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Meat Is Scary

October 8, 2009


Last weekend I read an article in the New York Times about E. coli in the country’s ground beef supply.  It completely freaked me out.  I am already a weirdo about preparing raw meat at home:  when I open a package of raw meat I take every step possible to get the meat into the dish without actually touching it with my hands.  I have to wipe down all surfaces and fixtures with a disinfecting wipe during and after the handling of uncooked meat.  I have to wash my hands repeatedly after touching the meat.  Sometimes I will call my husband into the kitchen to add an ingredient to the recipe if my hands are “meaty” because I don’t want to cross-contaminate. I make sure all  meats I am cooking are at the proper temperature before serving.  Ground beef and chicken freak me out the most. This is all the result reading articles like the one mentioned above.

I have a love/hate relationship with meat.  Growing up my mother almost never cooked meat for meals.  We occasionally had chicken and on holidays there was turkey, but any beef products came straight from McDonald’s.  It wasn’t that she had some ethics about it, she just didn’t really enjoy eating a lot of meat herself and so didn’t prepare it very often.  My dad’s house was another story:  I don’t think he could comprehend a meal without meat.  Steaks, ribs, stews, fish and roasts were de rigueur at any given dinner.  Since I spent the majority of my time with my mother, I almost considered meat a special treat.  I definitely did not view meat as a necessary component of a satisfying meal.

When I was 16 I became a vegetarian.  Not because of any great ethical revelation, but, to be frank, my disgust at the way human blood smelled just like animal blood when heated (weird experiment in chemistry class).  I didn’t eat meat for about 7 years.  I can’t recall why I started eating meat again- someone probably waved a juicy sirloin under my nose- but I did.  Still, I virtually never cooked meat at home: 1) I still did not think of meat as necessary to make a meal and 2) I didn’t have much experience in preparing it.

About 6 years ago I started eating a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.  This meant I had to start eating a lot more meat.  No longer did a rice dish or a bowl of mashed potatoes constitute dinner.  I started cooking more and more meat at home.  Then my husband and I moved in together.  My husband is that rare form of human who must and does feed constantly, eating anything he wants, yet never gains a pound.  I was used to eating 2 meals a day max while hubby ate at least 4 times a day.  A big salad was not going to meet this man’s ideal of dinner: he needed some protein.  I started cooking meat at home even more.  We got a slow cooker which meant even my husband could cook a pot roast- as long as I laid out all of the ingredients ahead of time.

I enjoy steaks, seafood, and poultry.  I love eating a high-protein diet because it controls my appetite/ weight and I don’t have the after-meal tireds.  But something about eating meat still creeps me out.  Part of it is the meat industry and how it operates, part of it is the killing of innocent animals, part of it is E. coli/ salmonella factor, part of it is the environmental issue.  If eating carbohydrates didn’t mess with my energy and weight levels so much, I would still be living on potatoes, spaghetti, and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Also, bacon.  I mean, let’s be serious: one cannot be a true vegetarian without the occasional crispy slice of bacon.

The E. coli article talked about how much of our ground beef is an amalgam of cow products from all over the globe, thereby making it more difficult to track when bacteria out breaks occur.  We went grocery shopping the day after I read the article.  I asked the butcher where their ground beef came from and asked if they tested for E. coli.  He explained to me their process and it reassured me for the most part, but still left me a bit wary.  I still have my love-disgust relationship with meat, especially when it is sitting in my refrigerator.  But tonight I am making low-carb chili with a boat load of ground beef (and a side of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes), so I will get over it for awhile.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 11:21 am

    When I was a little girl, we were fairly poor and meat for dinner was reserved for Sundays only. We ate a lot of potatoes and pasta to fill in the gaps. Sunday dinner was awesome and I learned very early on that it was best to get to the table first to get the best looking piece of whatever was being served that day!

    Your story makes me realize that my relationship with food is all love! I love meat because it is “special” and I love my carbohydrates because they are now my “comfort” foods.

    Ha, ha! I wish there was something I didn’t like!

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      October 9, 2009 2:51 pm

      I loved your comment, Cindy. I think for most people food does indeed have an emotional component to it. I know when I am cooking for my husband or friends, I am expressing love for them. I try really hard to not associate food that I eat with emotions but sometimes, especially when my mom cooks for me, I do find it awfully comforting!

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