Helen Rosner — Actually, How Donald Trump Eats His Steak Matters

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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99 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Considering Trump’s business career, this bit of pop psychology seems off-placed and wrong. Trump is many things but I don’t think risk adverse is one of them. If he was really risk averse, he would have invested his inheritance in an index found and enjoyed a prosperous life off of it. Instead Trump decide to engage in the world of business through a variety of means, many of questionable legality, and late in life enter politics as a right populist. That is rather risky behavior.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      He’s risk averse now. After his initial failures (he what, one actual success with his own money?) and getting bailed out by his Dad, he shifted to a deal-making position. As I understand his pre-branding business model, his own money was rarely (if ever) at risk.

      Other people’s money was at risk, and Trump took a cut succeed or fail.

      He later moved to branding, wherein his money isn’t even involved.

      Not that how he likes his steak has jack-all to do with that.Report

  2. Brandon Berg says:


    I’m appalled too, and I guarantee I will beat anyone here in a rare-meat pissing contest, but with all the legitimate criticisms to be made of Trump’s policies, this seems petty at best, and a distraction at worst.Report

  3. notme says:

    I don’t like rare or med rare steaks either but it’s more of a texture/mouth feel thing.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Turn a Matter of Taste into a Matter of Aesthetics.

    Turn a Matter of Aesthetics into a Matter of Morality.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Just as long as he doesn’t remind every man in America of his ex-wife.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


      You keep on saying this mantra but you keep on refusing to expand on it or address any complications. What is your formula for deciding what is a matter of taste and what is a matter of morality? Who gets to decide what is what? How about things like sexual identity as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual? It seems that the left largely treats this as a matter of taste (combined with some morality) but to the right-wing, it is largely a matter of morality with heterosexuality being the only choice.

      But you keep on insisting that if we merely separated matters of taste from matters of morality, everything will be honky dory.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Pretty simple really, a calculus of “Is This Any Of My Freaking Business?” generally gets me 99% of the way there.

        “How does so-and-so prefer to have the food that he, himself, is going to be eating prepared?”
        “Is This Any Of My Freaking Business?”
        “Matter of Taste, then.”

        “Does so-and-so prefer to watch Daredevil, Gilmore Girls, or Making a Murderer?”
        “Is This Any Of My Freaking Business?”
        “Matter of Taste, then.”

        There are edge cases and I’m sure you’ll come up with some interesting ones but, as far as I can tell, if something isn’t any of my freaking business, then it’s a matter of taste.

        Hey, let’s look at the examples *YOU* came up with!

        heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual

        None of my freaking business.

        “But the right wing says it’s a matter of morality!”
        “Do they do that as a precursor to explaining that something is their freaking business?”Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

          I still think you are making these way too easy on yourself and thinking about most things as none of my freakin business without thinking about how to make it so.

          There is a Jewish concept called Tikkun Olam. It roughly translates as “to mend/heal the world.” Since Judaism is a materialistic religion with vague and hazy concepts on the after life, we stress action and what people are doing during their lifetimes to help the world.

          In my view, the whole libertarian “none of my business” requires ignoring/chucking the concept of Tikkum Olam and the equivalents that exist elsewhere.

          Another concept, I think eating meat is fine, natural, and part of human evolution. I also have no problems with the use of animal products and/or even zoos as long as the animals are treated humanly.

          But I have friends who are strong on vegetarianism and veganism. They think eating meat is immoral and they find that most places where animals are kept for human use and/or consumption do so under inhumane treatment.

          Do you think this is none of their business? Do they think they should just keep their vegetarianism as a personal choice and never speak about anything regarding the treatment and use of animals?

          I admit to finding the zealotry from my vegetarian and vegan friends annoying and pesky at times but I have a hard time telling them it is none of their business if they think they are doing their actions to make the world a better place. And they will probably never make meat eating go away but they can make businesses treat animals in a more humane fashion?

          Do you support gag rules that ban animal rights activists from filming slaughter houses and industrial farms because it is none of the freaking business of animal-rights activists to tell the business owners what to do?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            So you’ve found a solution with agreeing with them that this is their business, they’re just wrong?Report

            • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

              No, I think he’s wondering if you’ve found a solution to the problem.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                “Jaybird, you shouldn’t eat meat.”
                “Okay.” (Gives hug.) “I’m still going to eat meat.”

