Home-grown listeria. In the lettuce.

I acknowledge that we’re living in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes, but it’s still amazing how little we know in the most amazing age of shared information in all of human history. Thanks to my consort, I had lunch the other day with a woman who knows from Chile and who mentioned just a few of the “Darwin’s Nightmare” things she’s seeing there: pesticides on northward-bound fruits and vegetables overused to the point of poisoning farmworkers, plus farmed salmon pumped with 700 times the antibiotics even the free-dosing Norwegians are using. Which made me wonder about the grapes transformed into the sauvignon blancs I love. Guess I shouldn’t have asked — there’s a reason why they’re cheap. (And why the industry is flying so many writers down to get snockered and snookered [excuse me: wined and dined]). But there’s always a pony to be found in the heap o’ manure: All this made me not at all surprised to read that wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest are now infected by a virus thanks to their penned-up cousins bound for supermarkets everywhere. Americans wanted chicken of the sea. And have they ever gotten Perdue with scales.

No choice in poison

I’ve over-said my piece on cantaloupes in this age of bacteria mutating faster than you can artificially inseminate turkeys. So I’ll just point out that only a crazy person would eat melons that are not only out of season but grown by one producer who can actually supply 28 states. You might as well risk chicken tartare.

Pyramid on a plate

I have mentioned this probably as many times as the government has issued recall notices on spinach/sprouts/scallions, but it was 20 years ago that I actually got an op-ed published in the hometown paper on “which came first — the salmonella or the egg?” And I am now wondering how E. coli could infect Spanish cucumbers badly enough that tourists are dropping like Montezuma flies in Europe right now. Did the salad buffets serve the things unpeeled? Did what a certain travel writer calls “the stinking Germans” not wash either their produce or their hands? I grew up thinking my family was German because of our surname and my parents’ deception, even though my mom never cooked anything sauer. So maybe I’m just ignorant, but the biggest surprise in this deadly outbreak is that Germans eat anything raw. . .

Bring on the industrial hares

Guess I have to start by saying I mean no disrespect about what happened to so many Southerners as Earth continues to demonstrate it has a very bad fever and is trying to shake humans off. But The Takeaway and the BBC have done great segments on a side effect that made me remember the old joke about tornadoes being nature’s way of passing judgment on trailer parks. Among the things hardest hit in Alabama and Virginia etc. were poultry “farms.” Those that weren’t swept away were left without electricity to keep the fans and lights running, so what the winds didn’t kill the smell will. The industry spokesguy on the air sounded pretty shaken, and he should be. The sickest my consort and I ever got on the road was after shooting/reporting in a Vidalia onion field in Georgia next to a reeking chicken concentration camp. And that was nearly 20 years ago, before one egg processor could sicken people across nearly the whole country. As bad as I sorta feel for those poor people dependent on the cheap protein for their paltry livelihoods, it’s hard not to think Frank Lloyd Wright was right: “There is a god. It’s just called Nature.” And that mother can be a righteous bitch. Especially when forced to clean house.

Now, fear the grape tomatoes

I’ll confess I left some stuff out of my burger rant, thanks both to procrastination and performance anxiety. For one big thing, I should have noted how absurd it is that New York State lawmakers are actually trying to force restaurants to stop serving water unless requested and to stop using salt at all, even in their kitchens. Where is the legislation requiring burger joints to serve beef merely clean enough to eat? But at least you can’t smoke in the parks anymore. Tobacco companies should look into E. coli.

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.

Fear the sprouts

I shouldn’t be surprised, considering how inured Americans are to ordure in their beef. But it says it all that a few people died from drinking Four Loko and the stuff was banned. Thirty thousand a year die from guns and loons are allowed to run out and buy more after a massacre. Maybe someone should mix caffeine and alcohol in Glock clips.

