August 05, 2003

Jerkin' Around

I like beef jerky. I mean, I won't go out of my way to buy the stuff--I'm not addicted to it or anything--but if the opportunity presents itself, I'll gnaw on a stick of dried and salted beef.

Yesterday after work, for example, I discovered a stick of jerky in the arm-rest compartment of my car, put there by a fabulous girfriend who thought I would enjoy it. And, you know, after work last night, a stick of beef jerky was almost exactly what I wanted.

Now, I didn't realize until yesterday just how much meaningless blather is stamped on your typical stick of beef jerky. For example, the stick I ate on the way home yesterday said it featured "Real Beef." Well, now, that's a relief. Here I thought I was chomping on a cow impersonator, perhaps a pig that happened to be a master thespian and fooled the USDA into believing it was actually bovine.

The thing is, because it was stamped "Real Beef," that must mean there are beef jerky enthusiasts out there who are truly worried about getting sub-par beef jerky, perhaps cut with 30 percent donkey. In the cut throat world of beef jerky competition, companies will resort to some pretty underhanded dealings to get their dried meat sticks to market.

Examining the wrapper further, I saw that my beef jerky was also "Peppered." Well, that's good news, I guess. But, really, what does that even mean? In beef jerky parlance, I gather that "Peppered" means that it has a kick to it--that it's hot. Well, then, just say it's HOT. Peppered doesn't tell me anything.

All this got me to thinking: what other words are stamped on beef jerky? My inquisitive nature brought me to the local Kwik Trip, where I perused the assorted beef jerky offerings. Let me just assure you here. . . after a few minutes staring at racks of competing beef jerky brands, the term "jerky" starts to lose all meaning. I started wondering what the hell "jerky" even meant. So, to refresh my memory, I consulted a dictionary.

jerk·y2 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jûrk)n. Meat cured by jerking. Also called charqui.

Okay, like, ewwww. But, wait a minute, maybe I'm being too narrowminded about what they mean by jerking. Let's find out.

jerk2 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jûrk) tr.v. jerked, jerk·ing, jerks To cut (meat) into long strips and dry in the sun or cure by exposing to smoke.

Ohhhhhhh, that type of jerking. Never mind.

But, getting back to my Kwik Trip beef jerky perusal. First and foremost, what the heck does "Kippered" mean?

To cure, by splitting, salting, and smoking.

Ohhhhhhh, okay, gotcha. But then, you really can't call it jerky now, can you? Wouldn't it become "beef kipper" or "kippered beef." I mean, calling it beef jerky that's been kippered seems like overkill, really. First, they dried it, then they smoked it, then they salted it and smoked it again for good measure.

There is a lot more to relate, but I just realized I have a bunch of work to do today and I must get to it. More jerky-related nonsense coming later.

Posted by Ryan at August 5, 2003 10:39 AM
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