Oh, home on the range

Some say “you are what you eat.” I think that nowadays it’s “you are what you watch.” Lately, I have been swimming in a sea of so-called reality TV. As if through osmosis, I see snippets from the screen seeping into my life. Whether it is going to martial arts classes during last season’s “The Ultimate Fighter,” taking a camping trip following a spate of “Survivorman,” or, most recently, experiencing the “Man v Food” effect.

If you’re not familiar with “Man v Food”, it follows the exploits of the affable Adam Richman. He’s a self-described “normal guy with a big appetite,” and he spends each episode exploring the culinary landscape of a particular city. Each episode concludes with Adam taking on a unique “food challenge”. The challenges either involve an extremely large or an extremely spicy portion of food that has to be consumed in a particular amount of time. And what is the reward if man is victorious over said food? It’s usually a picture tacked onto a “wall of fame”, an “I stomped the Sasquatch” (or something to that effect) t-shirt, or simply braggin’ rights.

You can probably see where this is going.

After watching a particular episode which featured two different restaurants that vied for the title of “home of the original Juicy Lucy” (the Juicy Lucy being a cheese stuffed cheeseburger) I was inspired.

While watching “Man v Food” I vicariously experience my deepest, darkest food fantasies, but that is exactly what they are, fantasies. When I set about creating my own “Juicy Lucy” I couldn’t resist “healthing” it up a bit. I went to Whole Foods and bought a ½ pound of buffalo burger, and a package of 100cal 100% whole grain sandwich buns. Back at home, I appropriated some genuine Wisconsin cheddar, light olive-oil mayo, organic green-leaf lettuce, and red onion. After popping the cap off of a cold Peg-leg Stout (a great, great, beer with a rich mocha flavor and only a mild hoppyness btw) I was ready.

Once the skillet was set to heatin’ and the buns were a toastin’, I took the buffalo meat and formed it into two similar-sized patties. I then proceeded to sandwich a layer of cheese between them. I set the whole buffalo meat sandwich onto the hot skillet and continued prepping the other fixings.

When tendrils of thick smoke began furling out from the under the skillet’s lid, I should have recognized a foreshadowing of things to come. The lean buffalo meat did not have sufficient fat content to produce its own protective layer of grease and was simply burning. Opening the kitchen window and starting up the ventilation fan cleared the smoke from the air, but the condition of my burger only grew worse. I flipped it in the hope that the black crust that had formed was simply “sealing in the juices”. Another smoke-filled event soon followed.

Vigilant observation of the burger’s state of doneness whittled down my patience. It seemed like it had been sitting there on the skillet for an eternity. Surely it was done by now. The image of a molten pocket of cheddar embraced by decadent buffalo meat was simply too much for me to bear. Removing it from the skillet, I located a particularly sharp breadknife and proceeded to remove the charcoal layer with surgical precision.

I spread a layer of mayo infused with a touch of barbeque sauce and stone ground mustard on the toasted bread. After placing the now impressive looking “Boofy Lucy” atop the bread, I then gently draped it with a layer of green leaf lettuce and thinly sliced red onion. With the final layer of bread neatly on top, I scattered a few Miss Vicky’s BBQ potato chips around the plate and promptly cleaned the kitchen.

Whether this is an obsessive compulsion or simply habit, I really dislike the thought of dirty dishes lingering in the sink and on the stovetop while I am eating. A quick scrubbing and wiping down took care of that, and now, finally, I could enjoy my creation.

Sitting comfortably on the floor with my back up against the couch (our dining room is still in progress) I had to admit that my “Boofy” cut an impressive figure. The juxtaposition of green and red veggies, toasty bread, and steaming meat was simply stunning. Wrapping both hands around the man-sized sandwich, I maneuvered it to my mouth.

I managed to take the first bite without securing much by way of meat and cheese. Most of it was bun, condiment, and toppings, which was good, but I was going for the money shot. Determined, I went deep for my second bite. There was no volcanic cascade of molten cheese, but there was something gooey. Perhaps the burnt layer of burger acted like insulation, protecting the inner core of meat and cheese, perhaps the cheese itself had been too cold and therefore negated the heat of the skillet, either way, the buffalo was still roaming.

Since I had already cleaned the kitchen, I didn’t have the means or the motivation to re-heat the burger. Since I was hungry and had spent enough on supplies to have gone out for dinner, I was unwilling to toss it in the trash. Eventually, the third option won out.

Yes, I ate the damn thing. It fell depressingly short of my “Man v Food” fantasy, but by gum it would at least nourish me. I even justified the questionable act by saying to myself that the uncooked meat had developed fewer carcinogens and was therefore healthier than a cooked patty. My ego intact, I finished the burger and washed it down with the remainder of my beer, hoping that its high alcohol content would sterilize the contents of my stomach.

The following 12 hours verified that my lower intestine was, in fact, where the buffalo roam. A stampede soon followed and my little house on the prairie was overcome by a noxious cloud.

Man 0, Food 1.

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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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