Bright New Day for Card-Carrying Carnivores

Let’s start with the fact that I’m a card-carrying carnivore.

Red meat. White meat. The other white meat. Dark meat. Pink meat. Brown meat. Any and all manner of flesh of the farm animal. Or, as the sous-chefs de cuisine like to call it these days – protein.

No bones about it, apart from the occasional T-bone, I consider myself a picky eater. This inclination comes from experience. Growing up, my mother would never have described herself as one who derived personal enjoyment from cooking and the result was bland, uninspiring fare. Though, to this day, owing to my experience with Mom’s fav standby (canned Del Monte Cut Green Beans), I prefer mushy veggies over crunchy ones.

Etched into the picky eater’s consciousness: Crunchy = not done.     

 A picky-eating refrigerator magnet-carrying carnivore.

A picky-eating refrigerator magnet-carrying carnivore.

I’d wrestle with Mom’s gristle-infused, pan-fried lower end steak cuts and wonder, is this all there is? It was only after leaving home and experiencing better cuts of meat that my pickiness gained purchase and stuck. Today at Harry’s, I don’t even need a menu. Filet Mignon Royale. Medium. Hot pink center. Iceberg wedge with tomato bacon ranch dressing.

We picky eaters tend to find a winner and stick with it.    

So, the fact that we now have a shop in Manhattan that sells nothing but high-end meat is cause for celebration.

The fact that the new meat market is owned by some personal friends is just gravy on the mushy taters. Three or four years ago, coming home from a Royals game with dear friends, the conversation turned to, if you could do anything for a living, what would it be? Our friend said he’d always dreamed of owning a butcher shop.

We all have dreams. Few of us act on them.

Our friend shared his idea with a targeted group, each bringing a different skill set to the butcher block. One guy deciphers spreadsheets and is fluent in finance, another knows his way around steers, hogs and lambs. One is creative and fulfilling his dream, another has successfully maneuvered the land mines of small business startups and the fifth is a natural-born salesperson.

It’s the perfect storm of protein proficiency.
 
I don’t think they did a formal market analysis, other than anecdotal, word-of-mouth and the all-important gut feeling. But it’s a gut feeling grounded in the clear-eyed truth about our community: Despite a demographic, generational and cultural evolution happening all around us, Manhattan will always be a community dominated by a land grant institution.

It’s getting further away chronologically, but most of us trace our meat loving upstream to men and women who raised livestock, or crops that fed livestock.

Speaking of evolving societal norms, when I first met my wife, I was the griller in our family, for one simple, if sexist, reason. I’m the guy.

Societal expectations notwithstanding, after suffering through my burnt-to-a-delicate-crisp on the outside, raw on the inside filets, she offered to take a crack at the tongs and spatula. I mean, the woman judged meat in 4H and FFA and was content to allow the results to speak for themselves. Turns out there’s more to grilling than red meat meets fire. Who knew? I’ll never go near a grill again. She’s that good.   

The shop is in the old Willie’s Sports Bar space (where I used to go for killer white meat chicken strips, btw) and is called Manhattan Meat Market. What they lacked in creativity they made up for in alliteration – and simplicity. I wasn’t in the room when they named their shop, but can imagine the convo.

Where will it be? Uh… Manhattan? What do we intend to sell? Let’s go with meat. What kind of a place is it? Pretty sure it’s a market.

Ergo. Ipso facto.
    
My wife’s already made one visit. Had some beef cuts ground into custom hamburgers and brought home some filets, lobster tails, pork chops and a refrigerator magnet. Pretty sure those lobster tails are not indigenous to Kansas, but this is the part where I let go, trust the system, my friends’ gut feelings and clear-eyed truth.

It's a bright new day for card-carrying carnivores in Manhattan. Truth be told, I really don’t need to carry another card. Between my Dillons Plus, HyVee Fuel Saver, now outdated Carmike Cinemas rewards and Enterprise car rental VIP cards, my wallet runneth over.
 
I’m perfectly content to be a picky-eating refrigerator magnet-carrying carnivore.

Mike Matson was born in Manhattan, raised in Rooks County and Wichita. He’s been back home in Manhattan since 1998. His column will appear in The Manhattan Mercury twice each month. Follow his blog at mikematson.com