I would like to have seen the look on the face of the first person — I assume he or she was prehistoric — who tasted cooked meat. I’d be willing to bet it was an accident. Maybe some caveman’s leg o’ beast fell into his campfire when he lost his grip and he was hungry enough to give it a try when it cooled down.
After we moved away from the campfires, the first oils we used for cooking had to be rendered animal fats (lard). When I went to the grocery store with my grandmother as a child, you could still buy lard in five pound containers in any food market. After all, that was a bona fide necessity for frying our chicken down south.
Whether instant success or acquired taste, we’ve been cooking our meat (and lots of other things) for a long time. I don’t know too many people who still eat it raw, with the exception of patrons of sushi restaurants.
There are lots of different ways to prepare most meats. Natural tenderness depends on the cut of meat, the marbling (distribution of the fat throughout the meat) and the method of cooking.
“Meat” has evolved into an all-purpose term for the main course at the evening meal, unless you happen to be a vegetarian. From a simple roast beef, chicken or turkey to a meat dish with vegetables, herbs and gravy such as a stew, we have expanded on the cooking of our main course in ways early man couldn’t have imagined.
We’ve gotten past assumptions taken from appearance. “Don’t eat that red thing, Sadie they’re poisonous,” was how we looked at a tomato thousands of years ago. What would spaghetti be now, without the option of red sauce — with or without meat?
Recently in our human history, we’ve moved away from animal fat to healthier oils and solid fats and lots of alternative ways of cooking. When we do use oil for cooking, it’s more likely to be anything from peanut oil to canola oil to vegetable oils — olive oil is a favorite.
Just a little oil goes a long way for most cooking. Follow this recipe and find out what a tablespoon will do for a whole meal.
For the stir-fry:
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 green onion, thinly sliced (with green tops)
*Add more vegetables, such as fresh mushrooms, snow peapods, and water chestnuts if you wish.
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pink (2-3 minutes).
Add broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender (2-3 minutes more). Stir in soy sauce mixture until well combined and slightly thickened (another 1-2 minutes).
Serve immediately, garnished with sesame seeds and green onion.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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