Category Archives: Natural Foods

Hot Air

Fable Folderol

Add this myth to the ever-expanding list of commonly-held falsehoods: the holidays are a significant cause of suicides.

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George Bailey, Preparing To Jump

Yep, you guessed it. It ain’t true at all. It’s so untrue that, in fact, the exact opposite can be argued — the holidays prevent people from committing suicide. That’s what figures from the Centers for Disease control indicate. The CDC tells us fewer suicides occur in November and December than any other time of the year.

So flush this one down the toilet along with the full moon causing mayhem and people using only 10 percent of their brains.

Food Folderol

I’ve patronized Chipotle ever since I arrived in Bloomington mainly because the place serves the kind of ginormous burritos I’d become accustomed to in my Chicago days. Back in my beloved hometown, there’d be burrito joints and taquerias seemingly on every corner. There was even a place that advertised “Burritos As Big As Your Head.”

The truth is if you can find a burrito as big as my coconut, you’ll enjoy an extraordinarily filling repast indeed. Perhaps two.

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La Bamba Burritos

Anyway, Chipotle has been the source of a number of foodborne illness outbreaks in the last calendar year.

You might say the company has been the victim of bad luck. There’s a dizzying variety of ways colonies of bacteria can grow in foods at restaurants and grocery stores. From preparers who neglect to wash their hands after using the bathroom to servers who violate time-temperature guidelines, the food you eat could, at any moment, pack a wallop of microorganisms on your forkful that’ll have you hugging the white bowl for days at a time. In fact, pretty much every single forkful of food you shove into your mouth contains scads of sickening germs. Your body’s natural defense system usually takes care of all the invaders entering your gullet. That is, unless the sheer number of microorganisms overwhelms your defenders.

That’s what happened to hundreds of people, Chipotle diners all, on five separate occasions in 2015. Once is a simple occurrence, twice a coincidence, five times a pattern. Chipotle foodborne illness outbreaks this year have affected poor souls in at least 10 states. The causes of these mass horkings have included E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus, three unrelated invaders, indicating the fast food operation has a big problem on its hands.

Chipotle, of course, crows about its local food sourcing and all-natural ingredients. Well, everybody does, but Chipotle was on it early and big, the first national corporate entity to jump on that bandwagon. Chipotle’s “mission statement” (ugh, I detest corporate-speak) claims it offers “Food with Integrity.” (Double-ugh, I detest — almost as much — profit-making under the guise of altruism.)

McDonald’s Corp. was a big investor in Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. from 1998 through 2006, a period of time during which C. grew from a modest-sized Colorado chain to a 500-location coast-to-coast juggernaut. It’s ironic, natch, that a McDonald’s-owned outfit would succeed based on an appeal to the “natural” palate. Mickey D’s “food” is about as natural as that bottle of soap scum remover under your bathroom sink.

A secret: I still, on rare occasions, indulge in a Big Mac. Sue me.

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Guilty

Somehow, Chipotle overcame the negative image of its corporate overlord and actually became known as a crunchy, New Age-y, safe place to eat. College students went gaga over the place. They could eat fast crap while convincing themselves they were still protecting their holy temple bodies. Chipotle told  customers its food was free from GMOs and other weapons of mass destruction.

Yet, five times in the last year Chipotle’s food has caused hundreds of folk to invert their maws. Yuck.

Now comes Henry I. Miller, bio-researcher, former food and drug regulator, and a Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, to say Chipotle’s problems with foodborne illness are a result of its natural, crunchy, New Age-y practices. Miller says locally-produced food is not safer, “pesticide-free” crops actually are rife with potentially dangerous bug-killing substances, organic grains often are tainted by toxins and parasites, and using natural fertilizer — read: animal shit — increases the odds of foodborne illness eightfold.

And it’s not that Chipotle and the like would argue with Miller. Here’s a line from Chipotle’s 2014 annual report (p. 14):

We may be a higher risk for foodborne illness outbreaks than some competitors due to our use of fresh produce and meats rather than frozen and our reliance on employees cooking with traditional methods rather than automation.

In other words, our methods suck — and are dangerous, to boot.

If you spend your time gathering your food info from profit-driven media or, worse, “natural” websites, you’ll become convinced there are only two types of food in this world:

  1. Magic food that’ll make you healthier, stronger, happier, more orgasmic, and will help you live to the ripe old age of 152.
  2. Evil food that’ll cause cancer, heart disease, obesity, rashes, shingles, warts, poverty, pollution, crime, slavery, and Donald Trump’s hair.

