December 30, 2012 by Emily Pergament
For more than a decade, and most of our relationship, Emily did not eat mammals. It’s one of the more unique dietary habits. Apparently Emily had seen an episode of Survivor where the actors had staged a pig killing and been turned off by red meat. Since then she had been strictly a bird eater.
Like all followers of specific dietary regimen, Emily had a tendency to cheat, particularly when it came (ironically) to pork products like bacon and sausage. But she was fairly consistent in avoiding beef, for both health reasons and because she didn’t really miss the taste of burgers and she was never a big steak lover.
If you’ve met me you probably know that steak is one of my favorite things in the universe, up there with crossword puzzles and my cat. As you can see, if I didn’t like steak I would just be an old lady, so it’s a pretty important part of my list of favorite things.
In our six years together, Emily has eaten steak and beef on a number of occasions, though she still tended to stay away from red meat. I guess my devotion to the cow was wearing her down. In any case, when we got to Aruba, we kept hearing about this Argentinian steakhouse El Gaucho. Emily asked me if I wanted to go, but I was skeptical. I figured we could get good steak anytime we wanted in New York, and I was more interested in eating fresh fish from the Caribbean than beef shipped in from who knows where.
Eventually, we decided to buy the hype and we made a reservation at El Gaucho for our last night in Aruba. Our cab driver dropped us off at a nondescript corner about five blocks from the water and most of the stores in downtown Oranjestad. We were early for our reservation so we sat down at the bar. Emily had a glass of sangria and I had a Balashi, a clean tasting beer brewed on Aruba with distilled seawater.
We sat down at a thick wooden table, with Argentinian-style decorations on the walls around us. The room had a Patagonian ranch vibe, with paintings of sombrero-wearing cowboys driving cattle.
We reviewed the menu and I asked Emily if she wanted to split the 28 oz. porterhouse. It’s one of the best cuts for a balance of flavor and leanness, and it comes on the bone. We got four sides – potatoes, mushrooms, plantains and broccoli. We also ordered red wine. These are irrelevant. To paraphrase Wallace Stevens and totally remove all context, the only emperor at El Gaucho is the emperor of steak.
From the moment our waiter placed the giant steak between us, until we had picked the bones clean 20 minutes later, a series of groans, moans and progressively more dramatic exclamations were the only sounds that came from our mouths. All our energy was directed at eating what may have been the most delicious steak I had ever eaten.
The flavor was incredible. I don’t know if it was the quality of the meat, the seasoning or the skill of the chef, but every bite was an explosion of juicy flavor the likes of which cannot be put into words. I thought to myself several times that if I died immediately after the meal, which was becoming increasingly likely with every bite, I could not complain because of how delicious the steak was.
Words cannot do this steak justice. All I can say is that as much as I was enjoying it, I think Emily may have liked the steak even more than me. I will stop short of saying that El Gaucho converted Emily into a meat-eater – it was much more of an evolution than a single transformative event – but if she were at all wavering, then I think El Gaucho pushed her over the edge.