Relatedly, I saw much hooraying over the return of Twinkies etc. but almost no awareness in the fud world that the whole brouhaha was yet another greedy/bogus “Mission Accomplished,” given that the goal was to destroy the unions, loot the company and let it be reincarnated as a Bangladesh-in-the-USA enterprise. Enjoy your fresh Ho Hos. Just don’t stop to wonder if there’s any blood in the Sno Balls.
Archive for the ‘big food’ Category
In all seriousness, Harper’s cover story on beef by Ted Conover is a must-read (you have to either subscribe or buy a dead-tree copy, though). I don’t think I’ll be having a burger anytime soon, for sure. The piece is packed with revelations, but the most disturbing is that Eli Lilly has a rep standing by to gauge the impact of antibiotics. Not surprisingly, substances given to promote growth tend to, shall we say, promote growth. The whole thing is gripping. Since I’m shallow, though, one silly detail sticks with me: You can now get mortadella even in Schuyler, Nebraska?
I guess I have to weigh in on the hometown paper’s knockoff of the New Yorker’s food issue and note how amusing it was that the flack paid to promote it in the age of social media linkapalooza chose to highlight some of the lamest material. To me the best piece was, of course, the one on the politics of food, but it could been more explicit. As I learned 20 years ago as we were researching our ill-fated harvest book, money’s what buys you power in this country; even Vidalia onion farmers had to kick in like 5 cents a bushel to protect their AOC in DC. Until there’s an Occupy K Street, Big Food will rule. And it definitely will as long as any old bacon, even the industrial kind, will do in 50 recipes from a sermonizer.
Then again, bacon hysteria went viral instantly even though half a second of close reading would have made it clear there was about zero chance the scary crap was going to vanish from supermarkets, or that the small farmers who sell the good stuff were doomed. I responded by Tweeting that the only thing to worry about was that Americans would scrutinize other Americans and wonder: Hmmm. Where else might we find endless belly fat for cheap? It’s a little sad that we can tune out all evidence that we’re fast-rendering the only planet we have uninhabitable but lose our shit over phantom fears. We are all Chicken Little now. Although I have to say: If I ran a chain of restaurants dependent on ground-up cow butts and shoulders, I’d be feeling a little nervous these days. Or wondering how Soylent Green would go with fries.
And in other old-media fail, I only tuned in to the arsenic-in-rice brouhaha after another food writer at an over-the-top press event mentioned it. My first question was: How does the lethality get into the grains? When I came home and searched online I turned up way more “OMG, we’re all gonna die!” than science and sanity. If I had a cynical side, it would suspect we’re all supposed to switch to KraftP&GSmucker’s quinoa — gluten-free, of course. It just depresses me how many people freak out about every health scare but refuse to consider it’s a corporate-controlled food supply really doing us all in. Latest proof: Researchers actually had to document the obvious and found too much sugar water makes you fat. Next, maybe they can determine whether drain cleaner makes you dead.
At the same time, I can’t blame anyone for tuning out the unending shitshow that is coverage of industrial agriculture. One day it’s about a turkey plant getting fined for essentially enslaving the mentally deficient, the next it’s a roundup (so to speak) of how many animals are being slaughtered right now because farmers just can’t keep feeding them. Don’t even ask where the “other white meat” campaign money came from, went to . . .
As for the clearly suspect organic-is-no-better study out of an allegedly incorruptible university, may I remind everyone of Larry Summers and “Inside Job”? The crazy-making research that wound up on the wrong rural route really was problematic, but the pushback on it reflected a couple of encouraging trends. Simplest: Readers don’t have to just yell at the teevee anymore when they hear “news” that is so clearly wrong. They have many ways to push back and hold “real” reporters’ feet to the flaming fire. Strongest: No one just yells “but I know it’s better” — the sentient line up arguments that touch on the larger issues, ecological first of all.
Way, way before the food world jumped onto the kids&obesity bandwagon, I was bitching that advertisers were routinely using chubbies&huskies to subliminally send the message that it’s normal and acceptable to eat and eat and eat some more. Apparently a certain ice cream chain has not gotten the message that thin is in again. An ad in my favorite part of the Sunday papers — the coupons — promotes sundaes made with Girl Scout cookies by showing a young’un and the doctor she’s grown up to be, each holding a honking huge cone. All you need to know is that it hid more in the first photo. The After had me looking for the insulin.
And the funniest photo stunt to backfire in donkey’s years turned out to be the one staged for the KKKraziest clown in the car. When a newspaper ran a story on the latest case of mad cow disease, the picture editor pulled a stock shot of her. In a beef slaughterhouse. And not in Switzerland.
I guess Mencken is going to have to posthumously retract his famous assertion that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Nutella just settled a suit for $3 million after a woman lost her batshit on learning that the first three letters did not lead to nutritious. Sure, who among us has not looked at a jar of chocolate-colored nut-and-sugar paste and thought: Low calorie! But my cynical side started to wonder if the whole thing had not been a click/comment trap when I saw the company is not just giving refunds to anyone who asks but also printing coupons for a buck off on a fresh jar so smart moms everywhere can “turn a balanced breakfast into a tasty one” by adding fruit and a glass of milk. Ask the cuckoo woman: Doesn’t that work with Cocoa Puffs, too?
I’ve been wanting to write about this for $$$ but will go ahead and spill the legumes here: My consort and I are now eating more meat than we have at any time in three decades together. Neither of us was ever big on the four-letter food, particularly beef, but the mad cow outbreak, which broke out while we were in Hong Kong on one of his shoots, pushed us both over toward ABC — no cows for us. Then a funny thing happened on the way to near-vegetarianism: Better, cleaner, safer, better meat kept turning up wherever we shopped/stopped. Heritage Foods started marketing great pork, Fairway started carrying organic, Niman Ranch and Chipotle built businesses on non-mystery meat and, especially, the farmers at all the Greenmarkets started offering meat with both taste and integrity. Others may be eating less meat. But I seriously doubt that it’s because the Egopedist is now arguing against the industrial protein he hawked like a Crisco Deen for 13 long years.
Also, too, there could have been no more insidious a juxtaposition than the jump of the hometown paper’s piece on organic milk up against a takeout on the millions spent promoting one small segment of the processed-crap market. All the hand-wringing over whether farmers can be paid more to produce more seemed even more insane as you considered: People will always pay whatever chip makers ask for a bag of genetically modified corn fried in genetically modified oil but balk at a tiny increase for a half-gallon of responsibly produced milk. What was sickest was reading in one story that farmers are cutting back on feed for their animals as a result of rising prices and then seeing with the other a photo from a commercial of a guy with manboobs big enough to milk. If there’s ever a bacon shortage, I know exactly which consumers can solve it.
Naturally it’s behind the paywall, but the New Yorker has a great feature this week on the richest woman in India, who made all those rupees developing drugs. One graf near the end is worth the price of the issue: Her company has been working on the “holy grail” for Big Pharma, which would be oral insulin in a processed-crap world where everyone is developing diabetes (50 million in India alone). And Biocon came close until the patients who were given placebos in trials improved because they wanted to impress their doctors. “Suddenly, their control group of diabetics had started exercising and eating better.” Message? Diabetes is both preventable and curable senza drugs. Maybe it’s time for Occupy the Pharmacies. Walk away from the Lipitor. And eat beans.
I pay way too much attention to the clown car these days, because it really is heading nowhere. So I have to say I was pleased to see the Herb Pizza going down, so to speak. At least once he exits the wingnuts’ three rings, potential voters will stop hearing him referred to as a food bizguy. He was a restaurant lobbyist. Which is a nicer way of saying pimp. Or is it whore?