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FIVE THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE SENATE’S FOOD SAFETY BILL BUT WEREN’T

1. THE COSTCO AMENDMENT

What do you do with eight gallons of stewed tomatoes? A 4-pack of 120 oz. mustard jars? 50 lbs. of rice?

If you’re like most households, you stick them on a shelf in the back of the pantry and try to ignore the fact that the giddy joy you felt because you saved so much money can’t possibly last long enough to counteract the guilt you’ll feel when you end up throwing half of it out.

This amendment would have legally prohibited club stores from selling bulk items that:

(a) the average consumer can’t possibly consume before the expiration date
(b) the average consumer doesn’t need – i.e. cashew butter, creamed spinach, dried parsley, tapioca pudding, etc.
(c) or that taste so good when sampled in the store nobody can resist their multi-ounce siren call.

2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR FOOD HYPOCRISY

This amendment would have made it illegal for anyone to cop a militant attitude about food – holier-than-thou vegans, organic-only food-nazis, food processing plant owners and/or executives who roll their eyes (and mobilize their lawyers) if anyone questions their quality or commitment to cleanliness, etc.

3. SPECIAL PROVISION FOR SPOKESPEOPLE AND OTHER PUBLIC RELATIONS EXECUTIVES

When it comes to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli, listeria or other types of foodborne illnesses, it takes a special kind of flak to stand at a podium in front of a bunch of reporters and claim the company’s products are “perfectly safe” and that the media is making the situation out to be a lot worse than it really is, or that it’s not really company’s fault but the work of disgruntled employees and/or unscrupulous food activists, and that in either case, the company is “cooperating fully” with authorities to resolve the situation in a safe and timely fashion.

Since spokespeople can’t be sued for lying, this amendment would have made it mandatory for them all to attend a special private banquet where the only food they got would have been the very food they claimed everyone could “trust and continue to consume without any health and safety concerns.”

4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET – OR ELSE

Ever order anything online, or from the back of a magazine because the photos looked so good?

This amendment would have not only banned the use of Photoshop and other means of digital enhancement, but made it illegal for anyone selling direct-to-the-consumer food to hire a photo stylist to, for example, sort through 10,000 bushels of pears to find the one – and only one – in the lot that looked like you’d want to eat it.

It would also have made it illegal to embellish descriptions, meaning that if a wine-of-the-month club promised “world-class” bottles, they had better come from a part of the world that’s actually known for its vineyards and taste really, really good.

5. VEGETABLE JAIL

This amendment would have authorized the FDA to work with state and local law enforcement officials to create “vegetable jail,” so that instead of threatening kids who won’t eat their broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. with no dessert or having to sit at the table until everything – “And I mean everything!” – is finished, parents could just say “Look… it’s either spinach or 18 months hard time.”

(Not that some kids wouldn’t choose jail over spinach, of course, but at least it would have helped.)

FAT CHANCE

WIFE: Where you going?
HUSBAND: I thought I’d run out and get some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
WIFE: What about our post-holiday diet?
HUSBAND: We finished it.
WIFE: Yeah — yesterday.
HUSBAND: Which means today I can finally eat what I want to.

LIVER VS. BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Why do we make kids eat stuff they don’t like?

On some level, it’s got to be an unconscious continuation of the cycle of abuse our own parents inflicted on us with their liver and onions, their Spam® meatloaf, their homemade creamed turnips – all the horrible foods we tried to shove in our pockets or slip under the table to the dog.

And yet knowing this doesn’t help — if you’re like me, you’ve actually uttered the phrase “If I had to finish my plate when I was a kid, so do you!” to your own kids without even realizing you were saying it.

But what if forced feeding isn’t really a bad thing?

Looked at from a historical perspective, isn’t it really just a way of paying homage to our family traditions and the ancestors who worked so hard to establish them? What better way to say “I remember my roots” than by, for example, making everyone at the table choke down a bowl of viscous, foul-smelling oyster stew every now and then?

Or by whipping out a few dollops of artery-clogging Crisco and turning the toughest cut of beef you can find into “great-grandma’s” chicken-fried steak?

There’s a practical reason for subjecting kids to food they don’t like, too, and that’s because it gives them first-hand experience with the human race’s most important survival skill, the one that enabled us to make it through the earliest days of our evolution: the ability to eat anything, no matter how unappetizing.

