To Beef Jerky, With Love

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There are few equally tasty and edible foods out there that satisfy the inner redneck in us (unless, of course, you are one, and that's cool) along with our dietary mammal need for protein. Yes, I'm talking about beef jerky. Just so perfect for numerous occasions, especially road trips, as it's a valuable protein source. For those who never went to med school or simply just don't know, here's a brief biology lesson:

The body breaks protein down in the stomach during digestion by a specific type of enzyme called proteases into even smaller polypeptides that provide amino acids for the body. These include the essential amino acids the body cannot synthesize by itself. So what does this mean? The protein from our diets should provide both essential and non-essential amino acids for protein synthesis, one of many factors that keeps us alive. And one of the best sources of this protein? Beef jerky.

I remember Boy Scout campouts where the two best things were the smell of bacon cooking early in the morning and the beef jerky we constantly ate throughout the day. Ah yes, beef jerky. The source of so much goodness. And after those scout years, come driving and the inevitable road trips. This is where beef jerky becomes an all-encompassing, life-saving, and above all, delicious snack. Even a complete meal. Sure it's full of salt, but I'm not a nutritionist or dietician.

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Point being, I don't care. Drink more water if you're thirsty. But when going on a road trip, however long or short, beef jerky is the best food to sustain us. Besides being the aforementioned protein source, jerky is readily available nearly everywhere, whether one is driving through a major metropolitan area or the most secluded back woods cabin that could be inhabited by the Unabomber. When driving on American highways and interstates, there always seems to be a sign appearing at some point stating something like: Beef Jerky Outlet: Ahead 24 Miles.

These are always the best. You see, no matter where you are in America, there's a jerky outlet for the road-going traveler. It's the fail-safe protein option. Lacking a sufficient beef supply? No problem. Jerky can be made from nearly anything that was once alive. It's just dried and salted meat. Alligator jerky can be found in the American South, buffalo jerky in Oklahoma (or surrounding areas that were once known for cattle drives, cowboys, and an Indian or three), ostrich jerky in California, snake jerky in the Southwest, pork jerky in just about everywhere, and venison jerky wherever you see a deer crossing sign.

And for those who care, local jerky is almost always organic. Just saying. Way on the other side of the world in the bottom right-hand corner, also referred to as Australia, kangaroos have also made their contribution to the jerky industry with their delicious meat. Fortunately, Americans can sample all of these varieties of jerky thanks to brands such as Jack Links. Packaged and processed jerky (not organic) isn't quite as good as the local stuff, but at least it's sold at every gas station no matter where the open road has taken you.

My personal favorite now is teriyaki beef jerky, which just has that solid combination of flavor to satisfy both my sweet and salt tooth. And like the 1969 Buick Skylark, beef jerky is reliable. It's always there for us when we're hungry, doesn't spoil (just keep the package sealed to prevent it from drying out), and resupplies those amino acids. And on a sad note, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, who just passed away, made a major contribution to the beef jerky industry with Slim Jim.

"Snapping into a Slim Jim" was always the best after school activity. Oh yeah! Beef jerky. When you don't have time for a steak.

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