I didn’t grow up on raw meat or fish. In fact it wasn’t until I reached by 20’s that I learned that one could have a steak other than “well-done”. Ok maybe that is an exaggeration but it’s safe to say that the words “rare” or “medium rare” were never spoken in my parents’ kitchen. Like most Nigerians, meat in my home was thoroughly cooked before it was placed on the dinner table. For instance in cooking stew, meat would first be boiled in the preparation of a stock. Then carefully roasted until just “dry” but not burnt. After this the meat would be added to a pot of simmering stew to slowly add depth & richness of flavor before the stew is served over rice. The same process would be repeated when preparing egusi, ogbono or any other meal containing beef or poultry. Eating meat any other way never crossed my mind when I was a young child.
Now some of my peers of similar cultural background love their steak medium rare and relish the taste of raw seafood. I have not acquired the taste for this yet. So this can be a bit challenging when eating at restaurants. For most restaurants in America the standard preparation for steak is medium rare, oysters can often be served raw and tuna may be lightly seared, cut and served with its raw pink centers elegantly arranged on your plate. So here’s what I do to avoid raw meat/fish when traveling or going to dinner with friends.
Seafood like mussels and clams are usually served cooked so I feel free to order them. Oysters however can be cooked or raw, so I usually check into the preparation first before ordering. Fish is usually throughly cooked except for tuna and sushi. But if I am invited to a sushi restaurant I don’t worry since there are usually a few options on the menu that do not contain raw fish. (At least at the at ones I have been to in Southern California.) I usually order something like teriyaki chicken with rice or some cooked appetizers.
At burger eateries I ask the clerk how the meat is prepared. Fast-casual restaurants tend to cook burgers a bit on the medium side. At those places I just have the turkey or chicken burgers. Beef from barbecue restaurants are usually well done so I eat brisket to my heart’s content. At steak houses I skip the beef and order a fish, such as salmon, which is traditionally served fully cooked. I have tried ordering steak well done in the past but often its a hit or miss. It was once suggested to me that I can get a well cooked steak if I request it to be cooked “medium-well”. I tried this preparation once while having dinner with my sister in San Francisco. The meat was juicy, flavorful and fully cooked. I’ll try it again at another restaurant sometime.