HUNTER-GATHERER #1: I’m hungry.
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: Me, too.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: Maybe we should eat that gloopy, foul-smelling thing over there?
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: That?!?!?! We don’t even know what that is.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: Yeah, but I’m hungry.
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: Me, too.
HUNTER-GATHERER #1: So what do we do?
HUNTER-GATHERER #2: I know, let’s get Hunter-gatherer Mikey to try it — Hey Mikey!

Besides when you compare what we give our kids to what our parents gave us, boy, are they getting off easy. “Tuna Surprise” anyone? At least the stuff we make our kids choke down is healthy, organic, minimally processed and preservative-free.

You know, good.

On the other hand, maybe our parents felt the same way about the stuff they served us? Maybe they were thrilled to be able to provide us with tin-canned vegetables, shelf-stable cheese and frozen TV dinners instead of what they had to force down when they were kids?

All of which means one thing: the cycle will surely continue, virtually guaranteeing that when our kids have kids who complain about what they’re being forced to eat, our kids will tell their kids they’re lucky because as bad as whatever it is mid-21st Century parents will serve, it’s nothing compared to tasteless, organic, whole-kernel flax waffles, tofu and vegetable stir fry, free-range, hormone-nitrate-antibiotic-free uncured turkey bacon*  and everything else Grandma and Grandpa made them eat.

Besides, they’ll say, “If I had to finish my plate when I was a kid, so do you!”

*Which will probably have been proven to be terrible by then.

THE SCALE DOESN’T LIE, BUT IT SHOULD DO A BETTER JOB EXPLAINING ITSELF

ME: So… how much did I gain?
MY SCALE: You don’t want to know.
ME: C’mon, it can’t be that bad.
MY SCALE: Not if you’re sumo wrestler.
ME: What?!?!?
MY SCALE: Just think of yourself as being “fat but fit.”
ME: I think I’m gonna cry.
MY SCALE: Well… each ounce of tears weigh .0652 pounds, so that’s one way to lose weight.
ME: You make it sound like I’m obese.
MY SCALE: See that mirror?
ME: You mean the one I covered with a towel so I wouldn’t have to look at myself?
MY SCALE: If that’s not a cry for help, what is?
ME: You try losing weight at my age!
MY SCALE: Your age has nothing to do with it — besides the fact that whenever you think about it you get depressed and eat a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s.
ME: I do not.
MY SCALE: You think I’m lying?
ME: It wouldn’t be the first time.
MY SCALE: Please… Scales don’t lie.
ME: How else can you explain my weight?
MY SCALE: Uh… maybe the fact that you’ve been taking in more calories than you burn?
ME: I know for a fact that’s not true. Just look at what I eat? Fruit. Vegetables. Chicken. Fish. Whole grains.
MY SCALE: Plus ice cream and cookies when nobody is looking, half of whatever food you make for your kids but they don’t finish, a piece of cheese before bedtime, wine…
ME: Wine is good for you.
MY SCALE: A glass is good, not a bottle.
ME: Sometimes I just need something to help me relax at night.
MY SCALE: Or on weekends.
ME: That only happens every once in a while. And that doesn’t…
MY SCALE: You were gonna say “count,” weren’t you?
ME: No.
MY SCALE: I’m not judging. I get it. Sometimes you just need a double- chocolate brownie before you go to bed… Or a mocha frappuccino… Or some of that spinach dip from Whole Foods. My point is that all those calories count, even if you don’t count them.
ME: Says you.
MY SCALE: Do you really think that every time you step on the scale I’m secretly adding 20 pounds?
ME: No, not 20 pounds… more like 30 pounds.
MY SCALE: You’re hopeless.
ME: And you’re a liar. So you know what I’m going to do?
MY SCALE: Let me guess: stick me back in the closet until I learn to be more accurate.
ME: Exactly.
MY SCALE: That’s what you said last month.
ME: Right, and clearly you haven’t learned your lesson — because last month you were only off by 20 pounds.

