The glass encased skeleton at Wat Pah Nanachat, a forest monastery in northeast Thailand, belonged to a local woman years before the former abbot had her bones disinterred and put on show in the meditation hall. Using her skeleton as a focal point, the monks there practice Theravada Buddhism's death meditation, contemplating their future corpses in nine distinct stages of decomposition. In stage one, according to Buddhist texts, the corpse is "swollen, blue and festering," in stage two it's "being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals or by different kinds of worms," and so on until its final stage, when it's "reduced to bones gone rotten and become dust." The meditation is supposed to bring home how short life can be and is a warning to those enamored with its fleeting pleasures.
On a Thursday in July, I sampled one of those pleasures at Hong Kong's Intercontinental Hotel — and thought a lot about ageing corpses. Along with several food writers I was there to eat "vintage" beef served up by Frenchman Alexandre Polmard, a 27-year-old breeder, butcher, and cause celebré. A kilo of Polmard's cote de boeuf (rib steak) vintage 2000