A history of well-done meat in America.

What to eat. What not to eat.
June 16 2010 10:01 AM

Shoe-Leather Reporting

A history of well-done meat in America.

(Continued from Page 2)

It was time for a steak. I chose steak because it's basic and classic—the Brooks Brothers of the meat world—and chose to order one at SoHo's seasonally-focused Savoy, believing that meat is safer at a restaurant that relies on trusted purveyors rather than factory farms. As for a dining companion, I picked my mother, because she's no fan of undercooked meat herself. I ordered grilled sirloin with cipollini onions and heirloom fingerling potatoes. It was one of the first times in my life I chose an entree for its center rather than its sides. When the waitress said, "Is medium-rare OK?" it was the moment I'd been anticipating, like a proposal. "Yes," I answered. Yes!

And then: here was my steak. "Well, it certainly is rare," said my mother, peering across the table. It was black and crusty on the outside and in the middle, dark red. It had been cut into thin slices, which was reassuring. There would be no mystery center—a raw shocker halfway through my meal. I wouldn't have to worry that the kitchen hadn't realized the inside was still bloody; a professional had evaluated this meat, decided it was OK like that. Normally I would have started with the most well-done strip, but this time I went right for the red. I tasted it, and it was: good.

The meat gave beneath my fork. It was tender. It was juicy. But here's the catch: I didn't revel in its merits. And this confirmed what I had suspected: that these aren't necessarily qualities I prize in food. When people say "juicy," I think of Starburst TV commercials from the 1980s—an artificially flavored explosion in my mouth. I was reminded of an observation I'd come across online: People who prefer well-done don't regard the lack of juiciness as a problem. They like dried things. Liking dried things: Yes, this was me. It was a motif, a style, an inclination for the arid: for raisins, for the air in Colorado, for floorboards without the high-gloss sheen. My spirits fell a little. Is this who I am, a lover of the desiccated? I poked around with my fork, and my heart lifted at discovering something blackened: the onions. Delicious. Then I cut a bite of a savory, well-cooked end strip. "See, this is so good," I said, sighing. It was disappointing to admit it. "This is what I like."

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.