Soul Food

Tracing the path of the mighty Colorado bison from ranch to plate.

April 2010

I'm standing in my basement, in front of a freezer with the door wide open. Inside, 40 pounds of Josiah's bull, long since cut and neatly packaged into steaks, short ribs, roasts, and ground meat, are stacked to the top. I pull out a brick of short ribs, close the door, and head upstairs to find a plate for defrosting.

It's been a week since I drove to Roberts' house to pick up my share of meat. As we transferred the vacuum-sealed parcels from her deep freeze to my car, I was flooded with an unexpected sense of pride and appreciation. It was not unlike the satisfaction of pulling the season's first carrot from a patch of tended earth. I drove away vowing to honor the animal whose frozen muscles rattled in the trunk of my car.

Back in my kitchen, I pluck fresh thyme leaves from their stems, zest a lemon, and crush garlic with the blade of a knife. I rub the mixture over the now-thawed short ribs before placing them in a heavy pot for searing. With the addition of onion, fennel, and celery, the house blooms with scents that are rich and full. I pull a wooden spoon from a crock near the stove, and stir. This moment—the smells and the spoon, which once belonged to my mother—pulls me to the center of a childhood memory: I'm standing at the knee of my mom as she prepares dinner with meat from the ranch. Onions and garlic sweat and perfume the air. I've got a spoon in my hand and an apron tied in a bow at my back.

I pull my attention back to the stove, give the mixture a final stir, and cover the pot. My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter wanders in, pulling a small red chair behind her. She scrambles up and asks for a peek. It's bison, I tell her. From a ranch I visited. She sniffs and grins.

In a couple of hours, I'll call my family to dinner and we'll sit down to a meal of slow-cooked short ribs. As we eat, I'll explain that, not long ago, this majestic animal—Josiah's bull—was grazing on Colorado prairie grass and wearing ear tag #142.

Amanda M. Faison is a senior editor of 5280 who covers dining and food trends. Her last piece for the magazine was about Denver's 25 best restaurants. E-mail her at [email protected].