Take the credit card number & run

And I’m happy to see everyone freaking the crust out over pizza being declared a vegetable, but if food had been treated more seriously by the media all these years maybe Americans would have understood how it happened. I’ve written before how the  backwater on the Potomac suddenly became Restaurant Central under the Chimp’s reign of error (thank you, Panchito), but no one ever connected the dots — a consequence of segregating food coverage in the getting-and-spending sections. Stuffy old French places from the Reagan era were still good enough during the Clinton boom, but somehow money started flowing in the streets in the 21st century, especially around Penn Quarter. If you want to keep frozen Freedom Fries on school lunch menus, you have to buy yourself a few congressmen. Over drinks and dinner.

Freedom Fries 4ever

I know the wingnuts are desperate to bring Zombie Reagan back to addled life, so I’m assuming the latest decision on school lunches is bait. Ketchup may have failed as a vegetable. But tomato paste on pizza will now do. Although I almost agree with Big Food: More than a quarter-cup of “paste” would make a slice inedible. Do the bureaucrats mean sauce?

One word in Freshland: Plastics

I’m gainfully unemployed, so I’m sharing this tip for free: Jeebus — if you want to know what’s really going down in the food world, do not waste your time retyping off the Twitter or trawling through Facebook, as the pros do. Just pick up a trade rag. I came home from the “Brazil”esque produce show this week with a clutch of magazines and today caught up to the one with the cover story on “food bloggers and their influence on food consumers.” This went on for pages and did advise produce peoples who are interested in hooking up with any blog to “make sure it’s not controversial.” But I’m not sure I’ve ever read a feature that danced so artfully around the burning issue: We know what you are. Now we’re just haggling about the price.

“Influential mom bloggers”

The things you learn when you get sucked into reading protracted attempts to make press releases look like more than press releases puffed out to fill 20 inches: Mayonnaise is a billion-dollar-a-year market. Mayonnaise, I said. I know Hellmann’s is now priced like beluga, but that’s still an awful lot of the white stuff. The mystery is why such marketing is necessary when any sentient being knows a life without mayonnaise is not worth avocados. So I can’t really blame a “celebrity chef” who failed in NYC for signing on to whip up barbecue chicken nuggets while “bantering.” If promoters of an essential nutrient think it needs to spend $30 million a year on promotion, why not take the money and shill?

“Baking in pork chops”

I’m of course not the suspicious sort, but doesn’t it seem odd that two of the three hometown newspapers we get delivered on the weekend had the same commodity crime story, featuring the same victim? So I’m not surprised that neither delved into the uglier part of the tale: If you lose 150 hogs and don’t notice right away, you’re raising them wrong. The WSJournal had the numbers (and the proper terminology): “The hogs are sequestered in four rooms, about 1,000 in a group.” I could joke that that sounds like the GOP dream for class size, but it’s actually sickening, almost literally. And if the burglarized farmer feels “a little bit violated,” imagine how those animals suffered their whole lives, probably dreaming of the lush lives of ducks destined for foie gras. At least I got out of Iowa in time, before it became a stinking waste pond, from the sound of the coverage. The only hogs I saw there in the Seventies ran free in the mud. And no one was thieving. One little suggestion for the elusive pork burglar: Next time sneak in a camera. Show the true price of cheap bacon.

Chopped liver on the dollar menu

Finally, where do I even begin with the Egopedist’s latest half-him/half-think-tank tirade? Are we talking junk food? Or fast food? Do we really need to trash organics and farmers’ markets and farmers who care enough to grass-feed cattle the way nature intended? Do we, with our uncredited help, really need to shame the couple in “Food, Inc.” even more for working two jobs and doing the drive-through to feed themselves and their kids? Do we — really? — ever fucking eat bland beans with plain rice with a glass of milk that, at that price, has to be produced with hormones and antibiotics?

No link because I hate to encourage. But mostly what I took away is that readers of a newspaper advertising $900 shoes and touting $245 prix fixes are supposed to reform their slovenly ways and suffer cheap, dirty birds after an hour in the kitchen. I don’t even eat chicken, but there’s no way in hell I would let my consort ingest one that can only be sold for that little because of all the corners cut in its rush to the supermarket. I haven’t fully worked my mind around this, but it just seems like one more disconnect between “journalists” and “real America.”  Do they not know from Taco Bell?

Left out of this whole debate is the minefield the supermarket has become. You go in to buy that cheap dirty bird and you’re going to pass the most amazing cornucopia in the history of mankind in the freezer aisle. Are you really going to bring home poulet perdu rather than nuke a few Hungry Mans? J’doubt it. So, yes, please, keep working the talking points and making it a choice between fatty/sugary/filling McMeals and dreary, bland, time-consuming fodder. That will get the asses onto the kitchen stools for sure.

Oh, and did anyone think to price out the kohrabi slaw? Or the Brussels sprouts slaw with all the exotica? I wonder what the poor folks are making of saffron aioli. . .

Attack of the killer turkey (in agate)

After 20 years, I’m about ready to give up on talking seasonal/local with food safety. But this latest outbreak in cantaloupes is rather depressing. Two decades ago the scourge of the day was salmonella, and that was what was turning up in both chickens and melons. Today it’s listeria. If I were the easily duped sort, I would almost think Big Food is just trying to steer everyone toward pasteurized fruit packaged in little boxes that look all the same. Trust in processed food.

