Not to put too fine a point on it, and nothing funny to say about it, but every innovation like plastic spouts on milk and cream cartons is chipping away at a wonderful world. Look inside an albatross, one that’s fed on the garbage patch where so many of those conveniences wind up. We are on the road to Wall-E with no Pandora in sight . . .
Bad enough the icebergs are melting. Now iceberg lettuce needs its temperature checked to be sure it’s not melting into lethal slime. Good thing polar bears in zoos are spared both these days.
Only editors raised on hamburger that never needed helper could be swept up into the drought panic enough to produce this headline: “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists.” Their message is “be afraid, be very afraid,” which is ridiculous — going meatless would not be the worst thing in the world (spend a couple of weeks eating in India and see if you ever miss red-blooded anything). The real scare is that there will not be enough water or arable land to produce protein substitutes for sacred cows on an overpopulated planet. Actual truth-tellers would type up a hed along the lines of “Food shortages could force Chipotle into leaving both rice and beans out of tortilla-free burritos.” And eventually: “Rat — it’s what’s for dinner.”
Relatedly, I really wanted to make fun of a stupid roundup on “food insecurity” with a link, but I can’t find the original (maybe for a reason). So I’ll just rely on trust, not verification to say it lamented that people are now so down and out they have to “create their own dressing.” If you can’t mix oil, mustard and vinegar, you probably shouldn’t be allowed down the Wishbone aisle. And it whined that people were reduced to buying canned rather than fresh fruit. If we had any sort of education in this country, those sad sack grocery baggers would understand they can buy several cans of no-sugar-added pineapple for one 50 percent-waste fresh one — not all canned is crap. Worst of all, it had people whimpering about having no hamburger. With no directions to the Goya aisle.
But I’m trying here. At this point there isn’t much left to say about the fact that movie theaters rigorously police outside food and drinks yet have no problem with “guests” strutting in with assault weapons and 6,000 bullets. And I anticipate no abatement of the insanity, given how inured Americans have become to not “rampage” but slaughter in so many fast-food joints over the years. But at least I understand why bottled water is, as James Fallows noted, one thing an Aurora-style mass murderer could not bring through airport security. If you have to pitch yours, you have to buy another. And what’s more lucrative than sugar water? Tap water in a fancy bottle in a non-compete environment.
Just watched this to be sure I wasn’t going to be accused of anything unoriginal after dillydallying before posting, but: I decided eons ago I’d prefer to be cremated once I join the choir invisible. Now I’ve learned, thanks to the most beautiful food story in donkey’s years, that it’s not the most environmentally sensitive way of disposing of a body bent over from carrying Baggus for years. Given that I spared the planet any resource-sapping spawn, I’m not going to worry too much about eco-karma. But this does have me thinking Starbucks opening in a funeral home is just perfect placement: Who wouldn’t enjoy thinking “ashes to ashes” while sipping that burnt brew?
Nothing funny about this, but we met up with friends for the awesome “Moonrise Kingdom” and they were all excited about starting to compost at the Greenmarket. I just said: “I didn’t even bring my reusable shopping bags tonight. Doesn’t seem like much point when they’ve found radiation in tuna 6,000 miles from Fukushima . . .” Maybe Wes Anderson can remake “On the Beach.” Fast.
Also, too, I tuned out nearly all the fluffing for the hometown paper’s big “morality of meat-eating” debate — it had all the validity of a HuffPost boob-science screamer, with its naked intent to amass links and comments. But I did read a news story in the relatively-sedate-for-Murdoch competition on the sad state of horses in this country that subtly made a very good case for the morality of eating horsemeat: to prevent suffering. Since the animal “rights” wackos got equine slaughterhouses shut down, horses often starve before they are sent off on long, miserable drives to abattoirs north and south of the ethical borders. If I were the naive type, I’d be wondering where all the concerned citizens of California are in preventing this outrage rather than outlawing the practice of letting ducks eat like the poors. But I’m probably among the very few not surprised that a grandstander would publicly ban foie gras while privately bowing to clients for private parties. Give that paragon a cheese-ass medal.
