If I were prone to conspiracy-think, you’d find me walking into a Chipotle, lunging over the sneeze guard and grabbing a stack of burrito wrappers with which to craft a tinfoil toque. It really is hard to wonder if the whole scandale was not some sort of sabotage, given the glee the processed-crap media took in reporting that people claimed to be sickened by food marketed as clean. Even I never imagined the day would come when the Murdoch Crier would run a hed shaming “fresh ingredients.” Seriously? Jack-in-the-Box did much worse than inflict the squitters, and it’s still cleaning up. I’ll admit the higher-standard-bearers were a little late in confessing they’re using beef imported from Oz. But their pork integrity should still be the standard. Meanwhile, someone actually died after eating Dole greens, and there’s not a hint of Kochian outrage. No one will ever know if Chipotle’s troubles were leaf-driven, but maybe all those salad startups with megabucks could get their McComeuppance as well.
Every morning’s food news should come with a warning: If the libertarian in the clown car gets anywhere near the White House there will be no Big Gubmint to get between you and sick chickens and listeria-laden ice cream. The United States of Somalia will have no mandated kills and recalls — live free market and die. But on the lighter side, I was reminded of the first guy I ever heard rave about Blue Bell, a supervisor in a soft-shell crab processing plant on the Chesapeake who described how those beautiful swimmers molt: “They have to be real still after shedding. It’s like a hangover, a bad one, where you wake up and your skin is in the bed next to you.”
I know you shouldn’t look a free brunch in the box. But when I opened mine on a boondoggle, all I could think was: Every item a minefield. This is what happens when you pay attention. The yogurt was Chobani, not recalled but not exactly encouraging. The fruit cup was all local but was also all cut, and this too soon for comfort after a Hepatitis A outbreak at a neighborhood market thanks to exactly that convenience item. As for the main course, the bagel was filled with smoked salmon. Farm-raised salmon. But the funniest inclusion was the bottled water. I had never had Saratoga before. After my consort read the fine print and saw the contents could also have come from some poetically named spring in Vermont, I realized maybe I still hadn’t.
Speaking of the four-letter fud, we were just down visiting great friends in New Hope who mentioned they had had the opportunity to tour a model slaughterhouse out in California this summer, thanks to one of their great friends. And what they took away from the experience was that ground beef packed in a chub is the safest to buy, because it comes from one animal, not the bacteria hive you might pick up “ground fresh” at the supermarket. And it can’t have been more than a day or two later that I spotted yet another 25-ton “there’s shit in the meat” recall involving . . . chubs. Even better, a Twitter pal pointed out the brand name on each of those taut plastic casings: Naturewell and Naturesource. Sounds like something dreamed up in the same conference room where they decided to put adult heads on kids’ bodies and call it macaroni without cheese.
All my notes are connected: Which is scarier, antibiotics in the ground turkey, or shit in the ground turkey? And the WSJournal reported two pink slimesters are in a race to the bottom now, trying to compete with ever-lower-priced “meals” even as workers are increasingly walking off the job to protest their Bangladeshi wages. And as you eat those fat strawberries, know the pickers may have been fired for protesting life-threatening conditions in the field. Also, too: “Worker dies in large meat grinder in Clackamas.”
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?
Also, too, it’s beyond amusing to watch everyone freaking out about getting droned while “sitting in a cafe.” The odds of being done in at table by the gubmint are much more likely with uninspected food. And of course with silly mandated budget cuts the sound of hooves gets closer every day. I don’t know why a country that eats hot dogs is queasy about the other red meat — you’re getting worked up about Mr. Ed in meatballs when there’s poop bacteria in cakes at the same store? Pretty funny that we’re actually at the point where the absence of meat in the beef potpie is considered a good thing.