Got cheap lobster?

Speaking of processed crap, I get most of my serious food information from the coupons in the slingers in the weekend papers (and I’ll add that I will never get used to having them spill out of the Wall Street Journal — how bad is the economy if its readers need to save 30 cents on three cans of Goya?) So now I know that Minute Rice is just too fucking slow for fat Americans with teevee they need to be watching. The new and improved stuff comes “ready to serve.” Which is advertised, oddly enough, as helping to make “nutritious and delicious meals in minutes.” Do low-information consumers understand  that quantity of time is plural?

What Frieda’s said

Which leads me to the most ridiculous brouhaha since, well, the last time food idjits got taken. What fascinated me less than the fact that a bunch of dolts were duped with processed lasagne was how the story progressed, from blogs to the hometown paper and back to blogs again. You’d think no one knew how to get out and report these days. And everyone who jumped up to attack the flacks who did the duping seems to forget that old story, possibly apocryphal, about Winston Churchill asking a woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. When she said yes, he asked about doing so for five. She indignantly responded: “What do you think I am?” And he said: “Ma’am, we’ve already established what you are. Now we’re just negotiating the price.” Cynic that I am, I did a little noodling on the Google and turned up no end of bloghos who happily touted that garbage for nothing more than a free sample. The outraged should be glad they got a couple of drinks and a reason to put on their “rig” and get out and mingle. Besides, didn’t Panchito just say this kind of chemicals-and-additive carping is all about class? I’m sure ConAgra just wants to make sure the poors have fud.

Hide the fracking

The only surprise of the un-Rapture was that the Pom people were not behind the big con. Then again, they spent a mere $10 million to get an obscure juice certified as a miracle elixir. The cult of the gullible dropped $100 million and still couldn’t get naked Christians into heaven.

Yes, we need no marionberries

Speaking of pomegranates, though, I’d been wondering why they’re turning up everywhere on menus and online when this is the season to be eating strawberries (almost) and rhubarb. Turns out they’re coming from Chile, maybe by air. Apparently everyone has forgotten the cautionary myth of Prosperpina/Persephone. And just as we’re losing winter altogether in a tornadic tsunami of melting polar ice caps.

Open a drawer, pull out a buffalo pie

Partly because we took the manager’s advice at the Drake Hotel in Toronto and trekked to the Bata Shoe Museum (do not miss the fish-shaped toe ring), news that two tribes in South Dakota are getting federal aid for nutrition education struck me as both good and sad. Of all people who should understand how to eat well, the stewards of the land for tens of thousands (thousands of thousands?) of years should be at the top of the list. Once upon a time they knew how to extract both flavor and color from plants, the latter to dye leathers for amazingly artistic footwear. Now Big Food has done a number on them, too. As I keep thinking, the Mayans must not have taken Daylight Saving Time into account. We could be at 2012 already. . . .

Gold saves

Kinda funny to watch people who were so complacent about the Chertoff-enriching cancer boxes at the airports now freaking out about radiation in food thanks to the Japan meltdown. Hope no one tells them most spices are already irradiated, and a whole a lot o’ ground beef is, too. Even so, it’s kinda sad to see Popeye’s magic green bullet reduced to a wimp in the aftermath of Japan’s megadisasters. What is it about spinach that leaves it so vulnerable first to E. coli and then salmonella and now radiation? You’d almost think it was chicken.

Masters of Beef Advocacy

I’m assuming the discovery of E. coli in hazelnuts in the shell is meant as a distraction from the fact that we really don’t know what’s in food these days. Better to fear the filberts than wonder what one company controlling all seeds portends. A Twitter pal had a similar reaction after I mentioned the law Florida is considering that would ban “croparazzi” by forbidding photography of any farm. You know it’s not because of any worries that the cows and the corn will be exploited for stock photo fame, given that we live in an age of royalty-free images. But as my Twitter pal Jen in Oz noted, there is a silver lining — this unconstitutional ban “could prohibit Monsanto goons who trespass/photograph looking for farmers who ‘steal’ proprietary seeds.” Or at least protect the sheep from the randy.

Burger fingers & foie gras meatballs

I killed the lunchtime mood on Saturday by mentioning the death of the 575-pound spokesmodel for the Heart Attack Grill just after a heap of French toast, barbecued short ribs, bacon, poached egg, Cheddar and onion rings arrived on one plate, with a huge side of fries. Which was dumb, because the friend who ordered that irresistibly bizarre combination is such a careful eater he can indulge in overkill on any occasion. But you do have to wonder about a country so confused that a restaurant could make international news by proudly promoting killer food while Mrs. O continues to be attacked for suggesting maybe we could all eat better and move around more. As I noted over on the Epi Log, though, lard is the last four-letter villain in the piece. The offending restaurant may have boasted that its fries were cooked in the white stuff, but that’s the least of the problems. Consumption has dropped as asses have ballooned over the decades. Which is just one more reason I wish the Egopedist had been required to do a little more reading before being allowed to step onto the soapbox. A lot happened between the Depression and the Great Backside Inflation. Just Wiki Earl Butz, and not for loose shoes and warm places.