One of my friends-through-Twitter has been back-and-forthing about how soon it will be until we see ramps on menus, and I feel even sadder about being shortchanged of winter. Already green garlic is in Greenmarkets, and it’s way too soon (I only recently finished off the last of Keith’s Farm’s amazing hard-neck cloves). At this rate we’ll be through with pumpkins by June. The cherry blossoms are already in full bloom in Washington, I saw geese for the first time among the ducks over in The Pool in Central Park and all the suddenly-trusted climate experts are warning mosquitos will be rampaging within the month. All of it makes me think humans were smarter in the age of mythology, when the seasons could be rationalized and so were respected. The explanation of winter is my favorite, how the ruler of the underworld spirited away Persephone/Proserpina and made her stay half the year for eating six pomegranate seeds while, as Kate McGarrigle lyrically put it, her mother, the goddess of agriculture, “punished the Earth” and “turned every field into stone.” Millenniums ago people understood the world needed a respite. With all the information available to us, we still think we can eat pomegranates all year and not pay a price. No joke.
I’m sure I’ve ranted before about how clueless the hometown paper has been in its coverage of how Washington evolved from brown-liquor backwater to serious food scene even as the country went down the Bush tubes. Exhibit A was the DI/DO piece back in the reign of error that went on and on about all the new restaurants but never mentioned the scarlet letter: A for Abramoff. Once lobbyists moved in, the food scene changed. My first plane ride was to Dulles in the mid-Seventies, and I’ve been back more times than I can count thanks to my consort’s connection to the yellow magazine. Through all the fat years the Alzheimer’s patient and then the cigar manipulator were in power, Washington was what it was; prosperity somehow passed it by. Now I see it’s the wealthiest city in the country, and of course restaurants do very well on expense accounts. But one thing has apparently not changed. Kal Penn told USA Weekend he was mugged there shortly after going to work for the Big O. Bloggers I follow often have similar scary stories you won’t read in the papers. So basically the elephant in the room never gets covered. The nation’s capital is America’s Jamaica, where the super-rich are prey to the desperately poor. You’d think they’d do something about it, but they’re too busy trying to figure out how to cut Social Security to enrich the cat food companies. Jean-Louis never knew how easy he had it.
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.
Aside from the miserable dogs, the saddest things I saw in 10 days were the trash cans at Ephesus, the ancient ruins near Selcuk. There we were, surrounded by vestiges of civilization well before Christ, and the artifacts of our time are plastic water bottles. Which will still be around in another thousand years. And I don’t even want to dwell on the cat we spotted that was chasing two boys eating a bag of Lay’s potato chips. . . What would Mary think?
Given my twin obsessions, food and pol’ porn, I am living in interesting times. Half of the links I click/things I read insist we’re on the eve of destruction: “Somalia/’Mad Max,’ here we come!” The rest are blithely advocating making your own Popsicles/paletas. Potential meltdown, either way.
I slogged all the way to the last word of Time’s cover story on the end of ocean fish and just Tweeted, then sort of gave up. But my first reaction keeps coming back to me. Why would that huge feature (by weekly magazine standards) miss the whale in the newsroom? It kept hammering away at the idea that fish farming is essential because the global population keeps growing. And it never once paused to say, “Hey, you know what? Fewer mouths to feed would solve this problem before nature has to bring out even bigger guns than earthquakes and tsunamis.” On a planet running out of water, multiplying the loaves and barramundi is not enough. But I’m just being silly. I’m sure it won’t be long till they run a huge cover story on advances in in vitro.
Also thanks to this trip I have new appreciation for the ridiculously bloated TSA. If not for insane security kabuki guaranteeing a steady supply of airport captives, would decent, affordable places to eat and drink ever have landed so close to runways? (Can you say Vino Volo at EWR?) Now if only the fear factor could spread to airline catering sweatshops. Whatever was on my deezgusting Continental/United tray as “beef pot roast” was too scary to ingest, even before I started thinking I would be eating a dead cow seven miles up in the sky even as the waters around Japan are getting scarier. On my first day in Milan I was in the food hall on the top floor of laRinascente when the most violent storm I have ever witnessed slammed into the city, with sheets of rain and truckloads of hail. A more primitive people would have been scared straight to Kyoto. But everyone under the glass roof just kept calm and carried on eating and drinking and taking snapshots and making videos. Afterward, I went down a flight to housewares and saw eco-sensitive sponges for sale. In the shape of penguins.
And speaking of earth off its axis, I was appalled to come across an ad in a Working Mother that accidentally landed on our doormat. While the Very Serious People are ranting about the risk to future generations from the deficit, the nextest generation is being targeted with Lunchables, easily the most wastefully packaged processed crap in the history of plastic fud. Now, the copywriters boast, they contain “fresh fruit,” in the form of pineapple chunks in sugar water. I’m so old I remember peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in wax paper in a brown bag refolded and used over and over. Now kids generate a 1950s family of nine’s trash in a single “lunch.” But I understand cooking is just so much more difficult these days . . .