Sometime you read something, or you come across something that makes you understand that you are living in the wrong era. It happened to me reading All you can hold for five bucks, by Joseph Mitchel, an article published in the New Yorker in 1939 about beefsteaks. (You can find the article in Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink (Modern Library Paperbacks), which I had mentioned the other day).
The term beefsteak refers to a 100% New York tradition that disappeared slowly in the '40s of last century. Beefsteaks were a men-only affair, massive community dinners where meat lovers were served all-you-can-eat dishes of steaks, lambs, kidneys, accompanied by as many pitchers and growler of beers as you wanted. Beefsteak started at the end of the XIX century as political fund raisers events, and had certain rules: no forks, no knives (you could only eat with your hands).
|The real beefsteak: no silverware, no women, a lotta meat|
Also, women demanded - and obtained - that drinks other than beer start to be provided, that salads be served and that forks and knives be the tools of the trade. In a word, they took all the fun out of a beefsteak. However, it seems unlikely that this was the real reason for the disappearance of these events: it seems more likely that the tradition died out because of the costs involved, and because politicians had found alternative methods of fundraising.
Beefsteaks seem to be unconceivable at the moment (although it appears that a lighter version, where only sirloin is served, has thrived in New Jersey until now). Think about it: eating 5-10 kilos (10-20 pounds) of meat at once with your hands, drinking gallons of beer...However, pockets of resistance continue to exist: a beefsteak is organized each year in New York, normally in February, and I have every intention to go.