Pork – I’m not so open-minded after all

Today I was going to write a post about pork and buttermilk. Mostly this was for my own benefit. I had two questions – is it safe to eat medium-rare pork? What is “cultured” buttermilk? (Or “uncultured” buttermilk for that matter.)

And, in case it wasn’t clear to any of you before – I’m a “Mom” cook. My specialties are things like “stuff you can make with canned tuna.” Don’t ever think I know anything. There. You’ve been warned.

A few years ago, restaurants started asking us how we wanted our pork cooked. Pork. The first time it happened, Bones and I just stared at the poor waiter until he started to sweat.

“We recommend medium rare,” he finally offered.

Greatly daring, we went medium. In my head, I was screaming. WELL DONE.

After he left, we stared at each other across the table. Medium-rare pork? Recommended? Now I knew how those people who order well-done prime rib felt (tastes just like roast beef!).

We had just committed the dining faux pas of ordering over-done pork.

Now, you have to know, Bones and I consider ourselves adventurous eaters. I’m down for head-cheese, boudin noir (which is illegal to sell, btw), frog legs, and snake. I’m pretty sure I could eat roasted crickets (so far, no one has offered me any). I’m not shy about trying International dishes I know nothing about (What’s good? How do I eat it?) I’m not skittish about not-so-cooked-meat either. If my beef doesn’t make it all the way to medium-rare, well, as long as it doesn’t moo, I’m happy. Fish? Okay, I’ll eat fish almost any way you offer it, but I’ll eat sashimi until you stop bringing it to me. I’m not even a huge stickler for FDA warnings (the expiration date post is here).

I’m happy to take server recommendations.

Except medium-rare pork. My self-image crashed and burned. It must be safe or restaurants wouldn’t be serving it that way. So why couldn’t I order it cooked as suggested?

Because when I was growing up, you did not eat under-cooked (by which I mean anything but well-done) pork. Period. Despite the fact that I have abandoned quite a few of the beliefs that I held growing up, I can’t shake this one.

I’m stunned to realize that it was easier for me to change my religion than deeply held food safety guidelines.

I’m obviously not as open-minded and free-thinking as I thought I was.


On the up-side, we managed “medium.” Baby steps.

Oh, and in case you think I took some college kid’s word that the pork was safe…yes, of course I looked it up.

Here’s Bon Appétit calling my feelings on the issue seriously outdated as far back as 2009. I’m only slightly mollified that their expert recommends medium rather than medium-rare.

Here’s the Chicago Tribune reporting the change in the FDA guidelines back in 2011 and here are the actual, current FDA guidelines for internal temps.

This post debunking 9 Cooking myths was fun – although they lost cred over the pasta thing. If you have left-over pasta you aren’t storing in sauce, the olive oil DOES keep it from sticking (I put leftovers in the fridge like this all the time, then heat and eat with a little fresh pepper and Parmesan). No oil and it’s a clumpy mess when you take it out.

And here are some statistics about trichinosis showing that only about 11 cases per year are reported in the US. Logic and statistics. This really should make me feel better. But somehow it is now an unreasonable phobia – like my fear that I’ll drive into a puddle some day and fall through to China.

So – my lesson for today: Question what you know. Seriously, keep questioning.

We’ll get to that buttermilk thing some other time. Today I’m still grappling with my stunning inability to accept modern thinking. Next I’ll deny climate change and insist that creationism be taught in school.

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