After four days without any adult interaction whatsoever, I finally cracked last night (Thurs). As anyone who does it knows, bringing up kids may be rewarding/life-affirming/joyous/dutiful, but stimulating, it ain’t. Interesting, it ain’t.
This usually doesn’t matter because when my Successful Other Half gets home from work, I can hand over our three young children to her and then head off to the pub for some sparkling conversation about Wayne Rooney’s recovery to form or why you don’t see beer towels any more. And by the time I get back from the pub, the kids are in bed, and my Working Wife is waiting with more stimulating chat about her Working Life.
Not so this week. I’ve been Home Alone with the three offspring for the Easter holiday while my wife has been Working Away. We’ve done lots (see previous post), had some great fun and some not-so-great fun. But it’s just been Me and Them and I need more.
So I picked up the Batphone and called my friend Dan.
‘Come on over, I need the company,’ I said.
‘What’s it worth?’
‘See you at 7.’
For a meat lover, wagyu steak is the ultimate bribe. It is the world’s nost expensive steak, and the world’s tastiest and juiciest. It comes from cattle that are genetically predisposed to produce an intense marbling of fat in their muscles, which increases the flavour and ‘mouth feel.’ It is the Steak of Steaks. And I have it in my freezer.
My love affair with wagyu goes back two years. I’d read an article about this amazing beef and so, as a birthday treat, my wife booked a table at one of the few restaurants in London that specialised in it: Jason Atherton’s Maze Grill in Mayfair.
‘Are you sure we can afford this?’ I said. ‘It is the world’s most expensive meat, you know.’
Exactly how expensive, we couldn’t tell. The restaurant’s website said ‘Market Price’, whatever that meant. But we decided to go ahead with it anyway. I was working then, earning good money. And my wife earned a decent income as a freelance writer working from home.
The big night came. We booked a babysitter and took our places at a table for two. Great hunks of deep red marbled meat was presented to us in pure white napkins, inviting us to choose a cut. They looked like trophies from a bloody battle. We both plumped for sirloin which, in my opinion, has the right amount of tenderness and flavour. And then I asked the price.
‘What is today’s market value?’ I said.
I almost spat out my wine. ‘Per steak?’
I wiped my mouth and shook my head. ‘We can’t afford that,’ I said to my wife.
‘You’re only 45 once,’ she said. ‘You’ve wanted to try it for years. We’re here now. Let’s do it.’
The experience was sublime, beyond anything I have ever put into my mouth. It was meltingly tender with a rich, deep flavour, like a meaty foie gras. It was simply stunning and I left the restaurant needing to have more.
This became my life’s mission for many a month. I searched for it on websites, joined queues of other hungry wagyu fans for the next supply to come in. I traipsed round butchers like a beggar, muttering, ‘Wagyu? Wagyu? Anyone got any wagyu?’
But it was all to no avail. And then, at a food festival, I got talking to a butcher who supplies meat to celebrity chefs. He said he could add me to his customer list. The stuff wasn’t cheap – £88 per kilo – but it was a damned sight cheaper than restaurant prices, working out at around £25 per 10oz steak.
After that, I set up a dedicated Wagyu Savings Pot and put my spare cash to one side to take deliver of a great side of sirloin three a couple of times a year. I would use it as bribes and rewards to treat my friends. I becaome the Most Popular Man in the Home Counties amongst certain members of my set (not with the vegetarians, obviously!).
And then disaster struck: I lost my job. We were down to the last two wagyu steaks, but instead of saving them, my wife and I decided to treat ourselves to a Last Expensive Supper. With the last forkful, I thought, ‘Well, that was that. It was nice knowing you, Waggy.’
But six months later, as regular readers will know, my wife got a job (because I failed to land one) and one of the first things she said to me was: ‘I’d love a nice juicy steak to celebrate.’
Cue phone call to butcher. Cue delivery of great hunk of sirloin. Cue Carnivorous Contentment.
Last night, for the record, was perfect. Perfect company, fantastic wine, and the greatest Steak of Steaks. And even the kids, after a week of activity, gave me a breather by going to bed nice and early, facilitated by Dan rough ‘n tumbling with them for an hour and then reading them bedtime stories.
But he was rewarded handsomely, as you can see from this picture, with thrice-cooked chips and the King of Steaks!