Article: 288685 of talk.bizarre
From: (Jonathan D Schuster)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: e.coli
Date: Mon, 02 Dec 1996 05:01:13 GMT
Organization: A vastly overrated fetish
Lines: 153
Message-ID: <32a25fc9.582806@>

I don't eat steak often.  Not because of any deeply held feelings about
vegetarianism,  nor because of concerns about my health,  either.
But my wife has been on a fairly strict diet for about the last year,
so in the spirit of solidarity with her,  I have changed my wicked ways.

I'm not perfect,  however,  and from time to time I have a craving for
beef.  Specifically a large slab of aged beef,  seared outside and blood
warm inside.  I like to see the perfect crosshatch char marks of the
grill and I want that little ribbon of fat along the edge,  with a
burned and crispy layer and I want a pile of fresh mushrooms broiled in
butter along side.  So,  on my birthday last week,  wherein by
long standing tradition the celebrant is permitted to select the
restaurant,  I chose a local steakhouse we've been to a few
times in the past.

No,  not one of those godawful pseudo-Australian "theme" restaurants[1]
that have been appearing lately,  here in the US of A,  but a small
joint that makes it a point to serve good steaks.  Not a fancy place;
located somewhere between "first-date-and-I-have-to-impress-this-person"
and "twenty-fifth-anniversary-we-deserve-the-best-damn-the-expense."
The quality of the ingredients used is good,  the lighting is subdued,
the waitstaff is attentive (and more important;  seem to genuinely enjoy
being there,  which is a quality you should watch for and reward
accordingly).  It is a nice place.  I have never been unhappy with it.

Tempt not the gods,  as they enjoy making fools of the overconfident.

I ordered a New York Strip,  fourteen ounces.  I neither wish to discuss
the relative merits of this particular cut of beef,  nor the size.  I do
not wish to debate feed lots,  land usage,  methane emissions or cruelty
to animals. I do not care to hear how badly a cut of meat like this can
affect my coronary arteries.  This is what I ordered.  Live with it. 

All was going smoothly.  I was charming and witty while schmoozing our
lovely waitperson during the selection of side dishes.

Then the fateful moment:

Waitperson: "And how would you like that cooked?"

Me: "Very rare," attempting wit, "just show the cow the grill,  then
kill it."

WP (grave): "Oh,  I _am_ sorry,  we can't do that."

Me (temporarily clueless): "Oh, I was kidding. Ha Ha. Just cook it a
little less than rare, ok?" 

WP: "No, sir,  I'm afraid we are not allowed to serve anything less than
medium rare.  We have to do this,  for your safety.  Will that be ok?"

Me: "Uhhhm, no.  No it would not.  What are you doing for my safety?"

WP (leaning in close and speaking softly): "It is because of the e-coli.
It sometimes gets in the meat.  You wouldn't want that,  it can make
you sick and the meat needs to be cooked to get rid of it."

(leaning in very close to me,  so as not alarm the other patrons)

  "People have _died_  from eating meat that wasn't cooked enough.  So
we have a rule,  we can't serve anything less than medium rare."

I believe I am a fairly easy-going type.  I try to take the position
that while stupidity is often fatal,  ignorance can be cured through
education [2].  It seemed to me quite clear that what was required here
was education.

So I proceeded to enlighten my dear friend with the following points:

1) E-coli is a fairly rare contaminant.

2) The problem with meat occurs when the bacterium is introduced
into meat,  as when it is ground into hamburger. 

3) Surface contamination on a whole cut,  like a steak,  merely requires
   searing the surface of the beef to kill the bug.

4) The reported deaths were result of eating undercooked hamburger.

5) Death is more likely in the very young or the elderly.  I am neither.

I was brilliant.  Impassioned.  I laid out my argument logically and
with passion.  All in all, it was a grand lecture. Not one of my best,
but fairly impressive considering it was both impromptu and lubricated
with one of Scotland's better single-malt refreshments.

Throughout this dissertation,  my lovely bride (who has seen this type
of thing all too often when in public with me) merely amused herself by
folding and re-folding the table linens into interesting origami shapes.
When I completed my elucidation of point #5,  the now visibly
uncomfortable waitperson held up one hand and offered
the following blistering riposte:

"Uhm, I think maybe I had better get the manager."

And made a tactical withdrawal toward the nether regions of the

Sitting back,  I rewarded my brilliance with additional liquid
refreshment. I was confident that the manager,  once summoned from the
bowels of the office, would be positively overawed by my point of view
and dinner would resume unimpeded. Further,  this tale of "JD Schuster
-vs- the waitogre" would be passed on from generation to generation as
another classic illumination of the principle of knowledge triumphing
over ignorance and superstition.  I was imagining some modern-day
Michelangelo capturing my essence in a glorious frieze depicting this
heroic battle.  I was awaiting a call from the Pope regarding possible
canonization (pre-posthumus, as it might have to be).  I was calm,  I
was serene,  I was tapped on the shoulder...

"What seems to be the problem here?"

Now,  let me assure you that any conversation that begins with that
sentence is one that doesn't bode well for the person required to come
up with an answer.  Also, once an issue has assumed the proportions of
"The Problem",  you are not in a good position to bargain.  I forged
ahead,  heedless of my fate.  I once again presented my argument.  The
manager responded by advising me,  ever so nicely,  that it would be
better for all concerned if I were to agree to have my steak cooked

I suggested that perhaps the concern was rooted in the litigious nature
of modern society in the US of A.  I indicated my willingness to sign
any waiver they had available.  If they didn't have a form waiver
available,  I offered to draft one on the spot and challenged him to ask
any lawyer[3] in the restaurant to find flaw with the document.  The
manager avowed that this was not the issue;  that he and the
restaurant really had concerns for my health.

Parts of the rest of it are a little hazy.  I do not recall exactly when
I departed controlled flight,  but I suspect it was while trying to
absorb the legal fiction of a business entity having concern about my
health.  I seem to remember sarcastically asking them why,  then,  were
we seated under the same roof as patrons who were smoking?  And why
also,  would they serve alcohol?

I have a vague recollection of asking if "Hannibal Lechter" came into
the restaurant and tried to eat the manager's liver "with fava beans and
a nice Chianti" if he would have to wait for them to cook it up

I wound up ordering the stuffed flounder.  It was overcooked.  Of

JD Schuster
Dec 01 1996

[1] no disrespect intended.  I suspect the "fad" may be somewhat
insulting to Australians.
[2] a steal from, I believe, Robert Heinlein.
[3] no I am not,  thank you very much,  apology accepted.