In our ultimately unfulfillable quest to live forever, we’ve latched onto food as the magic pill in recent years. Now, not only is it unwise to ingest Drano, cyanide, nail polish remover, and gasoline, it’s considered almost as rash to eat a slice of bread or enjoy a cob of genetically modified corn. Conversely, if we only buy squash from the organic farmer down the road, we’ll live long enough to see humankind populate Mars.

Here’s a truism from an inveterate talker: People talk too much.

Miller concludes:

Although the crops, meats and other foods produced by modern conventional agricultural technologies may not bring to mind a sentimental Norman Rockwell painting, they are on average safer than food that reflects pandering to current fads.

In the words of my favorite cook ever, Chico of Club Lago, shut up and eat.

[Gasp] He’s Naked!

Okay, ready for Evidence Item #33 gazillion that we, the species Homo Sapiens sapiens, are flat-out psychopathic? Here goes.

Some poor schmuck tried to wade through the shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea the other day in an attempt to get around the barbed wire fence that separates Egypt from the Gaza Strip. He was a Palestinian and he wanted to get out of that god-foresaken apartheid hell and perhaps breathe the relatively freer air of its neighbor to the south (emphasis on relatively).

Egyptian border guards opened fire on him, dropping him like a sack of flour in the surf, errant rifle rounds plucking the waters around him and raising little up-splashes. Huzzah, the sovereign state of Egypt had been protected.

The whole incident was caught on video. The Arabic version of Al Jazeera aired the vid and tut-tutted the tragedy. Only the Palestinian guy had been stark naked as he splashed through the surf, perhaps as a way of showing he wasn’t carrying any arms or weapons of mass hysteria into that ancient land. So, even though we see in loving detail a man’s life being snuffed out in a hail of bullets, Al Jazeera producers protected their viewers from seeing the poor bastard’s cold-turtled junk as well as his bare buttocks by pixellating these horrifying locales.

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Praise Allah — We Can’t See His Penis

Yes, the Earth, where terrestrial evolution’s highest form is more scared of nudity than bloody homicide.

 

 

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In my lifetime, we’ve gone from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. We’ve gone from Kennedy to Al Gore. If this is evolution, I believe that in twelve years, we’ll be voting for plants.” — Lewis Black

WISCONSIN IN ONE WORD

Damn!

WEDNESDAY BLOOMINGTON HAPPENINGS

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THE ARCHAIC BRITISH CLASS SYSTEM BY MOONLIGHT

The transit of Venus wasn’t the only celestial event to hold Bloomingtonians rapt yesterday.

Did you catch the spectacular full moon overnight?

Sometime around 3:00am, Steve the Dog and I woke up and, as we often do, padded around the house aimlessly for a few moments. This time, though, we stopped in our tracks.

The world outside the Chez Big Mike windows was oddly bright. The full moon was so brilliant that I wondered if I could read by it.

I know, I know — I do strange thing in the middle of the night. So I grabbed the nearest book, a volume of PG Wodehouse‘s Bertie and Jeeves stories. I flipped the thing open and — whaddya know? — I was able to read it without the aid of a lamp.

Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry As Bertie & Jeeves

Cool, huh?

I’ll keep you posted on further nocturnal experiments as they occur.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE PROVES: FOODIES ARE JERKS!

Hah!

Even though I consider myself the smartest, most sensitive, fairest-minded member of our species, even this humble reporter can fall victim to the phenomenon wherein we read and believe that which we already hold to be true.

As an example, I nearly thrust my arms in the air and cheered when I came across an article with this headline in the Big Think this morning:

Take it from a guy who once worked for years at Whole Foods Market (in the education department, no less) — this article nails it.

My years at WFM only strengthened my preconceived notion that natural and organic food aficionados are merely mirror images of Puritans and Savonarolas.

See, foodies believe there’s a clean and pure way of living — a conceit I know to be false. They also believe that anyone who doesn’t agree 134% with them is either an evil agri-business lackey or is a deluded victim of the forces of Dick Cheney.