REALISTIC NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

  • To go to the gym three days a week for two weeks, then once a week for the next three to five weeks, then three time a week for a week or two, then twice a week for one week before stopping entirely and resolving to resolve to go to the gym more next year.
  • To go on a diet until something happens to necessitate a massive intake of comfort food that will lead to the slow, steady return of the bad eating habits that become entrenched in 2009.
  • To talk about going on vacation someplace new and different, but then go to the same place as last year and the year before and the year before that because it’s easy and cheap and who needs the stress and uncertainty of a big trip anyway?
  • To buy a lot of books about getting organized, but never have time to read them, let alone utilize any of their tips and suggestions.
  • To spend more quality time with the kids, but only when its convenient and/or they’re not being needy, loud, destructive, insolent or pouty, which is probably never.
  • To be greener, but only in ways that don’t involve hardship, self-sacrifice or extra work because, let’s face it, the environment is important but there’s just too much going on right now.
  • To try to cope with the stress of modern life in a productive way, but eventually give up and just over-eat, drink an extra glass of wine or two each night, and take a variety of prescription medications.
  • To save more and spend less, unless there’s a really great sale.
  • To be anxious about the economy, health and well-being, work, family, marriage, saving for college and the future, but hopefully not all at once unless there’s a bottle of wine handy.
  • To come home after a difficult day at work and yell at the kids for no apparent reason, but then feel more guilty about it than normal.
  • To tell the kids again and again to “be careful” and then not be completely surprised when they aren’t and must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches and/or a cast.
  • To worry less about what other people think, unless those other people are the neighbors, selected co-workers or somebody we want to impress.
  • To find meaning and purpose in life, but then forget what it is thanks to chronic sleep deprivation, the never-ending demands of work and our household’s perpetual state of chaos.
  • To maintain a positive mental state, even though it still looks like we’re all screwed.

LITTLE IRRITATIONS: THE PAPER CUTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE

  • Door dings.
  • Trash bins that are supposed to be animal-proof but aren’t.
  • Dropped calls.
  • FEDEX drivers who double-park.
  • Stores that post the wrong hours online.
  • Meter maids.
  • Parents who bring their kids to daycare when they’re sick.
  • Traffic.
  • Drivers who make phone calls instead of turning.
  • Construction delays.
  • Drivers who don’t wait their turn at 4-way stops.
  • Tele-marketers who claim they don’t have to heed the “Do Not Call” registry because you’re a customer of their subsidiaries’ off-shore cousin’s shell company.
  • SUVs parked in compact spaces.
  • Chatty baristas who don’t seem to care/realize there are now 37 people in line.
  • The drive-thru (especially McDonald’s).
  • Golf.
  • People who don’t pick up after their pets.
  • News promos that use the words “deadly,” “outbreak,” and “protect yourself” when all they’re actually talking about is the flu.
  • Parents who call before 8:30 am.
  • Activities that are canceled or postponed by e-mail a few hours before they’re supposed to start.
  • Radio stations that have 25 minutes of commercials every hour.
  • Things at the supermarket that are still on the shelves days, weeks or months after their expiration date.
  • Cable-company DVRs.
  • Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi.
  • Universal remotes.
  • Spellcheck.
  • When your kids hide your keys.
  • Saran Wrap.

If Eskimos have a thousand words for snow, shouldn’t we have a thousand words for life’s little irritations?

For most of us, a day doesn’t go by that God, the universe, fate, karma, quantum physics or all-of-the-above don’t needle our emotional well-being, usually when we’re running late, just had an argument with our spouse or suddenly realized we forgot to get a babysitter for tomorrow night so we could go to dinner and a movie and finally get a break from all this crap.

It doesn’t help that these cosmic paper cuts never seem to be isolated one- offs, either, but instead come in sets, like celebrity deaths and unsolicited parenting suggestions from opinionated strangers – it’s not just the long line at Starbucks, it’s having them mess up your order twice and then spilling your extra-hot, half-caf hazelnut mocha down the front of your shirt as you pull out of the parking lot.

The impact of these little irritations – and they are little, even if we can’t figure out how not to sweat them – increases exponentially as the day progresses, to the point where we find ourselves cursing some 82-year-old women with a walker because she’s not crossing the street fast enough, or threatening to ground our kids for the rest of their natural lives if they EVER give the dog another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again, or contemplating divorce because our spouse forgot (again) to fill up the car when it got close to empty, leaving us in the position of having to coast down the hill to the Shell.

