TO GET HIS DAUGHTER to eat a new kind of meat, my brother will call the meat in question "Special Chicken." Pastrami, one variety of Special Chicken, figures centrally in my life. I became a vegetarian at 15, and remained one for 10 years. Then I found myself working in a deli. My masterpiece was the Pastrami Special. I grew enamored of this marbled meat, but could not consume the object of my desire. Until a miracle occurred: A phone order was never picked up, and a decade of vegetarianism was felled by a good sandwich.

As a vegetarian, I used to feel that meat was murder, and butchering was a form of domestic violence. Current meat theory postulates a connection between women and animal rights. Historically, men were aligned with -- well, men -- and women with agriculture, commodities, livestock, and possessions. Men procure the meat and women are the meat. Bitch, chick, sow, bird, heifer, piece of ass; it's not hard to see the logic.

Yet, pastrami can't be cut from a barnyard animal. It's altered, perverted. Sure, you start with beef, but then there's an interceding process. To create this delicacy, take a 6-8 pound beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat. Dissolve kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, garlic juice, ginger, and powdered dextrose in a gallon of water. Cover meat with this fluid and store in refrigerator for three or four days, turning occasionally. Remove from fridge, cover with cracked pepper and coriander. Dry in a warmed smokehouse until reddened, then raise the temperature and let smoke. Remove meat, let cool to room temperature, and then place in fridge overnight.

Then, and only then, does beef become pastrami.

Unlike other meats, this one must be dressed. It is seasoned, spiced. Made up. Accessorized. It starts as cow, but then it becomes something more. Pastrami isn't just feminine; it's more than feminine. It's trying to conceal something with femininity. Even the name is extravagant. We're not talking about ham here, or beef, or pork. Pastrami -- it rolls off the tongue like a drag queen's name. If we gender the traditional meats feminine, which we do by aligning feminism with animal rights, this spicy little number represents a third gender. Not merely procured, pastrami is the transvestite of meats.

Oh, pastrami, you are the Specialist Chicken.

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