Don’t get me wrong: I do my best to minimize my intake of red meat, I refuse to eat veal or pate de foie gras, I try to stay away from hydrogenated oils and white flours and sugars, I strive to eat a variety of varied-color things, and I rarely buy salt-laden prepared foods.

But, see, there’s the rub — I try to do all those things. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I have a taste for a Big Mac. Sometimes I don’t have the time or energy to cut up fresh vegetables. Sometimes the siren song of that bag of Wavy Lays is too strong for me to resist.

I am neither a Puritan nor a Savonarola.

But by and large, I try to hold to a general foundation of healthy eating habits (save for the fact that my portions usually are about the size of those served to hippopotami at the Indianapolis Zoo.)

Let’s Eat!

Anyway, I’ve always felt that foodies believe they’re going to cheat death, much as the Puritans believed they’d attain eternal life through their belief in god. Like the Puritans, as well, foodies tend to think they must save the ignorant masses of unwashed humanity from themselves. And like religious zealots flagellating themselves or confessing their sins to cleanse the soul, food zealots purge and cleanse their alimentary canals in hopes of achieving some sort of higher level of existence.

To which I reply, Leave me alone so I can eat my Tombstone pizza in peace.

Yeah, foodies are pretty jerky. And now I’ve got science to back me up.

 

 

 

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and the old men and the old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.” — Brendan Behan

THE LOST WALLABY

So, an Evansville guy has lost his wallaby.

Yep. The man has (or, more accurately now, had) an albino wallaby named Kimba.

Typical Albino Wallaby

A week ago today, Ron Young let the critter out in his fenced backyard and, next thing he knew, Kimba had taken a hike. Well, actually four hours later, the animal took her hike.

Wild creatures can figure out many ways to escape a fenced enclosure if you give them four hours. Hell, if I left Steve the Dog out in a fenced yard (which we don’t have) and came back four hours later, I’d find the yard empty save for a pair of fence cutters dropped in haste on the grass.

I mean, Steve likes me and The Loved One well enough, but the allure of out there is irresistible. And this is a  pampered hound who looks at me as if I’m from the moon when I suggest he go outside in a light mist to do his business.

“I Like Youse Guys But Gimme Half A Chance And I’m Outta Here.”

Anyway, Young is a former director of the Evansville Zoo. You’d think he’d know better. And not just about leaving an animal unattended for such a long period of time.

Just having a non-native animal in Southern Indiana seems rash to me.

Wallabies, I’ll hazard to guess, don’t want to be here. Were we to give the macropods a vote in the matter, it’s a good bet they’d overwhelmingly elect to stay in Australia, New Zealand, or any of the nearby Oceania islands they inhabit.

Which reminds me of an egregious example of humans introducing a non-native species to a strange geographical environment.

A wealthy goofball named Thomas Austin brought a couple of dozen cute little bunnies to his estate in Victoria in 1859. He’d wanted to shoot at them for fun and games. See, rabbits had never before lived in Australia and a man can become bored blasting away at the same old 755 different species of reptile as well as countless platypi, echidnae, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, kookaburras, dingoes, and other mammals and birds native to that land.

Apparently, Austin never bagged his limit because the surviving bunnies did what bunnies do — that is, they bonked and bonked and bonked until they’d essentially taken over most of the continent within forty years.

You might say, So what? What can cute little bunnies do to a continent? The answer: devastate it.

The hundreds of millions of rabbits who now hold sway over the entire landmass have eaten so much foliage that exposed soil and land erosion is now a major problem in many huge swaths of Australia. Not only that but a significant number of plant species have now gone extinct, thanks to the voracious rabbits. And since the plants have disappeared, at least two mammals species, the bilby and the bandicoot, have essentially vanished.

Australian Rabbits Are Heavy Drinkers, Too.

Some estimate that the damage caused by Austin’s rabbits costs the Australian economy more than A$500 million a year.

Not that we have to worry about wallabies taking over North America now that Kimba has escaped her pen. She’s probably dead now since wallabies really don’t know how to live in winter climes.

Folks, if you want a pet, go adopt a dog or cat from the City of Bloomington Animal Shelter.

SHUT UP AND EAT

When I was a bartender at Club Lago, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, one of our cooks was a funny man named Chico. He loved to concoct new dishes using only the stuff that was leftover in the kitchen at the end of the night. He’d serve up plates of the scrumptious stuff to the waitstaff and me after we’d locked the doors.

