My obsession with meat sticks is recent. I had been attempting to solve one of life’s greatest conundrums: how to consume and transport meat easily. Raw steak in my pocket wasn’t cutting it. Shortly thereafter, in a moment of serendipitous splendor, I bought a pepperoni stick out of the oft-handled and likely hepatitis-infected plastic bin below the register at a Jackson’s Food Store near our old house. I knew I had had a Slim Jims in the past, a distant and perhaps drunken memory at least a decade old, but my tastebuds and arteries couldn’t remember. Then I devoured two, perhaps five, Tillamook pepperoni sticks in rapid succession. I felt both alive and near to death at the same time. And it was a feeling that I wanted, nay needed, for the rest of my life. That’s where’s this category on this blog begins.
Over the last few months, I have familiarized myself with several meat stick varietals. While all have merits — merits I’m hoping to elucidate on this blog — I found myself continually craving Tillamook pepperoni sticks. And I purchased lots of them. By the dozen. Thus when I saw the sign below attached to the side of a trailer across the street from a trailer park, I knew I had found my meat Cloud Cuckoo Land.
The Tillamook Country Smoker Beef Jerky Factory Retail Outlet had been bragging for miles before we arrived about getting a two-foot stick for only one dollar. At first, I thought, if only. Then I thought, dang, that’s an excellent price per linear foot. I’d been getting pillaged at a buck and a quarter per foot in Boise.
Upon entering the outlet, I immediately focused on the open chest cooler stuffed with two-foot sticks. They were all labeled “fresh” and “must be consumed in five days”, which made me think of all the wonderful preservatives and chemicals I must’ve been consuming prior with the store-bought sticks. At first, after examining the sticks, I thought about going exotic, like jalapeno pepperjack, but I eventually decided to start my meat stick and blogging journey with the original: plain pepperoni.
The two-footers were noticeably fresher than their gas station siblings. They tasted like how I imagined real meat taste like. Their caramel-colored skin suit was also looser than I was accustomed to, occasionally popping in my mouth and reminding me that he who gets the freshy-fresh shall get the sweetest thing in the world (name that reference). I’d also noticed that the liquid fats inside the fresh skin suit had not fully mobilized — I was used to squeezing fat drops from the sticks — suggesting that, perhaps, the fresh sticks had not fully matured. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I fully intend to investigate further.
Later that night, I bragged to a hip couple we met in the campground about my meat stick excursion and about how I had consumed five two-foot sticks, so ten regular sticks, a certain record for me, in one van ride to the campground. Then they invited us to their campsite for fresh-caught oysters fire-roasted in butter and topped with cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice. I had never felt so white trash, proud, and confused at the same time. But that’s what meat sticks do to you.