"You don't win friends with salad," according to Homer Simpson. Or lovers, if an article in Thursday's New York Times is to be believed.
Ordering a salad on a date might make you seem "vapid and uninteresting," one woman told reporter Allen Salkin. Choosing a steak or burger, apparently, suggests that you're a fascinating woman of substance, and conveys the message that you're "unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic," the woman added. Not like all those phony fancypants foaming-at-the-mouth vegetarians, I guess.
The New York Times has cleverly decided to play both sides of the carnivore/herbivore culture war, tossing this bouquet to beef eaters just two weeks after giving the cow huggers a big bear hug on the cover of the "Dining Out" section. This article, by contrast, ran on the front page of the "Styles" section, whose stock in trade is thin, shallow articles about thin, shallow people. Alas, Salkin knows just how to get my free-range, grass-fed goat.
The eye-catching title -- "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye" -- was guaranteed to please the stock brokers who love livestock and the well-shod fillies who vie to be their brood mares. And equally sure to rile up the vegan/feminist/environmentalist crowd, whose huffing and puffing no doubt helped propel this weightless piece of fluff right to the top of the New York Times' "most-e-mailed" list where it sits as I write this.
I just couldn't sit here and let vegetables be vilified like that, for one thing. What was more annoying about this article? The weird, retrograde mindset of the women who order plates to please their dates? The hatchet job on herbivores? The slander of salads? The notion that flaunting a flank steak makes you a maverick?
Look, I'm a meat-eater, myself, and though I do my best to steer clear of factory farmed steers, I'm not a purist. I had a non-grass-fed burger at the Teamsters cookout last week at Yearly Kos (OK, full disclosure, I ate a hotdog, too -- and so did Marion Nestle, who practices what she preaches -- moderation!) But I'd rather be a conscientious carnivore and get my burgers and dogs from Hawthorne Valley and Fleisher"s, who offer organic, humanely raised meats.
Salkin serves up beef as a badge of honor, but stewing in those steak juices is a growing stigma attached to consuming factory farmed meat, because (a) it's loaded with heart-hazardous saturated fats (grass-fed meats, by contrast, contain good fats), and (b) our meat-centric diet is chewing up the planet, spewing greenhouse gases, ravaging rain forests, and miring us in manure lagoons.
So, go ahead and order that sexy, Diet-for-a-Small-Minded Planet steak or burger, but don't miss the big picture, which is not so hot. If you want to have your steak and eat it, too, the grass-fed beef is greener. Is humane meat an oxymoron? I'm not sure, but it's surely the lesser of two evils. As the herbivores at Herbivore say, Eat Like You Give a Damn. Of course, they also say there's no such thing as humane meat. Lead us not into tempeh-tation!