Speaking of water, one of the most gruesome stories in donkey’s years is the one about the Canadian tourist whose body was found in a rooftop tank on a hotel where all the guests had for weeks been blithely drinking and showering in what came out of the tap. But as I thought about it I remembered (or maybe misremembered) another story, about a naturalist in the Caribbean who died at his remote lodge in the mountains and whose widow filled his coffin with ice cubes to keep him “fresh” in the heat for the wake. As the hours went on and the ice for drinks ran low, of course, the mourners had no qualms about scooping out rocks for their rum punches. Maybe instead of moving hundreds of guests, the LA hotel should have just offered free minibar access.
Having knowingly eaten horse twice, both times in Italy, I remain undershocked at the scandal consuming Eutopia. What I want to know is why The Cat WCTLWAFW always smells like fish after he eats Science Diet turkey or chicken. (No, actually. I don’t.) Mostly I’m surprised there’s so much horse to go around to so many countries, and into so much processed crap — it’s not as if Romania has a Wild West or even equine stockyards. You have to wonder what else might be in the “meals” when horse DNA is not discovered. But from the beginning I’ve been amazed that people would be upset that Trigger is what’s for dinner. Horse is a delicacy. This is like fools whining that foie gras has turned up in their liverwurst.
Of all the things I could find in my food, horsemeat would be the least unsettling. I’m kind of sickened by shit in the meat, actually. So the hysteria overseas is beyond amusing. All those Brits railing that they’re shocked, shocked their frozen lasagne from France is not made with ground-up cows are sadly laughable. Maybe don’t choose the “Italian” next time? By another name the stuff would sell as well. And cheval bourguignon puts a very nice ring to it.
The story of “greens causing most food-borne illnesses in America” is the proverbial bad penny. The latest lame summation was of course in the hometown paper, which actually stated that unrefrigerated mayonnaise causes “digestive troubles.” Forget the fact that that’s an understatement for death, or even for most food poisoning. Mayonnaise is refrigerated to keep it nice and white and fluffy, not to keep it safe; the ringleader in this partnership in crime is usually the eggs or the chicken. But overall the whole story has been twisted every which way but true. Lettuce won’t give you the squitters. Lettuce handled by food workers with norovirus will. Naturally, this country doesn’t want to address issues like paid sick days, let alone sanitation in the fields. It’s easier to scare everyone into giving up spinach or scallions. Just a few years ago the headlines were all about killer chicken. Chickens still are the leading lethality, if you read a second or third muddy graf, but the focus has shifted, with no one detecting a single lobbyist as accomplice. And don’t get me started on why the level of illnesses from beef has dropped. It couldn’t be because so much meat is now treated with ammonia or irradiated, could it? Why in hell would anyone complain about horse in a Whopper?
I posted a few fast thoughts over to the Epi Log on the overseas uproar over horsemeat in the supermarket burgers, but the more I dwell the more I’m amazed at the reaction. Americans learn there is shit in the meat, and they keep on cheesing. Brits hear what the Continent considers a delicacy is in theirs and they lose their shit. I didn’t keep up with the day-to-day coverage, but I do wonder if the real reason all those horse patties wound up being converted to fuel might not be that the mystery meat came from the good old USofA. Where horses are so doped up even the connoisseurs are trotting scared.
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.
Everyone’s yammering that JP Morgan Chase losing a coupla billion at the dog track is a reason to rein in the too-big-to-fail casinos, so let’s hope the regulatory flashlight shines toward Big Food, too. I just read about a singer forced to tour while shitting/puking his guts out thanks to the great American combination of no health insurance and salmonella in supermarket sushi, and that was after I read about the finding that the listeria in cantaloupes that killed people in 28 states was caused by new owners of a farm deciding cleanliness was not next to profitability. If you’re seeing more op-eds and other blather about the danger from farmers’ markets and small producers, connect your own dots. Of course they want you to think a manageable flock of chickens eating what comes naturally next to the arugula fields is the equivalent of a bomb in a muslin’s underpants. Corporations are people. With a fiduciary responsibility to investors, not to customers.