For beef recalls, use the save-get hed

On a related tangent, Twitter has no room for an altercation, so I’ll respond here to the follower who challenged my Tweet about the grimness of a cheesemaker shutting down after an E. coli outbreak while the scum who foisted half a billion possibly contaminated eggs on the country is probably getting richer than ever. My consort, for once, got it right away: It’s like what happened to Martha Stewart — she went to jail for a set-up while banksters guilty of worse offenses walk free to this day. The system is rigged. But that’s the big picture. The small one, to answer the question “Artisanal E. coli is OK?”: No E. coli is ever okay. But the reach of a tiny producer is much more limited. Eight people in four states were sickened by the cheese. Contrast that with only the salmonella from the Schwann’s ice cream truck that laid low 740 people in 30 states. All that said, though: I have never seen an artisanal cheesemaker in Italy doing what was described in the FDA’s complaint. Even on the most isolated farm high on a mountain in Piemonte, sterility ruled. Amazing to consider anything-goes Italy has more rigid standards. Then again, anyone who’s seen “Food, Inc.” knows why the shit gets in the American milk to begin with . . .

“Fry-o-later,” indeed

A friend in real life and on Twitter coined another perfect phrase — United States of Amnesia — and it really applies when it comes to beef. Everyone chooses just to forget the last go-round with lethal E. coli. Especially food writers. The WSJournal had a big roundup on — stop the presses! — name chefs going into the burger business, and it included a perfectly stupid graf on how grass-fed beef is “trendy in food circles partly because of a reputation for being better for the environment (although that is a question subject to scientific debate).” Uh. No. Some of us, even we the non-trendy, choose it because the cattle are fed what nature designed them to eat. Anyone who saw “Food, Inc.” saw graphically what happens when the poor animals are stuffed with grain their systems can’t process. Can you say shit (in the meat) happens?

Beware the cilantro

ReTweeting myself: If four Americans were killed by a muslin(cq) terrorist in this country, there would be a shitstorm. But four succumbing to celery contaminated with listeria is just business as usual. Keep trying, Big Food — you could manage a trifecta and also get salmonella and E. coli into some innocent-looking produce.

All you need is a dollar and denial

Back when burgers were going upscale, I tried to sell a piece questioning where all these many big chefs were going to get beef fit to eat. But of course editors didn’t get the question; meat’s meat, isn’t it? Now I have a bigger question, after the incessant coverage of the “rib” “sandwich”: Where in hell are they getting enough cheap pork to make this latest McCrap? Regular pork is pretty scary, and not just when it’s still on the butter guzzler’s Smithfield-sponsored ass. Judging by the Twitter responses, this may be Soylent Gold.

Do not Google the toilet

On Halloween I saw a girl dressed as a box of McDonald’s fries and wondered where Child Protective Services was hiding. The company is really a national security threat thanks to the way it indoctrinates the gullible. And that includes the media as well as its patrons. Bad enough that the WSJournal was taken in by its insurance steer manure.  Now, while everyone’s chortling over the court decision to make the chain pay for making an employee fat, the company is off breaking electioneering laws. Message: They don’t care.

Which is why the ad I came across for an insidious new product was so disturbing. Years ago Harper’s ran a great story connecting the dots among dollar meals, diabetes and the potential for drug companies to cash in beyond their craziest dreams if the whole country could be made insulin-dependent. And now here’s this chilling little pen being marketed like a watch, as essential as the air you breathe around a sunflower. I was worried when ads starting showing the portly as if they were normal. Now diseased is the new healthy. If there’s enough of our “civilization” for future archaeologists to excavate, I hope the ads survive. Just to give the diagnosis.

And a $557 feline enema

The big story on all-American McD’s threatening to cancel its health “insurance” for employees is the new zombie. Even after it was debunked, it keeps getting dragged out as a warning on “Obamacare.” This is the deliberate opposite of Upton Sinclair aiming at America’s heart with “The Jungle” and hitting its stomach; there’s nothing like fear of no more Cheap Macs to get idiots riled. The fact is that what a mere two or three employees per outlet are privileged to enjoy is virtually no benefits for absurdly high premiums. They, and their underlings, would be much better off under the plan slowly taking effect. But I guess this country would rather wither in the state of denial. You can’t have your 99-cent burgers and be served by healthy employees, too. Would you like shit with that?