Memoir Parenting

The Perils and Delights of Raw Meat

"Indulgence of the Flesh" by 4T9R @

“You’re not really going to eat that, are you?” a friend asked me just as I was about to bite into a fabulous piece of very, rare filet.

As a little girl, whenever my father would barbeque, he would always let me sneak a few little pieces of meat off the grill long before they were ready to be served. Charred on the outside and raw on the inside; that was the taste of summer.

In the years before microwaves, when mothers had to decide what they were making for dinner by breakfast each morning, my mother would sometimes put out hamburger meat and, if I was lucky, by the time I got home from school, she would have fashioned them into seasoned patties, ready to go into the oven. In super stealth mode, I would sneak into the kitchen to snatch little bits of uncooked burger from the porcelain plate where they waited to be broiled. I think once I actually ate an entire  burger – raw. This was frowned upon by my mother but not seen as dangerous or cause for grave concern.

My immediate family knows I am a carnivore. To this day, I have a taste for raw, red meat, and I totally gross out my husband. People are always telling me that I am going to get E.coli or trichinosis or salmonella or staphylococcus or some other creepy bacteria that I can’t see or smell.

"mince meat" by sinsiwinsi @

I can’t even disagree with the people who tell me this. I know that E. coli 0157:H7 are like super-bacteria and have managed to mutate so that they survive refrigeration and freezer temperatures and, once in food, they can multiply quickly. People delight in telling me I am being stupid and stubborn, and if I would only agree to cooking my meat just a little more, the bacteria would be killed.

I know the FDA recommendations. People tell me I am tempting the food gods. All I can tell you is in a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, there was a drop in the cases of E. coli 0157 and that it struck “fewer than one case per 100,000 people” and they are clear when they point out that “death is rare.”

Maybe someone should have told my mother 40 years ago that she shouldn’t have left the burgers out at room temperature for more than two hours because, honestly, it was really just delicious. I never got sick. Not even so much as a stomach ache.

People can speak to me about animal cruelty until the cows come home. (Ooh, that is probably a bad choice of words to use here.) And seriously, I am not unsympathetic. I have seen videos of the inhumane ways that cattle have been slaughtered, and it is awful to watch. Truly gruesome. I like to believe the kosher meat that I purchase is prepared a bit more carefully, but I’m not positive that this is the case. For a little while I tried not to eat red meat, but I fell off the wagon with my folk and knife poised over a gorgeous slab of prime rib.

All I know is that I survived my father’s raw steaks, my mother’s raw burgers, piles of steak tartar, 15 years of sushi (some served at restaurants of questionable repute) . . .  and on a tangential yet not completely unrelated note, as I’m sure you can imagine, I absolutely, positively always lick the bowl that held the raw cookie dough. And I’m still here.

I’m still here.

15 thoughts on “The Perils and Delights of Raw Meat

  1. I am a well done gal myself! I get nervous when my son eats it still mooing! Since you are still here I can back off a wee bit on that issue!

  2. I’m right there with you! When ordering a steak or burger in restaurants and they ask how I’d like it cooked, I respond with “As rare as they’ll cook it.”

    Ditto on the seemingly casual disregard of E. coli infection. And folks are always apprehensive about animal cruelty issues. While I don’t deny cases exist, which is horribly unfortunate, I shall say this. As an Animal Science major at LSU, one of my classes was “Meat Science” and the lab for the class was working at the slaughter facility that is right smack in the heart of LSU’s campus. If you’ve never been in the building, you don’t even know it’s there. And while I don’t like the government micromanaging too many aspects of life, I do fully insist that the USDA continues to oversee all facets of commercial husbandry and slaughter.

    It’s a blog for another day, but I can describe for you exactly how cattle, hogs and lambs are slaughtered, and the USDA inspector’s presence and involvement in the process, everything down to their inspection of the tongues, lymph nodes and finished carcasses of the animals But I digress…….

    Point is, while I share your mixed feelings on said topics, I also share your love of red meat. Likewise I’m willing to take those same risks to enjoy it.