                This results in one or two things.
                1) “I’m not going to give up on trying to make you not eat meat!”
                2) “I’m going to give up on trying to make you not eat meat.”Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

              I am saying that I think you are trying to make it way easier than it actually is and you tend to pick low-hanging fruit (which I admit the steak thing is) and then try claim that everything is low-hanging fruit except a few “edge cases.”

              I am saying that with 7 billion people in the world and countless religions, philosophies, political theories, it is very hard to come up with a simple metric of matters of taste and matters of morality. Look at how many different religions come up with really different dietary restrictions.

              I get why you want this whole matters of taste and matters of morality thing to be true but the solution many libertarians seem to come up with is just to sweep the difficult fights under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.

              How about child rearing? Is this a matter of taste or a matter of morality? My parents were pretty liberal and exposed me to art that causes conservatives to rage. They showed me Pisst Christ by Andre Seras when I was 12 or so. When I was 16, they let me go to a David Lynch movie festival by myself.

              You said you grew up Southern Baptist. You are an atheist now and probably view such things as matters of taste but what if we knew each other in high school and you were deep in the Southern Baptist thing? How would you react if I was discussing shocking artists?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Look at how many different religions come up with really different dietary restrictions.

                I have *NO* problem with, for example, Jews saying “We do not eat bacon cheeseburgers.”

                Good for them. They should knock themselves out.

                I have *HUGE* problems with “Hey! You! Jaybird! You shouldn’t eat bacon cheeseburgers!”

                “What? Is this because of the sodium restrictions the doctor put me on?”

                “What? No! It’s because it says here in the Torah that there are rules for the animals you can eat and it involves mixtures of cud-chewing and hooves and whether the hooves are cloven or not. You see, horse have hooves and chew the cud, but their hooves are not cloven. Rabbits chew the cud but they don’t have hooves at all. Pigs have hooves, but they don’t chew the cud! Also, you shouldn’t eat the meat of an animal boiled in the milk of its mother and cheeseburgers in general are not kosher because the cheese kind of boils in the stomach with the meat from the burger.”

                “Oh, okay. Yeah. I’m still going to eat this bacon cheeseburger. But don’t tell Maribou. The doctor put me on sodium restriction.”

                You said you grew up Southern Baptist. You are an atheist now and probably view such things as matters of taste but what if we knew each other in high school and you were deep in the Southern Baptist thing? How would you react if I was discussing shocking artists?

                You mean back when I believed things that I know believe to have been false and that you don’t believe either?

                I’m not sure that pointing out that people can come to this problem from a position that both of us believe are founded on untruth is as strong a counter-argument to my position as you seem to think.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

              Keep in mind that I get what you are saying. I generally like being left alone as well. I don’t like seeing the “Do you have a minute for Cause X” people on the street and when I am out and about I generally like being left alone. I don’t like that they figured out how to gauntlet the street and they generally don’t take a simple no for an answer (this could be because they are all on commission and get fired quickly for not meeting their quota).

              But these kids might not have better employment options and they might also think they are sincerely trying to save the world.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                “these kids might not have better employment options and they might also think they are sincerely trying to save the world.”

                The history of the Twentieth Century could be summed up as “over and over again, we made a huge mess and killed thousands in the name of Sincerely Trying To Save The World.”Report

          • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            O, fucking get over yourself. A libertarian can run an orphanage just as well as as a liberal can. (They can also co-opt said orphans into voluntary slavery, but… they’re STILL teaching the kids a fucking trade, and that makes them doing the HIGHEST form of Tzedakah. And it’s NOT like Judaism has some thing against SLAVERY — particularly if the kids can go free at SOME point).Report

          • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I am vegetarian. I think eating meat is immoral. But, I don’t think there should be a law about this. And I don’t think I’m being inconsistent.

            One of Rawls’s basic insights is that liberalism is possible (and even required in order for a well order society) even when people disagree radically about morality. Historically, catholics and protestants didnt decide to stop prosecuting each other just because they decided that being one or the other was just a matter of taste. They started tolerating one another in spite of it being one of the most serious matters of morality that concerned them.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:


              I agree with what you are saying in the second paragraph.

              The thing is that I think it is very, very hard to get to the second paragraph. Jaybird seems to think it is very easy and refuses to concede any sort of difficulty ever and this gets on my bad side.

              As far as I can tell, the societies that have the “none of my business” attitude are blue cities like NYC and SF and countries like The Netherlands and Sweden. The Netherlands and Sweden (and maybe NYC and SF) used a lot of social engineering/pressure to produce the “none of my business” attitude.

