“Don’t leave. Please. Stay.
It’s nice to be in the dark,
right? You can relax a little.
No brittle smiles. No air kisses.
No sarcasm. Forget the stress.
The worry. The petty skirmishes.
Life is too short. Too short.
for cruelty. Close your eyes.”—
In the early 18th Century a number of Beef Steak Clubs began to spring up in London. They were part members’ club, part secret society and all based around the wonder and marvel of beef steaks. The most famous of these, The Sublime Society of Beef Steaks, was formed by John Rich, the harlequin and machinist (now more prosaically known as a ‘manager’) at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. The club was frequented by actors, artists, men of wit and song, noblemen, royalty, statesmen and great soldiers. So stringent were the entry requirements that even the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) was merely placed on the waiting list.
Patrons considered themselves to be down-to-earth men of the people and would attend wearing simple clothes and rugged leather boots. They were said to embody the British spirit and saw beef as the sustenance of the nation (unlike France’s “soup meager, frogs and sallads”). Members wore a ring with a picture of a gridiron and the words ‘Beef & Liberty’. They were in stark contrast to the flamboyant and effeminate Macaroni Club, formed by rich young men freshly returned from the Grand Tour, who became associated with outrageous costumes and foreign food.
If you’d like to start your own Beef Steak Club, here are a few guidelines from the Sublime Society:
• The Club admitted no more than 24 brethren, everyone else (including the Prince of Wales) was put on a waiting list
• Members were allowed to bring one guest per session
• Three sessions a year were held with no membership
• Payment was organized via a whip, with everyone paying the same
• Members generally referred to themselves as “The Steaks”
• The toast at each session was “Ne fidos inter amicos sit, qui dicta foras eliminet”, which today might be translated as “What’s said at Steak Club stays at Steak Club”