10/28/15 Unsafe at Any Speed

Thanks, Ralph Nader, for the headline.

There is no end to the conflicting studies about the food we eat. We are constantly warned about the dangers of fast food, as if to imply slower foods are safer. But it seems nothing is safe for consumption anymore. If it is perchance less unsafe, there are environmental reasons for not eating it. Face it, to live a healthy though short life, according to the myriad thousands of expensive studies that frequently conflict with each other, you must simply not eat at all.

I suppose if you are a researcher having received millions of dollars in grant money to conduct a long-term, expensive study, you must see to it that something useful was revealed. I doubt we’ll ever see a headline stating, “World-wide Study Reveals Nothing.” Nothing is exactly what we get most of the time, though we are told otherwise.

The World Health Organization, a subsidiary of that model of bureaucratic efficiency, The United Nations, has determined that processed meats are nearly as dangerous as cigarettes. If you want to live a healthy life you will not eat processed meats. Nor will you eat red meat.

Hmmm! Let’s follow this and see where it goes.

Nor, it seems, should we eat farm raised tilapia, salmon, or imported catfish. Nor should we eat fish from declining ocean stocks for lest we drive edible fish into extinction, or get mercury poisoning.

We could eat almonds, except that California farmers who almost exclusively produce them are clearing their orchards because of a lack of water. We could eat eggs, but they are full of cholesterol and hormones. I suppose we could eat eggs laid by our own free-range chickens, but there are ordinances and covenants against keeping free-range, or even cooped chickens, in our condominiums. We could eat beef, but bovine flatulence and effluvium is a danger to the environment.

Any animals fed GMO corn, soybeans, and other grain products are off limits, as well as the GMO grains themselves, not only because they are GMO monstrosities, but wheat contains gluten, the arsenic of the new age. I suppose we could eat venison, except that it is not kosher to hunt, and if we choose to hunt, we best not use lead bullets lest we poison the environment and our own food, or we learn to use homemade bows and arrows to replace the firearms we no longer possess.

There is chard and kale, as opposed to turnip greens and collards, but they must be organically grown in a pesticide free environment, and must have obtained their nitrogen from natural fertilizers, not including waste products of any animals lest they be tainted with listeria or salmonella.

Processed meats were first introduced by those who learned that processing also preserved, thus helping to ensure that there would be meat to eat long after the animal had been slaughtered. Even if processing preserved the meat for a couple of weeks, or several weeks, this was far longer than the meat would be edible without it. Processing resulted in little waste, or greater efficiency.

“I can’t eat the whole goat right now,” said Otho, leaning back on the rock with a sigh, patting his full belly, simultaneously belching and farting, making more room inside to his great comfort. A yawn was already beginning to form as his eyelids drooped.

“Well, it’s July, and you better eat it by tomorrow,” reasoned Clovis, “else it will only be fit for the dogs. We don’t have enough anise, cumin, or curry to mask its mortification.”

“I can’t eat it all by tomorrow, either,” said Otho. “What can we do? There’s almost a whole goat left after our meal.”

“Let’s process it,” suggested Clovis. “We can salt it down and smoke it and it will last for weeks. We can then eat it at our leisure, and use it to season our otherwise unsavory tubers when we boil them.”

Thus, processed meats were born, perhaps helped along by the fish dried on so many ancient shores. Processing meat is as old as accidental discovery, which is pretty old.

“Don’t eat too much of the processed goat, though, Otho,” warned Clovis. “If you eat more than 50 grams a day, you will be more susceptible to colon cancer.”

“What’s a gram? What’s a colon? What’s cancer?” asked Otho, who had no idea that a wooly mammoth would soon stomp him as flat as a gluten-laden, fructose-covered pancake.

“Don’t worry,” said Clovis, seeing the mammoth approach from Otho’s rear, knowing that he was a much faster runner than Otho. Clovis didn’t have to be faster than the mammoth, he just had to be faster than Otho. Nature is a harsh mother, being every bit as concerned about her offspring as the sea-turtle who lays her eggs on a distant beach and never looks back.

“Those sea turtlettes sure are good,” the king mackerel said to the stingray.

“Yes they are. But you shouldn’t eat too many of them. The shells are somewhat toxic and can cause intestinal blockages,” replied the stingray.

“Be glad I like them better than stingray,” said the king mackerel. “I never did like those so-called ‘sea-scallops’.”

The ray floundered off in a huff, offended, but soon forgot about the insult as it gorged itself on fresh turtlette. The mercuric mackerel never knew that he would soon be insane, then dead, through no fault of his own, the ray having the last laugh.

“I’ll have a cheeseburger with pickle, onion, mustard, and mayo, on a whole wheat bun to make it safe to eat,” I said to the waiter behind the counter. “And cook it slow so that it will not be considered unsafe fast food. The slower the better.”

“A cheeseburger is unsafe at any speed,” the patron next to me, waiting to place her order, evidently the neighborhood dietician.

“Then, let me have the corned beef on rye, with a couple of slices of salami, bologna, and pastrami for good measure.”

“Too much processed meat. You’ll probably die of colon cancer before you finish the sandwich,” said the apparent safety assurance patron.

“How about some cottage cheese on top of some peach wedges?” I asked her.

“Nope,” she said with a shake of her head. “Dairy and artificially sweetened canned fruit are out. You’ll most likely have a heart attack or fall into a diabetic coma walking out the door.”

“So what can I eat?” I asked her.

She turned to the waiter, who had been remarkably patient watching this exchange. “He’ll have a bottle of water and one stalk of celery.”

She turned to me and said with a smile, “My treat!”

I was so hungry by then, I wolfed down the single stalk of celery and tried to wash it down with a big gulp of the water. I choked and staggered out into the street, nearly being struck by a sputtering vintage Corvair as I blindly coughed and gagged.

“Unsafe at any speed,” I thought to myself.

I wonder what Ralph Nader had for lunch.

©2015 Mississippi Chris Sharp

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