Forget funny, as if I could pull that off anymore. The NYTimes story on buyers of peanut processed crap was profoundly depressing, simply because this country has one line of advice for consumers of food that should be the cleanest, safest, best in the world: Buyer assumes all responsibility. I’ve been railing since well before the salmonella in the peanuts was discovered that the whole outbreak has exposed the evil idiocy of our whole system. In the past, the government could get away with putting the weight on us — we just needed to scrub our chickens and cutting boards, cook our eggs to rubber, double-wash our scallions etc. etc. Now you have to wonder why we just can’t have clean food to begin with. Imagine if you bought shampoo you needed to boil before using.
I’m glad people are slowly starting to connect the dots with Big Shitpile, Bernie Madoff and the filthy peanut butter. I have wondered for decades why we have passively assumed the burden of protecting ourselves from industrial food by swallowing the advice to scrub our kitchens and our carrots and literally cook the crap out of eggs, chicken, vegetables etc. It is possible to have clean food, but you wouldn’t know it from the FDA. But I guess all the “leaders” busy shrinking the government small enough to drown in a bathtub didn’t notice the toilet was overflowing. (It’s also funny how all the food people hollering for a garden at the White House and a celebrity in the White House kitchen went dead silent when it came time to add money to a gutted regulatory agency, let alone to school nutrition programs.) Something is really wrong with an America that imports peanuts from China, organic or not. I’d say the race to the bottom is over, and we lost.
It was nice to see the Chimp actually did manage a legacy, although it’s not so nice (or so surprising) that people have died as a result. The evisceration of the FDA, to the point that inspectors have been begging the Big O to save them, pretty much guaranteed that salmonella would infect America through the unlikeliest but most ubiquitous edible. Somewhere the last GW — Carver — must be in anaphylactic shock.
Just when you think the Chimp has done about all the damage to the country an impotent whipped dog can do, you read that the FDA’s solution to all the food poisoning outbreaks was to hire flacks on the sly to improve its image. Which gives me total confidence in that agency’s assurance that a little melamine won’t hurt. But at least we can trust the USDA, no? Except when it comes to frozen chicken and salmonella and it’s the consumer’s fault for microwaving rather than baking. Here we go again. Attack of the killer TV dinners. . . .
I posted too hurriedly elsewhere on this, but the news that the FDA is going to speed up the process for getting genetically modified meat and fish to market should make us all very, very nervous. If there is one way to sum up this administration, it would be to say it has the merde touch. And if it wants to let Big Food pump scary stuff into supermarkets, you know who is going to benefit. Not you, the buyer at the bottom of the food chain. It’s all about profit, not about accountability. It would be one thing if the world needed more cheap meat, with tacos going for two for 99 cents in a chain that spends more money on advertising than ingredients. But this is about ramming things through with unvetted meat when no one can safely say GMO crops are not without their hazards. This at a time when the same regulators are not allowing beef producers to test for mad cow disease because that would give them a competitive advantage with consumers who will stretch to pay more for food fit to eat. Wall Street may finally be buying into the notion that government is here to help. But until we all have health care guaranteed during E. coli and salmonella and worse breakouts, I will retain my queasy doubts.
Maybe because we are so close to voluntarily electing a doddering guy who conjures images of state funerals, I’ve started obsessing on death notices. (Actually, it’s because I like to track how long it takes the NYTimes to notice a dearly departed has merited multiple homages over many days and to run an obit.) One ad last week that gave the cause of the demise as CJD was rather chilling at a time when our trusted government by big business, for big business is prohibiting cattle producers from testing their animals for mad cow disease. Even more amazing has been the reaction to the UN official who suggested the planet could benefit from all of us forgoing meat just one meal a week. To call it a lobbyists’ shitstorm would be to underestimate the next hurricane. Never in all of history have so many people had access to so much information, and still the national motto might as well be “in cheap meat we trust.” Beef is not supposed to be as everyday as bread. So my other new obsession is Hamburger Helper. Given how prices of wheat etc. have gone crazy while beef remains a bargain, shouldn’t someone be marketing Noodle-and-MSG Helper?
Somehow I don’t think these developments are unrelated. Apparently the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the country is one that builds its menus around “wings and rings” — deep-fat-fried crap for cheap. And “competitive eating” has just been declared the world’s most popular sport/hobby/whatever. Archaeologists 100,000 years from now will only wonder where we put the vomitoriums.
Funny how the Great Black Hope was so thoroughly lambasted by the wingnuts for suggesting a second language might actually be an asset in modern life. I wonder if the “talk English, damn it!” knuckle draggers are now going to boycott McDonald’s, given that a slick flier tucked into two of our newspapers had coupons in both Spanish and a form of English. It should be the end of America as we know it. But a country cowed by tomatoes will never give up its cheap beef, let alone 20 piezas of chicken “nuggets” por $3.49.
We’ve come a long way from those scary old days of duct tape in every room, judging by the reaction to the media-induced killer-tomatoes frenzy. CNN’s poll the other day showed respondents were about equally split on giving up the salmonella balls in wake of the news that our bureaucrats have let us down once again. This story has yet to unfold completely, but what’s fascinating me is how a whole food group was condemned when increasingly it looks as if the problem was what it so often is: One “restaurant” chain. We need a new Agatha Christie to write food who-dun-its. Was it the tomato or the egg, or the spinach or the cantaloupe? But that series wouldn’t last long. The culprit would always be greed. Enjoy your 99-cent burger while you can.
