Mad Cow

The past few days, I’ve really been craving Chinese food, and, this being Berlin, if you want Chinese food, you’d better learn how to make it yourself, because the so-called Chinese restaurants here all suck. So last night I went to the store and bought some flank steak, properly battered into thinness and rolled up for the German delicacy Rinderrouladen, as I have many times
before. This is good stuff for turning into Chinese beef dishes because it shreds into nice little matchsticks which are thin enough to stir-fry quickly. Plus, I was in luck: this was the use-by date for this package, so it was half price!

So around dinner-time, I pulled it out of the fridge to start preparing it and when I opened the plastic box they entomb their meat in at this supermarket, an odd, but not unpleasant, odor reached my nose. I checked the package: “Prepared ready to cook,” it said. “Ingredients: 95% beef, marinade (water, iodized salt, glucose syrup), stabilizer: trisodium nitrate, flavor
enhancer: E 621 [aka MSG], antioxidant E 3013.”

What on earth?

I couldn’t use this for Chinese cooking. In fact, I can’t use it for anything: I’m sensitive to MSG, and I certainly don’t cook with it. Plus, what’s with the glucose syrup and all? If I’d wanted Sauerbraten I’d have bought it, although my guess is that the pre-prepared Sauerbraten there also has MSG.

Okay, maybe this preparation makes it easier to make Rinderrouladen, which I’ve never made, but even if that were what I was trying to make I’d be angry. I’d want to season and treat it my own way.

So tonight I thought, well, I’ve got all the other stuff I bought — I’ve had to pitch a full pound of beef, which really, really hurts, considering all the nights I’ve had little or nothing to eat around here — so maybe I just made a mistake and I’ll go back and buy untreated flank steak.

No way: every piece of beef in the supermarket is now treated with this crap, except for the hamburger.

What are these people thinking? Or is this just because Germans tend to regard beef with deep suspicion? But stewing beef, steaks (to the extent they actually have steaks: something called Rumpsteak which looks tough as leather and contains no fat whatever), soup bones…all treated with this mass of chemicals!

So beef’s off my diet now until I can either find another source (unlikely) or until I move.

German food retailing: you’ll take what we give you and like it. The customer is always wrong. We reserve the right to poison you without warning you first. There is only one way to prepare any given foodstuff. And who cares what it tastes like: pass the salt.

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