Tomorrow Food Safety News will report in detail on the highly likely possibility that the Iowa Legislature is going to make it legal to recklessly cook loose meat in the Hawkeye State.
The Iowa Senate has by voice vote already approved an amendment to the state appropriations bill that allows Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown to cook and store beef in the same container.
The Iowa House expects to take up the measure later this week.
Let’s get some terminology straight before proceeding. There are three common names for a sandwich made on a bun with loose, unseasoned ground beef and served with various combinations of onions, pickles, mustard, and maybe ketchup.
Those names are: loose meat, taverns, and Maid-Rites. The later name dominates eastern Iowa, where many of the Des Moines-based Maid-Rite Corporation has many of its 70 outlets.
Where I lived in western Iowa during my high school years, these delicacies are called either loose meats or taverns. For the past 60 years, Bob’s Drive-In, located at the intersection of Highways 3 and 75 in LeMars, Iowa, has sold loose meats to rave reviews from around the globe.
You cannot live in Iowa for three years without coming upon many occasions where someone is going to offer you a loose meat or tavern. Individual recipes abound from groups and individuals. In small towns, everyone goes to everyone else’s church dinners, and loose meats are everywhere.
Like LeMars, each small town has a local “loose meat shop” where there are not many other menu choices. During high school, I worked at a general store in a small town. We had a local lady who came in and cooked specials for the lunch crowd.
She had a great tavern recipe and seemed to know the history. I remember her telling me that her grandmother said the boys brought it back to Iowa when they returned from the Civil War.
Loose meats and taverns went commercial in the 1920s and 30s, once Iowans were traveling about by automobile. Maid-Rite began in 1926 and Sioux City’s Ye Olde Tavern Shop opened in 1934.
Part of this history of course is the demise of the “Maid-Rite” cooker, with its inherent risks of both under-cooking meat and cross-contamination. Maid-Rite Corporation has worked with food safety agencies to get its franchises to cease using the cooker and came up with a $50 fix in the form of a Roster Oven for serving.
But the selfish owners of Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Don and Sandy Short, want to go on selling the myth that only a risky loose meat is a good loose meat.
Lawmakers, especially the ones from Iowa, should know better.