Roast Beef With Saffron Sauce

By Shoyel Qureshi

It’s a pleasant Friday morning, weather being neither too hot or neither too cold, ‘clement’, yes that’s the word I was looking for, but incorporating it in a sentence seems like a task *hits backspace reducing the word count from 33 to 0.*

It’s a balmy Friday morning, another cancelled lecture, ‘I finally have the time to do nothing’ I say to myself while having a Travis Bickle moment and my phone buzzes just when I was about to say ‘You talkin’ to me?.’ I hit the tiny button on the side of my phone which lights up my home screen and my eyes as I read those beautiful seven words those seven words which I’ve been wanting to listen (read as: read) since a long time, “you in for a beef roast today?” the message read, sent by an old friend of mine, who works for Ellipsis and is known amongst our circle for making his authentic Goan roast whose recipe his grandmother ‘protected with her life’, I take a moment to let this sink in and thank all my stars and appreciate their effort for moving around perfectly in my astrological circle, let’s see what my horoscope says, I thought to myself, no, to the more important things in life, should I make the effort to go to Antop hill to satiate my carnivoristic cravings on a say of his word or should I feed him the illusion of my busy-ness? “No man I have a lot of projects to get done with”, I type hoping that he insists my presence in the small gathering of like-minded food junkies. “Cool man”, read the reply. That’s what you get for being an arse. “But how will you get the beef? Isn’t it really difficult to get?” I wrote him back as I thought that maybe I can get back on the track which leads to an awesome evening with a beef roast. 8 minutes down and all hopes lost I finally receive a text, “it’s an adventure to get this much beef bro, wanna join me?” YES, it actually spelt and sounded out aloud in my mind, “But no you have ‘a lot of projects to get done with’ na” read the next lines, “No man, I can finish those tomorrow as well, I’ll be there in 30”, and I set off on my scooter hoping for it to actually be an adventure.

“Let’s try some word association. Think of the first words that come to your mind when I say cow. Let’s see, beef, milk, ban, bhakts, hindutva, Dadri, oh wait gau-rakshak!”, he said without even thinking about the consequences this word association could lead to but in the end he was in the comfort of his home talking to an undergrad student, what consequences would it possibly lead to? But it was a valid argument, remember the not-so-recent-yet-still-fresh-in-our-minds lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, suspected of storing and consuming beef, which was later proven to be mutton stands testament to the fact that any issue involving this animal now serves as a rallying cry for all sorts of saffron clad crazies to band together and get their lynch on.

“The cow may be sacred to Hindus and they may advocate cow protection and preservation with misplaced fervor topped with a sh*tload of irrationality.

But these bigots with their baseless agenda will never really know the pleasures of the flesh. And I truly feel for them.”

This statement is the reason why his identity has been kept ambiguous up until now. Till now we only know three things about this guy I’ve been rambling about since the past six hundred words: 1. He’s a crazy good cook 2. He’s Goan(since I’ve prefixed the words authentic and Goan before the roast) and 3. He does not care or think twice before letting words out of his mouth. Let’s add one more to the list without giving away much about this one-who-you-must-not-know: 4. He’s a 320 pound big-bearded, bald mammoth who gets things done his way and fishes out the best dishes available on this planet.

“The silken smooth sexiness of roasted bone marrow, served with crusty bread and a simple salad of bitter greens. The unctuous, artery clogging goodness of those beef trotters served at that hole in the wall in Bhendi Bazaar. And my personal favorite, a nice slow cooked tongue roast, sliced thin and served cold with pav and a smear of nice mustard. You get the drift, beef is somewhat of a turn on for me.” Okay, 5. He’s head over heels in love with beef (or should I say beef to the heel.)

“If you want the good stuff, you have to make the journey”, he said as we made our way through the slums and seedy alleys of Antop Hill, “you’re most likely to get robbed or stabbed depending on who you run into.” Well, thanks for clearing that out to me, I said as I saw some guys shoot up some drug in their veins and turned around as soon as they caught me staring at them. “He’s also a Qureshi you know? You might out turn out to be relatives”. I have lost the count of how many times this kind of a joke has been cracked.

