“These are a bit unusual for hors d’œuvres,” Jess said, looking at the plate Maury had just set down.
“Beefcake,” Maury said.
Jess raised an eyebrow. “Looks like meatloaf to me. Quartered slices of meatloaf.”
“It’s a cake made of beef,” Maury said. “Pâté de campagne. A bit of a terrine, even: you will find whole pieces of beef, plus prunes and almonds, and the whole macerated in Armagnac.”
“It’s not dessert,” Jess said.
“Your unfailing eye has… not failed you,” Maury said. “That would be cheesecake.”
“I could take a bit of cheesecake,” Jess mused.
“So could I,” said Daryl, who had gravitated to the food. “It’s kind of early for that, though. First the hors d’œuvres, then the word and wine tasting, then dessert.” He looked around at the other members of the Order of Logogustation slowly gathering for the monthly event. Then he picked up a piece of Maury’s offering. “This is what, again?”
“Beefcake,” I said.
“Doesn’t look like Chippendale dancers,” Daryl said. He bit into it. “Hm. It’s got a piece of beefsteak in it, though. Maybe it was a mis-steak?”
“Not all cakes are sweet,” Maury said.
“Not all beefcakes are male,” I said.
“Oh, come on,” Jess said. “Female beefcake? Now, I would like to see that.”
“Well, you should go see Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna,” I said. “There are some very stacked, muscular female gymnasts. Aina called them beefcake.”
“Why doesn’t your wife ever come to these word events?” Daryl asked, while chewing (how uncouth).
“She thinks you’re all figments of my imagination,” I said.
“I think a female usage of beefcake may be a figment of hers,” Jess said.
“Oh, no,” Maury said, “I’ve dated one or two women who could fit that definition.”
“Am I right,” Daryl said, “that beefcake is modelled on cheesecake, as in an alluringly presented female physique?”
“That seems to be the consensus,” I said. “Cheesecake was in use by the 1930s to refer to pin-up pictures of pretty women with much exposed flesh. I don’t know whether it was meant to make a direct equivalence between the pale thighs and the pale cheesecake, or whether it was just the standard connection between sex and food. Beefcake came around by the late 1940s, referring to bare-chest poses of hunky men.”
“As opposed to meatloaf,” Jess said, “which would be chunky men. Like the singer.”
“Beefcake men are beefy,” I said. “Whereas cheesecake women are not normally called cheesy. I think the sound of beefcake is a bit more suited to its object: percussive. ‘Biff!’” I picked up a piece. “I wonder if you could get something like this in Bishkek.”
“More likely than a cheesesteak, I suppose,” Maury said. “Although I am not much familiar with Kyrgyz cuisine.”
“Say,” Jess said, picking up a piece, “didn’t you have a little date last night?” She bit in.
Maury paused, pursed his lips. “Yes, this was made for that. Someone I had encountered online. I thought we were going to meet and have a picnic. She said she would bring the cheesecake if I brought the beefcake.”
Jess swallowed. “Well, what happened?”
“At the appointed time and place, she arrived, dressed very lightly and not apparently carrying food. I set down my offering. She looked at it and me and said, ‘Beefcake? Looks like meatloaf to me.’ And deserted.”
“Well, we get our just deserts, too, even if it’s not dessert,” Jess said. “It is yummy.”