Share This

Fierce Anticipation [Very Special Edition]: December 19-21

A blogumn by Ryan Dixon


On the Exegesis of the Soul or: Why I Love Beef Stick



Hickory Farms Beef Stick

“May I try a free sample?”

After I spoke those six simple words, a smiling gray-haired clerk at a Hickory Farms Christmas stand set up in one of the many Western Pennsylvania malls I traversed during my childhood would poke a toothpick into a delicately cut square of meat, hand it to me and the door to paradise would open…

I love Hickory Farms Beef Stick.

As a child, even though no adult ever had the prescience to buy me Beef Stick for Christmas, my eyes would hover on my parents and other relatives as they opened their gifts, for I hoped, nay prayed, that the wrapping paper being torn apart would reveal the iconic packaging of the Hickory Farms Gift Pack.

As I think back now to the specter of my adolescent self, in a post-presents state of euphoria, continually re-entering my Grandmother’s kitchen to gobble up, slice by succulent slice, an entire 3lb Beef Stick* during a two or three hour period, I realize that those moments are some of my most precious Christmas memories. Sitting at that small kitchen table, under a hazy magic hour glow from the window overlooking the backyard, I would chew on that extra large, two-inch end-slice of Beef Stick like a granny smith apple, never believing that my caloric innocence would one day end.

(If you too wish to feel same orange-hewed glow of melancholic nostalgia and innocence  this Christmas, try eating your Beef Stick to the accompanying chords of this selection from Patrick Doyle’s score to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

*If anyone’s counting that’s 4560 calories, 384g of fat, 16g of carbs and 216g of protein in one 3lb Beef Stick.


Hickory Farms Beef Stick

If there is light, then darkness must follow. And so it is with Beef Sick. I know love because I know Beef Stick,  but I also know rage and the uncontrollable hunger that haunts only the most destitute of drug addicts because I know Beef Stick. More than once, it has pushed my relationships with loved ones and friends to the breaking point. Here is just one example:

Is a cylinder of processed meat worth a ten-year friendship?

Just this month my roommate Zac bought two 14oz.  Beef Sticks from Target to serve as a continuing late night snack. Thus, as the clock struck midnight, we dug in. Never had our friendship felt so close as it did that night, when we reminisced about a college-aged trip to a local abandoned insane asylum over a few slices of B.S. Around 2am, Zac went to sleep and I was left alone with the kitchen mere feet away…

Cut To: The Next Evening.  Around Midnight, Again.

As I sat typing on my laptop in the dining room, Zac entered the kitchen for another late night snack. But, instead of encountering meat to feed his stomach and soul, he was confronted by nothing but my guilty gaze. I broke down and confessed: I had eaten the rest of the first stick and the entirety of the other the previous night, after he had gone to bed. Although we are making strides in regaining some semblance of trust, when I think of how Beef Stick affected our never-to-be-the-same friendship I am haunted by the words of Tennessee Williams, “How beautiful it was and how easily it can be broken.”



Hickory Farms Beef Stick

It’s called “Beef Stick.” What part of a cow or a pig looks remotely like a stick?  Officially, Beef Stick is a summer sausage, which, according to Wikipedia, is any sort of sausage that can be kept fresh without the aid of a refrigerator. Beef Stick, a subspecies of said meat melody, is made from a flesh potpourri of leftover scrap and organ meat that would otherwise be wasted. Alas, how my soul weeps when I think of the suffering involved in the creation of one Beef Stick, the primal cries of those poor animals as their soft, innocent flesh is sliced open–

Who am I kidding? F&%K the animals. I love Beef Stick and I always will. As a Christmas tradition, it’s far tastier than Mistletoe, eggnog and the virgin birth. Like Mandy Patinkin, Steven Spielberg, Gore Vidal, Stephen King, and my parents, Hickory Farms Beef Stick, for better or worse, remains one of the great influences of my life and has helped to make me the person I am.

So, in parting, let me share with you dear readers, the true spirit of Christmas:

POSTSCRIPT: After all these years, Hickory Farms may have finally realized that there are some segments of the  Vox populi who may not be all that inclined to eat something with the words “Beef” and “Stick” situated next to each other. Thus, in the hallowed tradition of desperate corporations, they’ve re-Branded. Say hello to new packaging, a new design and, horror of horrors, a new name. Now “Beef Stick” belongs to the ages. This year America’s favorite meat is officially called: Beef Summer Sausage. Bon Appetit!

. Photo Credits: Hickory Farms Gift Package – Populuxe; Single Beef Stick – jvers; Beef Sticks – Jennifer Snyder