Who needs terrorists when we have the FDA? Now there’s salmonella in raw tomatoes. In 16 states. I’m notoriously bad at math, but I think that’s close to a third of the country? The NYTimes helpfully points out that the problem is with “raw, uncooked tomatoes.” Whatever that means, it is clear that whoever catapults the propaganda for the fruit eaten as a vegetable has been super-careful to manage the message. Rather than admitting most of the cottonballs being eaten out of season are at risk, every story dutifully reports the types considered safe. I know I’m sounding beyond monotonous, but can someone remind me why we are spending $500,000 a minute in Iraq when the bigger threat is a gutted agency charged with overseeing so much of the “homeland” food supply? And to think idiots worry about eggs anymore. Of course, sentient minds might wonder why the FDA is wrestling with what is clearly a USDA problem, but that might be unpatriotic. Maybe Obama can set up a new agency regulating only arugula.
No wonder schools in America now teach nothing but how to pass a test, though. If kids learned math, they would have to be diapered from cradle to Reaganhood, because the future really is the shitz. Just think about the fact that Burger Death recently settled its dispute with farmworkers in Florida by grudgingly agreeing to an increase of a penny a pound for tomatoes picked. One penny. As in: The coin most elitists think should simply be discontinued. And the other half-cent-a-pound goes to the negotiators. Somehow this makes it less surprising to read that fast food chains are struggling to hold the line on dollar meals when the price of cheese is soaring (and — face it — what lies down with Whoppers is about 6,000 degrees removed from real Cheddar). The one constant is beef, cheap as shit (excuse me: as E. coli). And what’s even more wrong with this picture? Already immigrants have solid reasons to be very, very scared. But if they ever stop and think about why they are being rounded up from slaughterhouses so aggressively lately, they, too, will need to be diapered. Halliburton can get away with building unusable detention camps in Iraq. Here they might actually work.
I always think Robert Downey Jr. can do no wrong, but “Iron Man” was no “Home for the Holidays,” let alone “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.” I’m glad I saw it, if only for the dramatic tension of wondering how he dealt with caressing all those glasses of brown booze, given his issues. But things fell apart midway through when his character started nattering about needing “a good American cheeseburger” and then showed up with shit from a Burger Death bag. A real superhero would be rescuing the immigrants being rounded up in raids on slaughterhouses lately, not ingesting the gray matter that exploitation keeps cheap. What’s funny is that the producers could have gotten a real restaurant to spring for the brazen product placement. It would not have been a bigger waste of money than the bus-side ads a Flatiron joint is running around town. Does anyone ever decide on dinner off the M96?
I forget whose original thought I’m stealing here, but the great food shortage is really less about quantity and more about greed — there’s plenty to eat if you can afford to pay whatever the extortionists ask. Already it’s becoming clear that the capitalist fools are going to take every advantage of a bad season for the poor, and nowhere was that reality starker than in the Guardian story on Britain’s plans to go back to feeding cheap pork byproducts to chickens, a disgusting practice that was stopped once scientists started connecting the dots between unnatural-food-in and mad-cow-disease-out. I stay as far away from chicken as I can, having been raised with them in the backyard in Arizona, where their filthy habits were impossible to ignore. But I wonder at a world that still believes nature is going to roll over and do whatever avarice wants. Which is why I read the WSJ story on protests in South Korea against American beef with special fascination. Consumers there are informed enough to know our suspect supply is potentially tainting even things like sanitary napkins. No details were provided, but I don’t even want know how they put the cow in the Kotex. And would that lead to Mad Cindy Disease?
I owe my grocer friend with the unfortunate wingnut tendencies a big favor for steering me to the most brilliant food piece in donkeys’ years: Nathanael Johnson’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Pasteurized” in Harper’s. Whatever you think you know about raw milk, this will take you to about 14 higher levels. We spend all our time treating bacteria as WMD when they clearly exist for a good reason. Two great quotes from fully drawn characters: “Cheap food makes for expensive health care.” And: “Nature is dangerous, yes. But I can’t control it, and I can’t escape from it. I can only learn the best way to live with it.” Suffice it to say, that doesn’t mean with “probiotic” yogurt. Herd cows away from the grass they are intelligently designed to eat and before you know it humans are ballooning on corn converted into syrup. . . .
Now that the NYTimes expose on spokesPinocchios has made it sickeningly clear why we’re staying in Iraq — to launder money for GoFuckYourself’s contractor cronies — beef is looking even scarier than ever. The WSJ, whose new owner should be covering up the E. coli, actually ran this headline: Meat Inspectors Can’t Keep Up, Official Says. As the story elaborated, the USDA is “so understaffed that some inspectors are assigned to as many as 24 plants.” And worse. Meanwhile, we have billions and billions to squander far from the land of cheap food. Don’t get me started on the whimpering for the poor children separated from their moms in a wacko religious cult in the Chimp’s wacko state while not a word is heard about the offspring of illegal immigrants rounded up in raids on slaughterhouses and packing plants. When the roll is finally called wherever it’s called, America is going to have some serious ’splaining to do about 99-cent burgers in a drive-through world. But to paraphrase the Language-Mangler in Chief, who cares about hell? We’ll all be dead.