Sadie’s mother spooned yolk onto the mound of tartare. Diced onions and sea salt flakes dotted the glistening, red flesh, marbled with white globs of fat. “Go on, eat,” she urged her daughter. “For the baby.”

Dr. Babineaux had explained the new guidelines to Sadie during her first appointment a few weeks earlier. According to the USDA, the conventional wisdom about prenatal nutrition was wrong, upended by recent clinical trials that confirmed nutrients best traversed the placental barrier when unaltered by the cooking process. Whenever possible, the agency advised, pregnant people should eat food that was raw. “Every state’s deciding how narrowly to interpret whenever possible,” Dr. Babineaux said. “Now, we know how much folks around here love their food cooked, but our state takes fetal health seriously too. They’ve set a mandate of 100 percent raw, no exceptions. I’m here to help you comply.”

Obligingly, Sadie moved the beef around in her mouth, unable to distinguish the mush from her tongue and the surrounding damp tissue. “You’re lucky,” her mother said. “You don’t need to worry about listeria anymore. When I was pregnant with you, I had to order my steaks well-done.”

Sadie closed her eyes and pretended she was chewing a filet sizzling in butter, sliced with its own special knife to reveal a center that was uniform brown. The guidelines had been announced last year, but Sadie’s attention was not yet tuned to this frequency. The positive test was a happy surprise for her and Mark, shortly after they’d moved up to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Now, he squeezed her knee under her mother’s polished dining table. She felt his strength and silent support as they both gamely chewed the dish they were served.