Steak Story, Part 1: The MosCowBoy

The steak was called the MosCowBoy. And I remember eating it like it was yesterday. Cutting into the ribeye, juice squished out onto the ceramic plate. With each tender bite, the beef made my taste buds light up with all six of the essential flavors (sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and especially umami and fat).

It was June 2011, and I’d just finished my first stint working on a team of cowboys building a cattle ranch in Russia. We’d transplanted 1,450 breeding cattle from the Montana prairies to the Russian steppes. Our job was to see the cattle through their first winter and spring, plus train a group of villagers in the cowboy trade. With the contract completed, I packed up my boots and chaps, then bid adios to the cattle, horses, and my villager comrades. The ranch was in their hands, now.

Bloomberg news anchor Ryan Chilcote made this TV segment about Stevenson Sputnik Ranch. I’m the cowboy in the brown vest and straw hat. VIDEO COURTESY BLOOMBERG

I had a few days to kill in Moscow before flying home, so I went in search of a steakhouse. I found one, Goodman, in a shopping mall on the outskirts of the city. (See: Russians Raise the Steaks By Demanding Blood.) I’d been warned that buying a steak would be expensive in Russia. I didn’t care. I was flush with summer wages. The menu listed a dozen steaks, and two of them were ribeyes, my favorite cut. One, weighed in at 14 ounces and cost $50. The other, the MosCowBoy, weighed 22 ounces and cost $75. I knew which one to order.

As I devoured the steak, I thought about what the MosCowBoy represented. The name suggested that beef could be a cultural bridge —> Read More