Here's a common article of faith expressed as a logical proposition: that certain cuts of meat improve in flavour and moral worth in proportion to the degree that they approach a state of rawness.
And when it's put like that you can see it for the nonsense that it is. But it is a notion clung to with a biblical intensity by a certain type of people that include the pony-tailed waiter at some hi-falutin restaurant I was taken to a dozen years ago on someone else's expense account.
The restaurant specialised in steaks and the people I was with all ordered a steak and so I thought I might as well have a steak and monsieur ponytail said "splendid, that's four steaks then" and turned to go and I said "hold it there one second, I'd like my steak well done". At which point, and I kid you not, this underling, this waiter person, turned to me and said, "our steaks, sir, are served medium rare," and he tossed his head like some catwalk model and turned away.
Well, I had no choice. Just as you'd imagine, I seized him by the ponytail and swung him twice about my head with a view to flinging him all whirring like a helicopter blade above the heads of the other diners and through the plate glass window at the front, not just to teach the man a lesson in servility but also to take an overdue stand against the assumed moral superiority of undercooked meat.
But at the last moment I reflected that as the guest of someone else's credit card I ought not make a scene, so I just opened the swinging door to the kitchen and flung the fool in there with a clatter of plates and saucepans and - I noted with not a little pleasure - applause from several of his colleagues.
• Premium - Joe Bennett: Weathering the heat, but will we remember it?
• Joe Bennett: A warning about the accoutrements of power in Covid times
• Joe Bennett: We don't know how lucky we are in New Zealand
• Premium - Joe Bennett: Life after death - what do you think about all day long?
The ponytail did not return that evening, which was, as I am sure we'd all agree, a minor victory for decency and common sense. But the war against rare meat is still a very long way from being won.
Yesterday I bought a rack of lamb. The local supermarket rarely stocks them perhaps because they're dear, but I am fond of them and when I saw one sitting plump on the refrigerated shelf I thought I'd treat myself and lover.
Now, I have always simply roasted racks of lamb until the fatty skin is crisp and all the meat within is greyish brown and they have been so good that I have gnawed and sucked the bones clean of the last scrap of sheep flesh before lobbing them over the shoulder to the dog I no longer have.
But it's a while since I last cooked one so I thought I'd check the internet for herbs to use etc and as I scrolled down through the recipes for racks of lamb I noted that they all, without exception, were urging me to serve the lamb as pink as a little girl's bedroom.
Every commentator, every chef, every amateur kitchen guru, every celebrity stove jockey from Jamie to Nigella via Steve and Rick and all the putrid rest of them, every single one insisted that to cook the lamb right through was an offence that cried to heaven. Surely they couldn't all be cahoots. Surely they had to know something I didn't.
Reader I succumbed. I followed their instructions. I undercooked the lamb. I served it blushing pink. And it was bloody awful - chewy, bland and clinging to the bone. Had the dog been with us still he'd have got two thirds of it.
And yes of course I acknowledge it was all my fault. I should have listened to my inner certainty instead of the siren call of cookery-posh. I'll not make that mistake again.
But it has not resolved the question. Why do so many people cling to this delusion that almost-raw is not just tastier but also subtly more virtuous? What's in it for them apart from grimly bloodied plates and knackers-yard potatoes? Is it some inverted snobbery, some primitivo chic?
I still don't know. But if it's true, as I've been told, that chefs routinely keep the worst of steaks for those of us who order them well done, well all I wish for them is what befell a woman I knew in France who liked her steaks 'bleus', which means effectively raw, and, well, you may be eating breakfast so all I'll say is that when the doctor told her that she was still harbouring within her intestine the rest of the family of tapeworms she let rip a scream that still rings like a bell in this skull of mine even 40 years later.