              Jaybird just can’t concede that this might be necessary because it goes against his former libertarianism. One of my big issues with libertarianism is that libertarians seem to think everything is so easy when it really isn’t.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          “It harms kids.”
          “Well then, this is your business.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            So… wait. Is this an example of homosexuality being The Business of Society?

            Because my gut instinct is to say that it’s an example of someone claiming that something that is a matter of taste is actually a matter of morality as a precursor to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong.

            Could you clarify which this is for me? Thanks.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              I think people would argue that homosexuality harms children and, therefore, it is their business if they have kids.

              ETA: Which really means we’re shifting from “taste vs morality” to “my business vs not my business.”

              Do we have an objective standard for determining what is whose business?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Which really means we’re shifting from “taste vs morality” to “my business vs not my business.”

                That’s the rule of thumb that I use to determine whether something is taste or morality.

                I suppose it is a roundabout begging of the question, now that I think about it, though.

                Do we have an objective standard for determining what is whose business?

                The Book of Mormon.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                The play or the book?

                I generally agree with your rule of thumb.

                But if folks disagree on its execution… we’re back to square one.

                I think we should answer such questions by asking experts. Thankfully, most people agree! All we have to sort out is who the right experts are.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                We need expert experts.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m come up with an objective system for ranking experts.

                Firsy criteria: how likely are they to agree with me?

                But let’s get back to my original point: if someone were to argue to you that homosexuality is a matter of morality because the acceptance of homosexuality is harmful to children and they have children whom they do not want harmed, and thus it is there business and appropriate for them to advocate rejection of homosexuality… how do you respond!

                ETA: I’d ask for peer-reviewed studies showing evidence of harm. I reckon they’d insist “science” can’t measure harm inflicted on the soul.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’d respond with photographs and testimonials, myself. Because closeted gay guys haven’t exactly been free of pedophiles (where, we should understand this, it is not a measure of inclination, so much as it is a measure of “this is what I think is more socially acceptible to stick my dick.”)

                [And, yes, I mean pedophiles. As in the bastards that do this to 4 year olds.]Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                How do you respond?

                Well, on one level, this feels weird because I’m about to write a paragraph or two that will have a pretty decent argument (time-tested!) for how I’d respond and you’re going to get sick of arguing devil’s advocate on behalf of homophobic bigots who probably voted for Trump before I get sick of going through the motions of demonstrating unintended consequences and proper limits to government jurisdiction and whatnot and I’m not sure that we’re going to prove anything.

                But this is a kata I know well.


                The problem with making “homosexuality” illegal is that doing so requires a huge amount of government interference into everyday life. I mean, we (as a society) don’t have a problem with two men living together in the same living space, do we? Look, for example, at the following examples in pop culture where two guys lived in the same apartment (insert examples from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s). Now, the second they shut the door to that house, what happens in there shouldn’t be under your jurisdiction. Each man a king, each home his castle… and this means that you shouldn’t have the right to go in there and sniff their sheets to make sure that nothing untoward is going on. If they share a bed, if they have visitation rights, that’s something that you should agree is not a place where the government has the right to look into. In the same way that you agree that the government shouldn’t be looking at you and your spouse’s sleeping arrangements and solutions, you shouldn’t look at theirs.

                Then a paragraph about hospital visitation rights and use that example of those lesbians in Florida from a few years back now. That one works well. Put the other guy in the position of having to defend preventing one person from holding another’s hand as they die.

                Something like that.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                But how does that assuage their fear that their children are being harmed?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                By what happens in other peoples’ houses, behind closed doors?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


                ETA: Evil does not stop at a closed bedroom door.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                At that point, I’d flip it and point out that stuff that they do in their house affects me. Make them say “that’s absurd”, if I can.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sexual preference is a individual construct, so it is none of your business, and not subject to social control.

                (That’s what I got)Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

          “Is it my freaking business” doesn’t get us 99% of the way there. It assumes that everybody lives in a small-l liberal metaphysical universe and accepts the proposition that “your right to swing your first ends where my nose begins.” Many people do not accept this though. They believe that their holy book said that this or that matter of taste, premarital sex, women wearing immodest clothing, or listening to rock music, is really a matter of morality and it is their business to make sure everybody follows the holy ways. The Great Commission in Christianity works like this. Conservative Christians believe that they are saving souls and preventing people from suffering eternal torment by obsessing about these things and trying to eliminate them from the earth.Report

        • Road Scholar in reply to Jaybird says:


          Pretty simple really, a calculus of “Is This Any Of My Freaking Business?” generally gets me 99% of the way there.