  3. Of course, I am up early, reading everyone’s blog posts…that being said; I love you for keeping it real. I too, grew up in a household that worshiped red meat. My father was a big meat eater and I am told that my grandfather was as well. Sadly though, neither one of them is around today to tell the tale. I’m not saying that red meat caused their premature deaths, I think that a lot of it had to do with other lifestyle maleficence; smoking, lack of exercise, excess sugars, etc..I remember the defrosting steaks in the sink, the hamburger cooked extremely rare. I’m sure that I ate raw meat on more than one occasion. We ate the cookie dough from the bowl. I have eaten and continue to eat sushi; it’s one of my favorite treats. And no, I have never become ill. I don’t remember my parents being extra cautious by sanitizing the cutting boards or worrying about salmonella.

    I don’t eat very much meat these days, not that I’m a vegetarian or vegan, but I just feel better when I eat less meat and more fruits and vegetables. I don’t impose my beliefs upon others and if someone wants to eat a really raw steak, all the power to them. God gave us canine teeth for a reason.

  4. I eat my steaks so rare my family swears they still moo! Bobby and I fight over who grills, his steaks will undoubtedly be over-done, mine will be mostly raw. The way I see it they can throw theirs back on if they don’t like it, but mine will never moo again!

    I do cook hamburgers all the way through though. Ground beef scares me a bit. Bobby used to eat it raw as a kid too. Until I read this I thought he was some sort of freak, I’d never heard of anyone doing that before, but I guess he was not alone!

  5. I think the cookie dough from the bowl is sometimes better than the finished product! I am a “rare girl” myself and my husband was a cook-it-until-it-is-really-dead kind of guy. But, in the 10 years that we have been together, he is mellowing a bit and doesn’t ruin the meat quite so much and will order it medium. Maybe in another 10 years, he will order it rare!

  6. Ah! Oh! You are definitely my daughter. I taught you all these things to eat. My parents loved rare food. I followed their ways and was lucky to never get sick. Hmm…maybe the answer is ”eat red meat”. I confess, maybe we were just lucky. I continue to love rare roast beef, rare steak, and medium-rare hamburgers. I have grown to love raw fish. I even like sushi bars now! I do eat less meat….but oh! that juicy red meat is so yummy. Alas….eating healthy is a good idea. So I suggest watching all meat rare, medium, and well-done.

  7. I like my broccoli medium-rare and my asparagus very rare. I eat my lettuce raw and my escarole well-done.

    I like it when my bacon stands up on it’s own cuz I like it crispy…chicken needs to be done but not dried to a state of chicken-jerky! After years of insisting that my beef be browner than brown all the way through, I have learned that beef and steak in particular…needs to have a bit of pink to be really yummy for me!

    1. That little bit of slightly-rare is my favorite part. I like it a light rose shade, not the deep reddish-purple of the truly raw.

  8. I love raw cookie dough more than baked cookies. But I like my meat well-done. I could never eat a rare steak or burger.

  9. Now, I like my meat a little less than fully cooked, but downright raw hamburger scares me more than a little. (And just sounds gross…)

    I am pretty sure I’m with you though; bacteria in food has become a slightly smaller risk in recent decades. If you enjoy it raw, go ahead and do so. It’s not like people who eat their food cooked never get food poisoning either.

  10. My significant other introduced me to a family tradition of eating raw beef sandwiches on New Year’s Eve. Raw ground beef on slices of french bread, seasoned with salt (and a little raw onion for those who like that). YUM!

    I agree that the raw cookie dough (especially choc chip) is better than the finished product!

  11. One of my favorite lines from the infamous movie ‘Pulp Fiction’ during the drive-in diner scene:
    ‘Burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell?’

    I’m a Bloody as Hell kinda’ girl myself!

  12. mm I love raw hambuger and blue rare meat. Its my mom’s fault she got hooked as a kid when they still sold them as a sandwich option and after that became a no-no she still kept making open face raw burger sandwiches. I also eat the cookie dough raw its way better than cookies.

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