Ten minutes, half a kilometer and three more drug enthusiasts later we reach a Rashid bhai’s Shanty where within a moment of exchanging glances they got down to business, it looked like a scene straight out of a Madhur Bhandarkar movie, my friend swiftly pulled out 1,800 rupees out of his pocket and our dealer for the day got our goods in a black plastic bag. They exchange handshakes and polite nods and my Goan friend turns around and we are on our way back looking over our shoulders to check if we’re being followed.

“I remember lazy Sunday afternoons spent with my late grandmother, as she taught me how to rustle up proper Goan roast beef, all the while instructing me to add more vinegar or ease off on the chili. Fond memories” he said as he is unwrapping the ‘package’ on the table in front of us and he removes four glistening tenderloins, “This is why nothing, and I mean nothing, not even continuous rejection from girls I was trying to date, hit me harder than the beef ban.” He said as he was cleaning, trimming and cutting the meat into manageable steaks and wafer-thin slices for a quick stir-fry. “Understandably, I am angry. Angry because politicians chose to screw with our fundamental right to eat whatever we want to, angry because we just stood there, choosing to vent using Facebook and Twitter, engaging in liberal vs. right wing duels that are of little consequence in the real world”

His rants were painting him as an anti-PETA activist but come to think about it, Why ban beef? To protect the rights of cows. Why protect cows? Because they’re holy. Why are cows holy? Who knows! But minorities eat beef, and we need to show these minorities who’s boss, or risk them taking over the country and Westernizing/Islamizing the hell out of it.

“In a country where the poor need a cheap, sustainable source of good quality protein, is it right to ban the slaughter and consumption of cows, buffalo, bullocks and other cud chewing ‘divine’ quadrapeds, which aren’t specifically bred for meat, but for work.” He continues whilst struggling to find the ‘right pan’ for his beef roast, “Having outlived their usefulness their death plays a key role in providing the poor with a source of cheap food.”

FUN FACT: Did you know a large percentage of the beef served in our country actually comes from the water buffalo. Considering we live in a country where ‘beef’ comes from the youngest among the old bullocks, which can no longer pull a hoe like it used to, or that water buffalo who’s udders have been relentless yanked for milk, or the cow that can no longer play ‘God’ and con people for alms. (Shocked? Welcome to the world of underground slaughterhouses).

“What happens when the upkeep of these animals, puts further strain on the already strained government machinery? Will the powers that be then realize that maybe eating beef wasn’t such a bad idea after all.” He says as he puts in 3 big table spoons of butter in a heavy bottomed pan. “When this realization dawns on the tilak on their brow, is when some religious scholar drops the news that ancient Hindus did in fact consume beef, and it’s time to look for something else that can be used as a tool to divide people and incite hatred.” The butter has now started to smell nutty he gently puts in the beef and adds half a head of smashed garlic and some fresh thyme.

“I have seen rich and not so rich alike get an all too familiar gleam in their eye at the mere glimpse of beef on the menu.” The meat starts sizzling and he turns towards the fridge to take his “secret barbeque sauce” out and adds two full spoons of it on the steak. “Because at the end of the day, when that party is winding down at 4 am and those drug and alcohol fuelled hunger pangs need to be slain, the festivities around that small kababwala are just beginning.” He now prepares the dressing for the salad as the meat on the pan is getting cooked to perfection as he keeps spooning all the melted butter on top of the meat. “Lit with big ass CFLs, serving up seekh, the meat for which comes from an unknown source everyone puts warm, salty, moist, juicy meat in their mouths with reckless abandon, it’s just the single or the double seekh roll that sets you apart from your fellow man.” He puts the pointy-end of his knife into the meat to check how it’s cooked and slides the pan into the oven for a few more minutes and my Indian Walter White-ish friend who also cooks up something illegal serves it to me for a taste test before anyone arrives.

But hey, ignore my friend’s carnivorous rant, he is just a silent observer, an insignificant fly on a saffron tinged wall. Looking at the larger political picture, unnecessarily protecting an animal that has outlived its usefulness and whose slaughter can benefit a large cross section of society that cannot otherwise afford other meat based protein sources, somehow makes perfect sense. When history of our times is being written, let the new India be remembered as the country that chose to bury the brisket rather than barbeque it.

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