October 29th, 2015
In time for Halloween, here’s a grab bag of ways in which food fits into the holiday, no trick-or-treaters required.
Our first certainly counts as a trick. The Pig-Made-Pet fad of the 1980s (Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig) has returned in the form of the “Teacup Pig.” The sad truth is that the overwhelming adorableness of a piglet is inexorably fleeting. They grow up, way up, into eating machines. Time is the real prankster here, taking advantage of the naivety of 21st Century Americans, dialed into food as social signifier but dropping the call of food’s corporeal reality. For centuries our kind bred the porcine kind to be full-scale livestock that you can keep in the yard of a tenement and watch it pack on pounds gobbling household refuse. Now, of course, bacon comes from the store, leaving pigs as amazingly cute pets-to-be. For a while.
More tricks. Turns out that virtually all of the US’s food-pumpkin supply is grown within a two hundred mile circle centered on Peoria, Illinois. Unsurprisingly, the HQ for Libby’s, canned-pumpkin titan of the globe, is also within this circle. There’s a third thing in this circle, at least this year — ridiculous amounts of springtime rain, which is not what the pumpkin flowers need to become pumpkins proper. In fact, four of the wettest springs in Illinois have happened in the last five years which, by curious coincidence, exactly lines up with what climate science tells us the future of Illinois will look like. This year, Libby’s is reporting that they’ll have zero reserves of pumpkin, once the last of the crop ships in a couple weeks, leaving nothing until next August’s harvest. Maybe it’s time to change the saying to something about not keeping all your pumpkins in one basket.
I can’t resist calling this one spooky. The CIA HQ at Langley has its own in-house branch of Starbucks. It’s worth reading this piece just to appreciate the intersection of corporate policy and intelligence agency paranoia, but it does rather raise a question: if they’re this worried about security breaches at the latte stand within their own walls, maybe they should be doing more than keeping names off the cups?
From Virginia to Kenya and from spooks to ghouls. Everyone knows that fried foods will kill you, but it’s assumed that the fatal day will be somewhere far, far off in the future. Not so in Kenya, where a treat that is a trick is a genuine horror. It seems that someone got the bright idea of stealing the cooling oil which bathes electrical transformers — and selling it as “cooking oil.” The notion’s gone viral, meaning that the not only do vandalized transformers cause daily blackouts, but also that foods fried in the oil are laying people out all the time. The problem is that the oil is swimming with PCBs from the transformers, meaning your roadside order of fries may well turn your GI-tract into a superfund site. Boo, indeed.
And to conclude, real treats. Sort of. I once read that the diversity of consumer products has outstripped the diversity of non-insectile animals and we may be looking at proof in the “health candy” aisle. This amusing piece from Slate does the tasting so you don’t have to, but this stuff turns out to be food for thought more than it is food. The question that keeps nagging me is: does anyone believe this? Take, for instance, the “collagen soft chews,” ostensibly good for the complexion. I mean, if you think eating the stuff in your skin is going to improve your skin, then why not go all in and wrestle the dog for possession of the rawhide chew? Whether the stuff tastes like candy or like dog treats, anyone over the age of fifteen must know that too-good-to-be-true is an organizing principle of the universe. Which I suppose means that these are an exercise in make-believe, just like Halloween itself.