Even though I'm generally a West Coast kind of guy, I devour books about New York — its chaotic beginnings as a lawless, crazy quilt of neighborhoods and gangs; its transformation into a massive modern city; the peculiar dynamics of its organic growth. If New York didn't destroy me everytime I visit, I think I'd probably live there.A few weeks ago, the New Yorker's Twitter stream pointed me to an excellent Joseph Mitchell essay about a (mostly) vanished New York tradition, the beefsteak. Mitchell laid out the basics in his classic 1939 essay, "All You Can Hold For Five Bucks:"
The foundation of a good beefsteak is an overflowing amount of meat and beer. The tickets usually cost five bucks, and the rule is "All you can hold for five bucks." If you're able to hold a little more when you start home, you haven't been to a beefsteak, you've been to a banquet that they called a beefsteak. From Up in the Old Hotel, an amazing collection of Mitchell's New Yorker essays
We've missed out on the beefsteak's prime, so to speak, but the Beacon Restaurant started a new tradition 10 years ago. The New York Sun's account of the 2004 edition includes courses very much like those Mitchell describes — tiny hamburgers, bacon-wrapped lamb kidneys, double-thick lamb chops, and of course steak — "huge roasted Certified Angus shell loins that had been cut into thick slabs and doused with melted butter."This year's beefsteak is in February. I'm intrigued, though I'm sure it will destroy me.