          I suppose so, given that you’re basically stating a tautology. It’s not that your calculus is right or wrong, it’s just not very useful. To argue that something is a moral issue is precisely just to state that it’s Your Freaking Business. It’s like saying, “When deciding if a number is odd or even, I find that dividing by two and checking the remainder generally gets me 99% of the way there.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Road Scholar says:

            Yeah, I noticed that here.

            Now, I would like to point out that it’s certainly possible to see something as a moral issue but see it as outside of one’s own jurisdiction. So a moral issue and one that is not incumbent upon oneself to rectify.

            Now, I suppose, “jurisdiction” might be another begging of the question but I think that we can agree that something that cannot be fixed is one that we can’t claim is a moral obligation. (I mean, can we agree that the impossible is not a reasonable expectation?)

            And if we can establish that something is outside of one’s own jurisdiction, even if it were a moral issue were it in one’s own jurisdiction, it isn’t one when it is outside of one’s own jurisdiction.

            And then we can say that “outside of my jurisdiction” is “none of my business”.

            Even if we agree that it would be a moral issue were it inside of one’s jurisdiction.

            “Well, how can we figure out what is in one’s own jurisdiction?”

            That’s a question, ain’t it?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “What is your formula for deciding what is a matter of taste and what is a matter of morality?”

        Everything is a matter of taste.

        “NO BUT WHAT ABOUT–”

        Yeah, even that. And that, too. And that. Oh, especially THAT.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    So about the speech, on-line media and blogs are furious at the pundit class and big papers for caving on Trump and calling him “Presidential” and stating he “softened his tone.”

    I gotta say that the big leagues especially 24 hour news seems addicted to accessReport

  6. aaron david says:

    I hear Trump like his steaks made from children.Report

  7. Hoosegow Flask says:

    Well-done steak with ketchup.

    Pizza with fork and knife.

    KFC over Popeyes.

    There’s a disturbing pattern here that demands a full Congressional investigation.Report

  8. Stillwater says:

    Hmmm. Now I’m curious about how our next President prefers her steak? Does she eat it with a knife? On a plate? With catsup? Will her eating habits pass the test? Lessee…

    Oprah accused of whipping up anti-beef ‘lynch mob’


  9. Kazzy says:

    I struggled with this piece. I definitely think we can learn something about a person by evaluating their choices. But I think it requires much more information about the person than we have on Trump and his steaks.

    Did someone plop a ketchup covered, leathery steak in front of a young Trump for his first bite ever and he never moved on? Or has he tried a variety of steaks prepared a variety of ways with a variety of sauces and just landed on this particular combination as the best for him?

    And the article is wrong to say that there is any objectively better way to enjoy a steak. I couldn’t tell if that — or the entire piece — was meant to be tongue-in-cheek which is partly why they lost me.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

      I definitely think we can learn something about a person by evaluating their choices.

      I have a replacement uncle, by second marriage to my mothers sister, that I never really liked all that much as a kid. My most impressionable memory of him was that he liked his toast charred to a crisp. Blackened all the way around. Seemed to me a weird choice, since all decent people know that toast is best only slightly browned, crunchy on the edges, soft and gooey in the middle. I viewed his preference as revealing something really important: that he was the kind of guy who enjoyed eating burnt toast.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

      Related, on many levels. In the Trump Era, both Poe’s Law and Cleek’s Law have been cranked up to eleven.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        It’d be fun to ask people their opinion on a behavior, their opinion on particular responses to that behavior, and their opinion on responses to those responses BEFORE telling them who the specific players are.Report

  10. James K says:

    I recall reading articles about how Obama always wore the same colour and style of suit so he didn’t have to think about what to wear in the morning. Strangely, I don’t recall reading that this meant he was too inflexible to be President.

    There are so many legitimate reasons to criticise Trump, why does the media insist on inventing stupid ones?Report

  11. Pinky says:

    You know what’s risky? Running for president. Running a campaign completely differently than anyone ever has. Getting on stage with a dozen governors and senators and trying to out-debate them. Saying this is going to happen, the experts are wrong, the polls are wrong, I’m going to win the presidency as a Republican by winning the Rust Belt. Not memorizing a polite little speech.

    Say what you want about Trump, but don’t say the guy’s afraid of red meat.Report

  12. j r says:

    I generally evaluate a piece of journalism on two fronts. Does it provide with me with new information? And does it provide insightful analysis? Try as it might, this certainly fails on the second front. But I have to admit that I did learn at least one new piece of information from this article: Helen Rosner probably doesn’t know many black people.

