In culinary circles, an ironic term for red meat which has been drastically overcooked, destroying all or most of its flavor and rendering a toughness and texture akin to that of shoe leather.
ORIGINS: In fact, during the Great Depression, many restaurants and diners were unable to purchase enough beef, and began sneaking out at night to carve slices out of the uppers of the shoes & boots of bums sleeping in their doorways. This material was then soaked in a brine for several days, strained, and thrown on the grill just for any customers whose order specified their meat be cooked "fully through, till grey and thoroughly well done". As the most available brand of boots at the time were embossed with their maker's name, "Wellington", some experts believe the term well-done was simply a mistaken attempt to order some more of what the patron believed to be a famous "Wellington" brand steak. Since purchase of a brand name product in those days was associated with wealth and refinement, it is likely that in the early days, those ordering the "Wellington" steaks did so purely as an attempt to one-up their fellows or announce their status, despite its inferior pallatability when compared with less prestigious, non-branded steaks. Over time, the misguided confusion between a Wellington, a well-done, and displays of status became permanently lodged in the culture so that the destruction of otherwise good meat by this pauper's cooking method still persists to this very day.
Other scholars believe this term, or its equivalent, originated when an ancient cave-chef, totally inept at grilling meat, yet trying to get some (insert your favorite euphemism here) from a sexy naive young cave temptress, tried to hide his ineptitude and utter desicration of a choice cut of buffalo or whatever the hell they ate, by responding to her complaints about the meat's dryness and lack of flavor by saying, "You said you liked it cooked well. This is well-done. It is rare to get a steak that can safely be consumed with the center bloody and pinkish-red, and I didn't want you to get food poisoning." Cave languages being somewhat less verbally sophisticated, however, this would probably sound to the modern ear more like "unga bunga", accompanied by various gestures, snorts, and other ape-like movements.
"Isn't it funny how a steak that's well-done is anything but done well?"
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