It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain
When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).
You can’t eat certain foods raw.
Among these no-no’s are raw milk, raw eggs and raw meat. Let’s demolish the raw milk nonsense first. As long as the milk cow is healthy and the milking practices sanitary (not sterile, just basic cleanliness) you can drink raw milk until the cows come home. Millions of people all over the world have done so for thousands of years and continue to do so, without any ill effects. In some countries in Europe, you can buy bottles of raw milk from vending machines. Moreover, raw milk is more nutritious than the pasteurized stuff.
When it comes to raw eggs, there’s a caveat – you can’t eat store-bought eggs raw. Store-bought eggs are washed. This removes the protective coating which would otherwise protect them from bacteria getting into the egg. Not to mention that the water in which the eggs are washed is not particularly sanitary as it is continually reused to wash large numbers of eggs, so as the eggs are stripped of their protective coating, they are also often being inoculated with bacteria. Think of the condition of the wash water when you finish hand-washing dishes – quite the primordial soup. It’s best to eat only the freshest of raw eggs and you should make sure the shells are clean and intact. Common sense should tell you not to eat eggs that have mud or manure on them. You can, if you desire, wash the eggs just prior to cracking them.
Plenty of people eat raw meat – think steak tartare, which is simply finely chopped raw beef (although it may also be horsemeat or venison). The meat is typically mixed with onions, capers, a raw egg and perhaps a bit of Worchestershire sauce. And of course, there’s sushi. As with commercial eggs, I would be leery of eating commercially raised meats raw, as those animals are not raised in ideal conditions and there are plenty of ways for them to become contaminated by sloppy processing practices. But your home-raised meats should be fine. There’s a bit more of a risk with raw pork, because pigs raised in foraging situations may eat meat from wild animals infested with trichinella spiralis, the bug that causes trichinosis. If you raise your own pork and control what your animals eat, there’s little to no risk. Even if you don’t want to eat meats raw, you can rest assured that it is not necessary to cook them to death, particularly pork, which only needs to be cooked to 135 degrees, not the 170 degrees many “experts” recommend.
Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum was the one who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.