WIC on Hoveround wheels

I could understand the awe the nonagenarian rich guy inspired with his $100 nightly treats for himself. Sure, he earned it. But given that one in five olds in NYC relies on food assistance, you gotta wonder about his priorities and the weird tone-deafness of a section that natters about the great divide but celebrates excess (tell us what was on the table, ye who have no money worries?) Forget the four-dollar organic greens. The average geriatric female in NYC would be happy with a feast o’Friskies.

700 cases of BBQ ranch chicken salad

And I’m way behind on excitable exposés, but the hometown paper’s big one on the mad scientists’ struggle to save the orange industry (not crop: industry) caused a dustup that somehow didn’t produce a single good answer to why the world needs so much juice. I mean, really. What is it good for? Scurvy’s been cured, while the stuff always rationed in teeny glasses when I was a kid is now poured and drunk like water. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in a weeklong course in “nutritional cuisine” at the CIA is that you might as well be drinking Coke — it’s about as caloric and only slightly less nutritious. Better to eat an orange and get the fiber. Or at least read up on how metastasized an industry built on fruit once seen only in Christmas stockings has grown. . . .

Just don’t wash

But apparently when it comes to the foulest fowl, there really is no end to insanity these days. Most recently there was the airlift of potential “nuggets” from West Coast to East because some loons were willing to spend 50 grand to try to make a loony point — that animals raised as food are not food. Not even for the millions of  “food-insecure” human animals in this country alone.  And then there was the weirdness of a new regulation that allows the Chinese to export processed chicken as long as the birds were raised in North America, shipped all the way around the world and processed before being shipped back in suitably unidentifiable form. Somewhere, the Wright Brothers and Marco Polo should all be weeping at what they wrought.

Minimum wage? “$8 and change”

We get two newspapers a day except (until just recently) on Sundays, and one informed us that feedlots are now in withdrawal from something I didn’t even know existed: “Vitamin Z,” a growth additive that turns cows into “muscle-bound athletes” in a matter of weeks. I immediately clicked over to the hometown paper to see if I might have missed a big story, and at that point the keyword did not turn up a single instance. And this is so far beyond pink-slime-scary it’s insane. Cows are staggering into slaughterhouses after being drugged to fatten them without the need for suddenly pricey feed. Anyone who eats supermarket/burger-chain beef is ingesting a product so freaky it makes test-tube babies look edible. And yet whole business plans are built on a commodity that was never meant to be a commodity . . .

3,000 sows in one barn

I grew up with guns and am very lucky my parents were responsible owners; otherwise my 17-year-old blood would have been all over the living room one whacked-out night when a friend picked up a rifle, only to be thwarted by the empty chambers (or whatever the word is). So I really wonder why America’s Most Overrated Coffee Chain won’t keep the people-killers out. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Caffeine is the drug that insures you can’t shoot straight.

Hamburger Helpless

I would transition with “speaking of yellowcake,” but whatever Twinkies are, it is not “a mixture of flour, eggs, milk, sugar etc. baked as in a loaf.” What fascinates me is how their “return” is getting so much coverage with so little discussion of why they really “went away.” Greedy guys in suits needed to make more megabucks. So the workers got hosed, their pay whacked and their pensions gutted, while food writers were waxing nostalgically saccharine. With all the cost savings, you’d assume the price would be lower now. But you would misunderestimate American business today. Apparently the bonuses got bigger. It’s the Twinkies that got small. I do hope they’ve upped the high-fructose corn syrup to cut the bitterness.

Cool in the second kitchen

One of the most depressing stories I’ve read in some time was about a free summer lunch program for kids in one of the states that make up the richest country in the world. People are worried about ducks getting force-fed for foie gras, and here’s a whole generation being undernourished. What was doubly depressing was seeing what was on offer. Suffice it to say I’m just glad I grew up poor before Lunchables. Also, too: Call food stamps what they are — supermarket subsidies — and you’d see them busting the budget.

Cream before 6

You have to give the golden-arched evil empire props for balls. On the same day its honchos were denying any role in the ballooning of the human race, the chain was boasting that it had come up with its most caloric item ever. Which happens to be merely a mega-order of enough fries to feed a village, but I’m sure they’re counting on suckers not realizing the so-called meat is not what packs on the lbs. It’s the sides. And not just the liquid ones.

I was also fascinated by the huge fuss over KFC deliveries coming through the Gaza tunnels, which was a story that came out of nowhere and was suddenly everywhere, Somewhere a flack has to be cashing a mega-check. I first saw the “news” on a British site, with the photo attributed to an agency. Other outlets sent their own lensmen to get the pic, but in every one the logo was front and center and very clear. You’d think it was Coke in a Hollywood movie. Once upon a time you would say you couldn’t buy advertising like this. Now you can ask: Why would you? Journamalists will do it for free.

No SNAP for you

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.”

Muslin hummus

Every morning I wake up to some new set of links to food start-ups that are hoping to do good by doing well. And I wish them more than well, since I’m a big believer in food as the solution to all problems. So I was encouraged to read that vulture capitalists are starting to put their mega-money where their big mouths are. But someone is really going to have to answer why they would invest in the type of companies that are trying to come up with substitutes for nature’s most nearly perfect food. They might as well be attempting to develop a fat-free avocado. The other half of breakfast at least made sense, since even vegans lust for bacon.

Like white on Ricin

Relatedly, I saw much hooraying over the return of Twinkies etc. but almost no awareness in the fud world that the whole brouhaha was yet another greedy/bogus “Mission Accomplished,” given that the goal was to destroy the unions, loot the company and let it be reincarnated as a Bangladesh-in-the-USA enterprise. Enjoy your fresh Ho Hos. Just don’t stop to wonder if there’s any blood in the Sno Balls.

Sneakers in underwear

And I really wish we were living in the future and none of this had happened yet. So now the Boston suspect has been charged with having a “weapon of mass destruction” and I guess everyone had just better prepare to surrender their pressure cookers. I grew up with one of those scary things — my mom used it every day to cook dried beans or, when the freezer was otherwise empty of venison, boil a deer heart into submission, and all seven of us kids would cower as it rocked back and forth on a burner, looking ready to detonate. I wasn’t surprised one could be converted by an evildoer, but I remain amazed at how many “reporters” seemed unaware it is not “like what you might use to cook rice,” as NPR’s terrorism expert helpfully explained. (Yeah, you might, but you might be thinking rice cooker.) At first I was going to make a joke about how airlines will one day no longer allow Prestos in carry-on bags, but then a Twitpal informed me Williams-Sonoma has already pulled those potential IEDs off its shelves. The crazy gets crazier and crazier. While I keep wondering why those founding fathers never thought to write in any rights for those of us who would just like to fly home with a bottle of wine or olive oil without having to check a bag. Didn’t Jefferson produce both?

Heart attack at Cash 18

If you buy food from the people who produce it, you never have to bother with stuff like “the dark side of strawberries” (no link, cuz I’m not encouraging ’em). This, however, was another dark side. Maybe it would be cheaper for the Greeks to pay pickers than pick up the tab for sewing up gunshot wounds?