    Upper middle class white liberals often go out of their way to make it obvious that they’re signalling is only aimed at the wrong kind of white people. Problem is, the wrong kind of white people have an awful lot in common with black and brown people. In addition to the well-done steak thing, there’s higher levels of religiosity and support for gun rights and school choice; lower levels of interest in prestige TV or art films. I can keep going, but you probably see the pattern. My aunt also puts ice in her red wine. I wonder if that made her more or less qualified for the relatively high civil service position she held.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

      This is a very astute observation and chimes in with things I observed to. When many liberals complain that America is more uncivilized compared to other countries, they mean that they want Americans, in particularly white Americans, to be more like Europeans or at least the type of European that exists in their head. Somehow I don’t think they want America to be more like Pakistan or El Salvador. Overt religiosity is tolerated more in some groups than other groups.Report

  13. I found the actual article better than the quoted piece in the OP. Rosner wasn’t, at least in my reading, really talking about Mr. Trump’s steak preferences, but about his supposed risk aversion and using his steak preferences as an illustration of that. I don’t read it as her asserting causality.

    Or at least mostly don’t. One reason it’s hard to decide, as someone above said, whether it’s tongue-in-cheek or not is that she seems to occasionally stray into “it’s bad to eat steak well-done” territory.

    Along with JR’s point, I’ve known people who prefer their steaks and burgers well-done. For the most part, that’s not because they’re afraid to challenge their taste buds. But it’s because they’re afraid of getting sick. If there are bacteria in the meat, they’re more likely to be killed off if it’s cooked well-done. Of course, that’s more of an issue with ground meat than with steak meat, but it’s still an issue with steak.* That said–that’s an example of risk aversion, but not in the “I’m too afraid to face new possibilities” sense of the term that Rosner seems to be using it.

    *Part of my own aversion to sushi is that I fear the health effects of uncooked fish…but I’ve also tried it several times and simply don’t like it, either.Report

  14. Damon says:

    82 comments on an article that was a waste of digital space in the first place….


  15. Road Scholar says:

    What struck me about the piece is eating a $54 steak with ketchup seems like something a kid would do. I mean, first of all, a fine steak like that would be absolutely delicious without any condiment (and using any seems insulting to the chef). But if you were to use any, ketchup? SRSLY? Not even like A1 or Heinz 57, much less some undoubtedly fantastic house sauce?

    It just fits with a pattern I noticed during the campaign where so much of his behavior just seemed juvenile. Like he’s perpetually stuck in a middle school personality.Report

    • notme in reply to Road Scholar says:

      With that stunningly insightful pop psychology analysis you are well on your way to becoming the next Dr. Phil.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to notme says:

        Coming from anyone else that would be a stunning rebuke. From you, I count it as evidence of being on the right track.Report

        • notme in reply to Road Scholar says:

          Then by all means quit your day job and have at it. I don’t understand how you can claim to divine such deep psychological insights from using ketchup as a condiment.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Road Scholar says:

      It is a bit of the opposite thing he does with his restaurants and hotels (based on reviews). Most of the time, he takes basic & cheaper ingredients and materials and adds one expensive item to make the end result seem sophisticated. (And that item is usually gold leaf, for both buildings and drinks)Report

  16. aaron david says:

    How people like there food is both intensely personal and quite cultural. My father, PhD holder and 30 years a college professor, like his steak well done. He was a professor in a very food oriented field (not meat though) and loved to eat. Just not raw foods, as he considered them. His office partner for years was a viticulturist, yet they both drank boxed wine. Both grew up in California’s central valley, a fairly poor area. I also have a friend who loves to cook and eat, growing up the child of quite wealthy parents and grandparents. No matter where he eats breakfast, he gets eggs and ham. And smothers them with ketchup. Because that is how he grew up.

    This has nothing to do with risk aversion. It is simply a matter of taste, how people like to eat things. Personally, I am very much not risk adverse, but I rarely try new restaurants on my own, as I am not food oriented. I simply have better things to spend my money on that trying a meal at a place I might or might not like. Contrast this with my wife, who is very risk adverse but will try any new restaurant that comes along, as she loves food and thinks it is the most interesting thing.Report

  17. Interesting.

    Trump surrounds himself with family members and long-time business loyalists.

    Kennedy did the same thing.

    I wonder how he liked his steak?

    I do know that he was particularly fond of lobster stew.Report