and spoke about his experiences. “One thing he seemed to focus on was how sharp knives are really important. He also told us you’re not allowed to bring photographic equipment into the slaughterhouse because they don’t want people to see what that looks like,” Asarina said.
According to Asarina, mitBEEF had a cow when “MIT Medical was distributing brochures about healthy eating, and they had a food pyramid that someone in Harvard had come up with where beef was at the very top with the sugar and the fat. We felt this was an unfair treatment of beef, so we had a protest in front of MIT Medical with slogans like ‘Red meat is great to eat.’”
Surprisingly, you don’t need to eat beef to join the club. “MitBEEF has a history of being very vegetarian friendly. I was actually elected president at a time when I was experimenting with veganism,” McGough said. “There have often been vegetarians on the board. Lots of times we will have vegetarian options so we try to be very accommodating.”
Finally, I chewed the cud with the Divine Bovine Yuran Lu ’05, founder, president, and now spiritual leader of mitBEEF. He and a group of friends started the club out of a mutual love of beef. The persistence of the club came as something of a surprise because initially, “about five to six people showed up” to meatings, according to Lu.
For Lu and other members, running the club was a learning experience in how to cook food for people in large quantities. “For example, one time we were making chili on top of spaghetti. The person making the spaghetti read the instructions on the spaghetti container which said boil eight quarts of water, and put in a box of spaghetti. He decided these instructions were also good if you needed to cook more than one box of spaghetti, so he had 20 boxes of spaghetti and he boiled eight quarts of water. You learn that that doesn’t work so well.”
After tasting mystery parts from every plate, it was time to reveal the identities of the meat. I was udderly surprised to discover that the fried thing I enjoyed so much was cow penis. The lists of people’s guesses were tabulated and checked for accuracy, under the high steaks of a gift certificate to a local beef-serving restaurant. Coming in at ten correct identifications was yours truly, and another beef lover. At the end of the day, I left with a win under my belt and enough leftovers to fill four stomachs.
So, fried cow penis anyone?