Occasionally, a new hire might ask before digging in, “What’s in this?” To which Chico would swiftly reply, “Just shut up and eat.”

I found his directive to be sensible and easy enough to follow.

Not that Chico was worried we’d learn he’d been dumping toxic substances into his skillet or pot. His philosophy was if you really love to eat, just eat. The act of consuming comestibles should be enjoyed without worry or fear. Eat!

Admittedly, one might want to question the company that whips up, say, Spam. A wise person wants to know how many species have sacrificed their lives for that rectangular hunk of “meat.”

“Food”

But Chico’s dishes were made of fresh vegetables, succulent seafood, lovingly-stirred sauces, and prime meats. Just shut up and eat.

Which brings me to a recent study that indicates the food fetishists of this holy land — thousands of whom seem to have settled here in Bloomington — ought to try to hew to Chico’s axiom.

Apparently, according to the study, people tend to think a food is more nutritious, is safer, and is more pure only because it carries labels like “fair trade,” “natural,” or “organic.”

It’s called the “health halo” effect. And it’s pretty much bullshit.

Yeah, It’s Natural — But It’s Still Junk Food

Now, the organic designation is defined by federal law. It means simply that the grub you’re jamming into your mouth is reasonably free from certain prohibited substances like dangerous pesticides or controversial additives. The organic designation in no way affects the taste or nutritional quality of a food. It’s conceivable, for instance, that Hormel Foods could apply for and receive the USDA’s approval to slap the organic logo on its cans of Spam.

“Fair trade” and “natural,” on the other hand have no legal definitions. I could market cow flop tomorrow, calling it “all-natural” — which it is — and be well within my legal rights. And making sure some Colombian coffee growers get a fair price for their crop doesn’t make my cup of joe any different from yours.

Still, the study found that people will go so far as to believe a piece of fair trade chocolate contains fewer calories than one not marketed under that label.

So, yeah, we’d like to make sure we’re not screwing the world’s farmers to death because we need to stuff ourselves with sandwich cookies. And it’s good to know there isn’t a cupful of Red Dye No. 3 in that package of Jujubes.

But let’s try to be reasonable. Just shut up and eat.

WHO ARE THE KARDASHIANS?

For the longest time, my mind has refused to retain information about the Kardashians.

The gray mass inside my cranium is like that. It has also prohibited me from understanding basic economic precepts for many long years. For example, I’d ask somebody what the national debt is. Not how much it is, but what exactly it is, as in its definition. Financially savvy pals would explain it to me in excruciating detail and I’d nod my head as if I were taking it all in.

But — swear to god — ten minutes later all those words and ideas would have spilled out of my ear and onto the floor, only to be mopped up by the bartender or busboy at whichever saloon or restaurant I’d just had my lesson in.

Not Even IU’s Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Ellie Ostrom Can Help Me

Same thing with the Kardashians. I must have asked at least three dozen different people through the years who the Kardashians are and why this holy land knows of them.

And every time the knowledge imparted to me simply departs my brain, leaving no forwarding address.

When  it comes to the national debt, I feel bad about my ignorance. But I’m proud of my Kardashian stupidity.

Duh, I Dunno

Apparently, many others in the Great United States, Inc. also are less than enthralled by the K-clan. This despite the fact that all corporate news outlets must record and recount the family’s every muscle move.

Ranker.com come has compiled a list of the 40 Americans least deserving of their fame and fortune. Within the top ten on the list, there are three Kardashians: Kim, Kourtney, and Rob.

Now I don’t feel so out of touch. On the other hand, who the hell is The Situation?

Um, Uh, What Was The Question?

WHITE ROOM

Right off the bat, I’m not advocating the use of heroin. Lemme put it this way, back in the days when I and my circle were willing to ingest anything for a high, the very idea of heroin scared the bejesus out of me.

I’d met a young woman when I was about 23 years old. She never missed a chance to extol the wonders of heroin. I asked her what it was like. Her eyes turned dreamy and she said, “It’s the greatest feeling you’ll ever know. After heroin, sex is nothing.”

I vowed at that moment never to try it — and I never have.

Eric Clapton waged a well-documented, years-long battle against heroin addiction. He’s been clean for nearly forty years. But his heroin-free output includes such treacle as “Tears in Heaven” while his “White Room” with Cream was recorded at the height of his horse ride.

I’m just saying.

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