“Wow, they’re really lean,” I said to the butcher.
“Yeah, I know!” he said, smiling.
“But fat is what makes meat taste good,” I said.
His smile collapsed. He hung his head.
“Yeah, I know.”
He leaned closer to me. “Hang on,” he said, conspiratorially. “I’ll be right back.” Then he disappeared into another room, like a 1950s dope peddler going out back to get the hard stuff. What the butcher returned with was actual meat, with some actual white material in it and around it. I believe he had raided his personal stash.
Lean meat is in, still, even in the era of Paleo diets and even when some nutritionists are rethinking their war against sebaceousness. Stores tend to display only lean meat lest they seem unconcerned about their customers’ health. Across town, Harris Teeter still triumphantly posts the trivial fat content of its ground beef, the way cigarette companies used to advertise low tar. People fear fat.
“People fear food,” corrected my butcher, funereally. I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Some time ago I asked online readers to vote on several matters of personal preference, one of which was how they liked their hamburger cooked. The results leaned toward well-done, which surprised me, inasmuch as my readers are mostly urban sophisticates. (To me, having a taste for well-done meat is like having a taste for generic seascape art: It’s your business entirely, and far be it from me to make fun of you, but we have established what you are, so please don’t criticize my taste in, say, poetry.) I later learned what had happened with the hamburger poll: Most of the readers actually preferred rarer meat but scorch their hamburgers for fear of E. coli or some other food-borne illness. One reader solemnly informed me that unlike steak, where 87 percent of the meat is inside and thus sterile, ground meat is 100 percent deadly, potentially. So he cooks the hell out of it, until it is a charred patty, black outside, gray in the middle, devoid of taste.
I don’t get any of this. We are not cavemen. Food should not be something that you must kill before it kills you. And yes, this takes some toughness, and I fear the food cowards are winning.
There is a YouTube video that has been viewed more than a hundred thousand times. It’s titled “A worm in our oyster!” and that is precisely what it is. A guy finds a tiny, wriggling threadlike worm in a raw oyster. His wife or girlfriend blasts out a series of “eewws,” and “omigods,” says “I want to throw up,” and vows to never eat a raw oyster again.
Here is what I would have done: Eaten the worm. Hey, you are already eating a live sac of slime, you know?
So to all you cringing food cowards out there, I just want to leave you with a thought:
If you are very careful about what you eat, you might be able to lower the amount of certain things that you will still be eating most every day, like all of us, because they are ubiquitous in food. They are so unavoidable the government has standards for how much is permitted in food. These things you are eating every day include maggots; thrips (which resemble green translucent cockroaches); cockroaches; caterpillar larvae; mites; fruit flies; and secretions from the butt of a beaver.
For stories, features such as Date Lab, @Work Advice and more, visit WP Magazine.
Follow the Magazine on Twitter.
Like us on Facebook.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.