How I like my steak.
I was recently at a barbecue at my mother-in-law's place and we were enjoying some nice grilled steak strips. I looked around and noticed that everyone was cutting their meat up into nice big chunks before taking bites of the juicy beef. One "American thing" I've been focused on dropping is not using my knife when I eat. That's why we have thumbs and bread. Here, everyone uses their knife to push the food onto their fork (which they hold upside down). I noticed that the last time I was here and I thought it was a neat way to eat. It also looks less barbaric than meeting your fork with your thumb on the edge of the plate to push that last bit of gravy-soaked mashed potatoes on. Then you have gravy on your thumb and you know that's not meant for your napkin. You've gotta suck that gravy off that thumb! When you're the only person at the table looking barbaric, you kind of learn to (read this part in a posh British accent) flip your fork upside down and slide your mashed potatoes onto it with your knife. Then take the knife and ceremoniously wipe each side once against the last prong of the fork so that any excess mashed potatoes or whatever is now on the fork and ready for consumption.
This was never an issue with steak. With steak you have to use a knife even if you're American. There's no stress right? Wrong. I go into a slight panic whenever I eat steak. Everyone's cutting steak up into big juicy chunks? Not me! I cut my steak up into really teenie tiny pieces. People may look at my plate funny like I'm a child or something. But I've had a bad experience.
I was invited to a good friend's house for dinner back when I was stationed in North Carolina. His mother and grandmother were visiting from Texas. I was pretty honored to get to meet my friend's family members in such a personal setting. When I got there, the food was just about ready. He had made some broccoli, mashed potatoes and the steak was seasoned and now being thrown onto the George Foreman grill. My friend was excited about the steaks, because in his opinion the Foreman grill would cook them to perfection in a short amount of time. We took our places at the table and prepared for some good eating. At the table were my friend's wife, his two year old son, his mother, his grandmother and me. He joined us when he brought the steaks.
As promised, the steaks were delicious! Perfectly cooked in a short time by the trusty George Foreman grill. We all raved about it as we ate. I got to know my friend's visiting family a bit. We talked about our times together at other Air Force assignments and shared stories. You know, dinner talk stuff. I cut a big piece of that delicious steak and prepared to chow down. I remember thinking I should maybe cut it again, but what the heck. I put the entire juicy delicious piece in my mouth and began chewing. I gave the steak a few chews on each side of my mouth and went for the swallow. Pretty routine. But it didn't go all the way down. So I go to swallow again. This time with a bit more force. The steak goes just far enough to block my breathing. Now I'm panicking! I try to stay calm though. No need to alarm everyone. I'll figure something out. I go to drink some water, but that didn't help anything. The water just filled my mouth around the steak. I figured if I keep this cool look on, nobody will know and I can just go to the back room and die like a good guest should. No need to involve these nice people in my bad decisions just yet.
Apparently my demeanor wasn't that cool. My friend said, "Hey man, you alright?" To me, that was my cue to go to the back room and finish choking. I'm sure by now my eyes were popping out of my head, but I was still trying to look as calm and cool as possible as one can without taking in any oxygen. I shook my head to my friend as if it was all good. Now the whole table was looking at me. Great. Now I'm rude. I stood up from the table trying to remain calm so I could go to the back room or bathroom or something and spend my last moments in peace. As I stood up, my large chair tipped over backwards and slammed on the tile floor. BLAM!!! There went my quiet exit. Grandma looked like she was going to pass out. My friend's mom said, "Oh my God!" I thought for a second to do the international choking signal now since the cat was out of the bag. Maybe I do want to live longer. Then, all of a sudden, I made a noise that I have never heard before or since. It was like the first half of the sound those old car horns in old black and white movies makes. "AAAOOOH!" Then, right there in front of my friend's shocked mother and terrified grandmother, my insides shot out the chunk of steak that was lodged in the back of my throat. I hunched my back just a bit and was able to catch the ball of steak and mucous as it flew out. Drool naturally followed and I was now standing up in front of the entire family with saliva dripping from my mouth and poorly chewed, mucous covered steak in my soaked left hand. Everyone stared at me with their jaws dropped.
I ran to the bathroom and cleaned up, happy to be alive. My eyes were bloodshot red and watery. I shook my head in total disbelief. I yelled some silly joke back toward the dining room and everyone kind of chuckled a bit. My throat was already sore and it would be for the next few days. Way to go Jon. Nice first impression. Since then, I've cut my steak up into teenie tiny pieces. No need to mess up another dinner. Until next time...