I ate my first ostrich out at the beach this past weekend. Eddy the butcher had apparently been asked by one of its better customers to order ostrich for some special occasion, and either the customer changed his mind or else there was some left over — whatever the deal, Eddy asked me whether I might be willing to try some for $15 a pound, and I said yes.
Eddy’s is the kind of family business that reminds one of what small-town America must have been like when nobody locked his doors. I’ve been shopping there for 22 years—watched Eddy grow up helping behind the counter (and now his kids are helping). So I would have said yes no matter what. But on top of that — OSTRICH! How can you not break into an idiotic grin at the thought?
Think of the conversational possibilities.
“You and Bill like to come over for some ostrich?”
Or . . .
“Us? Not much. We spent the day marinating our ostrich.”
I can find amusement in vegetables — long-time New York Magazine readers will remember the unretouched photo of an eggplant that looked almost exactly like Richard Nixon, may he rest in peace — so you can imagine the twinkle in my eye with this under my arm.
“Don’t forget the ostrich!” I said as loudly as I could to the high school girl bagging up our purchases.
Of course, we weren’t carting home an entire ostrich, or anything close. No hoofs. No feathers. Just a two-pound slab of deeply red meat that looked rather like a giant raw liver.
One of our weekend guests, a Hollywood director, eats no red meat because of the way cows are slaughtered. (My own reason: the fat content.) Pork is “white meat” (on a fat-par with chicken), but he wouldn’t eat that either, for the same reason. Doesn’t like the way pigs are slaughtered. He admitted to a certain inconsistency in his willingness to eat chicken and fish — being slaughtered can hardly be fun for any species — so even on well-trod culinary ground his ethical guidelines were blurry. But ostrich? It looked like red meat, but apparently has even lower fat content than white-meat turkey. And who knows how they kill the things? My guess is they provide a bucket of sand and then — well, you know. Not wanting to take any chances, our guest had soup.
I’m no cook, but was invited to stick a fork into the dinner-to-be and found myself barely able to do so. Imagine sticking a fork into a tire. Yet with 36 hours’ diligent marination (in beer, onions, salt and other spices), the most remarkable thing happened: it came out really well! A London broil in appearance, sliced really thin; a Sydney broil in taste.
There is no financial point to this. I am not taking the long way round to introduce you to ostrich futures or recommend a chain of exotic-game restaurants.
But I would say that to succeed in the financial marketplace it helps to be the kind of investor willing to try the ostrich — and to abandon it once it becomes a fad. Investing in Russia when Yeltsin was trailing badly in the polls was a little like that. “Invest in Russia?” most people would have said. “You try it first. Maybe if he gets re-elected I’ll stick my toe in.” But now that he has, you have to pay twice as much. (So now might be a good time to take some profits — although the entire Russian stock market is still valued at less than 25% of the Coca Cola Company.)
The other obvious ostrichism:
Adapt to a changing world. Bury your head in the sand and it could get chopped off.
Tomorrow: Hoover: Big Dam, Small Mind?