I came to embrace a martial philosophy not through any insight of my own but by once getting so mad that I forgot to be a bad cook. I was fighting with my first wife one winter night and I stomped into the kitchen, recklessly jacked up the heat under my cast-iron pan, and slammed a steak onto its smoking surface. I was rewarded, almost instantaneously, with the violent secret of meat. My rage spent, I found a surface of burnished mahogany and an interior still red and raw. I took my time bringing the meat to medium-rare and ate it with a feeling of triumph. Meat, I now understood, called forth not measured skill but courage and animal aggression. Finally, I was in control.
From The Violent Secret of Meat by Josh Ozersky, published in Esquire in 2013. Ozersky died this past Monday in Chicago, just before the James Beard awards. I did not know him, though I knew of him through Grub Street, the food blog he founded and which I read when I lived in NYC. The man could spin a sentence about food, as the passage above shows, and I don't say that about too many people with the thankless job of having toput words together to describe food or music.
NY Mag friend and coworker Adam Platt remembers Ozersky.
But I also think that he was the closest thing to a real Liebling-esque figure in this increasingly gaseous world of food writing that we have. Like Liebling, he was an outsider and a glutton who loved sports. The only difference — well, of course, there were a lot of differences — was that Leibling wrote about that world, while Josh actually lived in it.
That’s part of why Josh hated Brooklyn the way he did. Professionally he lived there, but publicly he hated it. He thought it had become prissy and pompous, and like all old-fashioned New Yorkers, he viewed it as a place of exile. He hungered for recognition and life in the emerald city. I like to think he found peace in his marriage to Danit, and I like to think he found peace out in Portland, which, when you come to think of it, is an idealized, platonic version of Brooklyn without all the excess baggage. It was much more peaceful, he was under less pressure, he could come and go, and write his Esquire pieces and do his videos and his Meatopia without getting too close to the fire, without getting burnt to a crisp. Pete Wells wrote in the Times that Josh was last seen at a karaoke bar in Chicago singing his giant lungs out at 4 a.m. That’s Mr. Cutlets, more or less in a nutshell. That is how he would want to be remembered.