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It's All About the Wiener (Schnitzel or Otherwise)

"I don't know, dude... veal... not sure how I feel about eating it."

My friend Andy, an avid meat eater, wasn't saying anything I hadn't heard before. Hell, I'd considered it myself.

"Look, Andy, a lot of the anti-veal stuff you've heard isn't true. The industry has changed in the last 20 years." I knew I'd have to come up with something better than that, but what did I know about the veal industry? Exactly nothing.

"You know, they even have free-range veal now." I was way out on a limb here; no way he'd believe that absurd lie. Still, I was unwilling to concede any part of this

discussion on a stupid technicality like having to use actual facts.

"Free-range veal?  How the hell does that work?"

Shit. "I dunno -- I think maybe they tow the pens around a pasture behind a golf cart."


Andy called me an idiot, the conversation was pretty much over. But, as

it turns out, my fiction had some truth to it: The veal industry has

changed (and c'mon, they pretty much had to), and there actually is

such a thing as free-range veal. Raised in pastures, the calves roam

freely and are given no hormones or antibiotics. And this is a good

thing, for reasons I'll get to in a moment.
For a chunk of my

life growing up, I lived near Yorkville, a heavily German neighborhood

in Manhattan. Despite being a German/Irish mutt myself, I wasn't

actually aware that the area was German; my family paid little

attention to lineage, I never heard the language spoken, and they'd

thankfully stopped having German American Bund parades back in the late


Still, though, there was some German influence in the

neighborhood, particularly on food. My first life-changing

German-influenced food experience was delivered courtesy of Papaya King,

a small standup hot dog joint at 86th Street and Third

Avenue. Originally opened in 1932, Papaya King was a simple tropical

juice stand until owner Gus Poulos married a young German-American

immigrant named Birdie. Apparently in love not only with the woman but

with her meats, Poulos started serving hot dogs at Papaya King in 1939.

they weren't just any hot dogs. Poulos claimed that "Papaya King

frankfurters are tastier than filet mignon," and to a young man hopping

off the subway after an evening spent celebrating the Irish part of his

heritage, they were. Two dogs perfectly grilled -- trimmed with mustard

and served on toasted buns alongside a 16-ounce papaya juice or, my

personal favorite, the coconut champagne -- made a far better nightcap

than a rusty nail ever could. So it was standing at a counter in the

middle of the night with the other Papaya King junkies, weaving

slightly and hoovering hot dogs and tropical drinks, that I first

learned the value of a great food pairing.

You might not think

so, what with hot dogs and beer or hot dogs and cola getting all the

press, but a hot dog paired with a good tropical drink may have no

equal. The crunch of the toasted bun, the snap of the grilled casing,

the bite of the mustard; there's nothing on the planet that sets up the

sweetness and texture of a fresh papaya or coconut drink better. And

perhaps the only place as great as a noisy, crowded street corner in

Manhattan to enjoy that combo is a sunny Florida backyard or beach, so

get your asses out and pick up some dogs and tropical fruit drinks and

see if I lie. When you're done with lunch, you can show your thanks in

the form of Papaya King merchandise, which you can send to me in care

of New Times.

The other major culinary event in my life

for which I have the German neighborhood to thank is the introduction

of Wiener schnitzel to my palate. Of course, Wiener schnitzel isn't a

German dish; also known as Viennese cutlet, it actually originated in

Austria (the Germans in my neighborhood apparently annexed the recipe

sometime prior to 1945). But there was a restaurant

in the area that served a great version, and from the moment I bit into

my first lightly breaded veal cutlet, I was hooked. Even people

struggling with the morality of eating veal, my friend Andy among them,

will admit that there's nothing quite as un-fucking-believably

delicious as a properly cooked veal cutlet.

So this week, the

time has come to stand up and say it loud and proud: Come home to veal.

If the goateed, roller-blading, and recumbent bike-riding set can make its peace with sausage, the rest of us can certainly enjoy veal

again. It tastes great, it's lower in fat than many meats (a nice

switch from the bacon explosion I made last week), the industry is

changing in response to consumer demands, and it's pretty easy to whip

up a delicious platterful.

Here's how: Pound your cutlets to about

quarter-inch thick, flour, egg, bread, fry in hot oil (or lard, if

you're going traditional). Boom. Squeeze some lemon on the son of a

bitch and you'll get over any lingering guilt pretty damned quickly. Even

if that whole golf cart thing was bullshit.

Bradford Schmidt is The Meatist. He's also author of the blog Bone in the Fan. He lives in northern Palm Beach County, and if you've got the cow, he'll get the golf cart and pasture.

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Bradford Schmidt

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