The night before Thanksgiving, no beef with beef

Humor

Janet's World

December 06, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Special to The Baltimore Sun

When you visit the heartland of America, sometimes you overindulge on beef. It's easy to do, especially when you get off a plane on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at 10:50 p.m., snatch your luggage off the carousel, stand in a long line to rent a car and drive an hour to the hotel, only to discover that your 15-year-old son is starving, just starving! What's more, he can't possibly go to sleep unless he has something to eat. Right now.

At 1 in the morning in Indianapolis, you can usually find just two places open for a snack that late: Steak 'n' Shake and White Castle. You're in for a beefy time.

Luckily for me, I have a way of compartmentalizing alarming stuff I have read about the dangers of beef consumption. Sure, I try to limit my purchase and intake of red meat when I'm shopping and cooking at home, but when I'm traveling, I conveniently manage to forget all about the frightening article I read in Time magazine a few months ago called "Getting real about the high cost of cheap food," by Bryan Walsh.

I was so appalled after reading this in-depth article about the dangers of corn-fed beef that I attempted to summarize it at dinnertime for my children in the following manner, which apparently my college daughter found so amusing she quoted it on her Facebook information page under favorite quotes. According to my daughter, I told her: "You should read it. The cows are only allowed to, you know, walk around for a few months and then they're caged up with their heads right next to each other and they have to take antibiotics to keep them from getting the diseases you get when your heads are so close together. And then they die and we eat them and we eat those antibiotics and we die and end up in the ground with other dead people, our heads all close together. Just like the cows. Circle of life."

Upon reflection, this is a dramatic and somewhat incoherent summary that probably would make reporter Bryan Walsh wish he could cancel my subscription to Time to prevent my referencing his future pieces. But I would like to say that his article definitely had an impact on my shopping and eating habits, except when I'm hungry at one in the morning in Indianapolis.

So we all went to Steak 'n' Shake, where we were served by Mr. Methamphetamine, an excessively cheery twentysomething who looked a bit like Napoleon Dynamite. He handed us glossy red menus urging us to try one of the four meals under four dollars or the hand-dipped milkshakes. I felt like I was in a movie where the director had cast the perfect server - he was incredibly friendly and energetic; and he used the phrase "for sure" a lot. For sure, this is as agreeable a phrase as any, especially when you need some more ketchup or napkins or a refill of your drink. It seems to say, "Nothing is impossible in this paradise of cheap beef. Enjoy it now! Because someday your arteries will harden and you will die, for sure."

For sure, our food came to the table in just eight minutes. I ordered the Steakburger Shooters, because you get three mini burgers and you can deceive yourself into thinking "I am definitely not eating the same amount of beef as contained in my son's double guacamole burger." It was delicious.

When the bill came, our family of five had beefed up significantly for under $30. I'm not certain that's ever happened before, for sure. But the bill suddenly reminded me of Walsh's piece.

We returned to our hotel and slept fitfully. And I dreamed of an America where there's a McBroccoli's open 24/7, or an Eggplant King, or perhaps even a Spinach 'n' Shake.

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