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August 2003
Vegetarian Advocate: Steak: Pam Anderson’s “Perfect” Party Food

By Jack Rosenberger



On the first day of our summer vacation in Cape Cod I placed a large bowl on the kitchen counter in our motel room and started collecting leftover dry food. By the morning of the third day my wife and I had gathered about five cups of day-old pita bread, unwanted popcorn, half of a sandwich bun, and several small slices of whole wheat bread. Early that morning, Zoe, my daughter, and I walked along the beach to a nearby motel, on the roof of which a group of seagulls were resting. Zoe and I fed the leftovers to the seagulls, many of whom seemed fiercely hungry.

It felt good to share the scraps of food with the seagulls. However, I was a little concerned about our feeding the birds. After all, some people regard seagulls as pests (and vice versa?), and while we probably weren’t breaking any law by feeding them, our doing so might provoke someone to verbally confront or lash out at us. However, it was early in the morning; few of the tourists were awake, and hadn’t yet begun to decorate the beach with empty water bottles, broken toys, and candy wrappers.

Nearby, a heavyset, older man was sitting on his motel room’s deck, watching Zoe and me. When we had finished feeding the seagulls and were walking back to our motel, the man said something to us. I couldn’t hear it, so I said “What?” in a friendly voice.
The man repeated himself, but the wind stole his words again. I moved closer to him, then repeated my question. Speaking louder, he said, “You’ve done your good deed for the day.”

I acknowledged his remark, smiled, and continued walking, but his words led me to reflect about good deeds. One of the implications of his remark is that the status quo requires merely one good deed per day. After all, no one says, “You’ve done your first good deed for the day” or “You’re one good deed ahead of me for today.”

How many good deeds can a person do in a day? I wondered. As Zoe and I walked across the seaweed-strewn beach, I recalled a cooking column I’d clipped and read the previous day.

Steak: Party Food?
Pam Anderson (not to be confused with the animal-friendly Baywatch actress, Pamela Anderson) writes a food column called “CookSmart” for USA Weekend, a popular Sunday newspaper supplement, and her most recent effort was titled “Great Steak: How to Cook for a Crowd.” In the column, Anderson told her readers how to properly prepare and cook steaks for a large gathering. “Steaks,” Anderson proclaimed, “are the perfect party food.”

Apparently Anderson thinks Americans aren’t consuming enough cholesterol and saturated fat.

What I found most intriguing about Anderson’s “Great Steak” column is what she didn’t write about. Anderson discusses the preparation and cooking of steak, but the implications of eating steak in terms of human health (or, heaven forbid, in terms of environmental or ethical issues) are never once addressed. It’s as though actions exist, consequences don’t.

Despite the well-documented health consequences of eating too much red meat, Anderson encourages her readers to chow down on six to eight ounces of rib-eyes or strip steaks and eight or ten ounces of filet mignon at a single sitting.

Of the ten leading causes of death in America, the top three—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—are diet-related diseases. Anderson’s column blissfully ignores this fact. As for her claim that steak is “the perfect party food,” Anderson’s right—if you are trying to kill your guests.

Steak Overkill
Of course, countless newspapers, magazines, and websites are well stocked with articles and columns from food writers like Anderson who encourage readers to eat hamburgers, meatloaf, and steak without mentioning the health ramifications of red meat consumption, the environmental consequences of football field-sized lagoons filled to the brim with bovine excrement, or alluding to the pain and misery on the killing floor of a slaughterhouse. Likewise, Anderson doesn’t exclusively ply her readers with meaty recipes; for instance, her “Great Steak” column was followed by one on berry shortcake. Yet, when Americans are dying in droves from eating too much red meat, is it ethically responsible for a food columnist to encourage people to serve massive quantities of steak to her or his friends?

In a phone interview, Anderson said her mission as a writer is “not to change the world but to inspire people to cook and entertain.” Anderson doesn’t believe Americans eat too much meat, saying “people on the Atkin’s diet wouldn’t agree.” As for the meaty diet of Anderson and other carnivores being responsible for the deaths of countless nonhuman animals each year, Anderson’s response: “Eating meat is in our blood. It’s our roots. My body needs protein. I like my meat.”

Every occupation entails certain ethical or professional responsibilities. Journalists, for example, are professionally obligated for their reporting to be fair, accurate and balanced. Food journalists like Anderson, I believe, have an obligation to consider the health, ethical, environmental aspects of food.

You might have more luck than I did with Anderson by speaking to her directly from your heart. Perhaps Anderson will recognize her column as an opportunity to perform a good deed. Also, you might want to contact Anderson’s boss, executive editor Jack Curry, and suggest that future meat-filled columns carry the following disclaimer: “Editorial warning: Reading this column might be hazardous to your health.”

Contact: USA Weekend, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22107; (800) 487-2956;


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