Psychologists say the only reason any of this stuff annoys us the way it does is because it reminds us that we’re not really in control (no matter how thoroughly we’ve managed to convince ourselves otherwise) and that ultimately mastering the moment isn’t nearly as important as just being in it, regardless of whether that moment is good, bad, satisfying, awful, rewarding, stressful, happy, sad, amusing, aggravating, etc.

But as nice as that sounds (in a zen-like, higher-consciousness kind of way), who has the time to learn how to do that? Or the energy? Or the patience?

If learning to live in the moment can’t be accomplished in one 30-minute session two times a week, in the car on the drive home from work, or during one of those rare moments when every kid in the house is quietly pre-occupied, then it just becomes one more thing we don’t have time to squeeze in but try to do anyway – or would try to do if we didn’t have to wait for the knucklehead in the car ahead of us to get off the phone and go.

Note: It’s easy to complain about life’s little irritations, but it’s also important to point out that we could probably eliminate entire categories of irritation if we really, really wanted to – just moving to a remote cabin in Montana and living off the land, for example, would instantly rid us of driving-, shopping-, neighbor-, school- and work-related annoyances (though it would probably more than make up for that by adding starvation-, bear attack-, hypothermia-, and isolation-related irritations, so maybe that’s not such a good trade-off. Plus, let’s not forget that Unabomber Ted Kaczynski moved to a remote cabin in Montana so he could get away from it all and look what happened to him).

OBSERVATIONS ON THE DMV

  • Even if you are the first person in line, first thing in the morning, you will end up waiting an hour and a half.
  • Anything that can be screwed up will be screwed up.
  • Just because you are half-blind, senile, psychotic or drunk doesn’t mean you can’t renew your license — though if you’re half-blind you’ll have to take the vision test.
  • The fact that you’re supposed to take a number when you walk in only confuses the people in front of you who never learned to count.
  • Instructions are in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai and Vietnamese, but stupidity seems to be the same in any language.
  • If your car gets stolen, it is likely the person who stole it is waiting in line in front of you.
  • Saying you “work at the DMV” is kind of misleading – a more accurate description would be to say you “do as little work as you possibly can so you don’t get fired from the DMV.”
  • No matter how fat you are, there will be a woman ahead of you who weighs at least 100 pounds more than you do. (This may be the one positive thing about the DMV.)
  • One couple waiting in line will get into a huge, screaming argument.
  • One couple waiting in line will dry hump each other until a DMV employee asks them to stop.
  • Somebody will video this couple and post it on Youtube.
  • If you think a set of instructions are so simple even a moron could follow them, the moron in line in front of you will prove you wrong, and require up to 25 minutes of redundant, repetitive picture-based explanation before he or she realizes you can’t just take the driver’s test and get a license, you must actually pass it first.
  • If you accidentally marked “A” even though you know the answer is “None of the above,” you still have to re-take the test.
  • If the fee is $25 and you only have $23, you are $2 short no matter how many times you say “Please” or “Couldn’t you just cut me a little slack?”
  • Even if there are 50 open seats, somebody will sit down right next to you.
  • The person who sits down next to you will make you consider leaving and coming back tomorrow, even if you have already waited two hours and are next in line.

CNN HATES HALLOWEEN

Halloween is supposed to be the one night of the year you can let your kids eat too much candy without feeling guilty about it, which makes an in-depth article like this one on CNN.com not only depressing, but irresponsible, mean-spirited and wholly inappropriate.

Boo-hiss, CNN.

Next time have the courtesy to run this after Halloween is over.

Calories

PEANUT! PEANUT! WHO’S GOT THE PEANUT?

Husband: What’s with all the trash bags?
Wife: We need to throw out everything in the cabinets that has peanuts in it.
Husband: First contaminated Chinese imports, now this – aren’t these signs of the apocalypse?
Wife: Just reach up there and grab that box of pancake mix from the top shelf, will ya?
Husband: Pancake mix?!?!?
Wife: And those potato chips, too.
Husband: Uh… last time I checked neither had peanuts in it.
Wife: Check again.
Husband: Wow – “Allergen warning: may contain peanuts.” Are there peanuts in everything?
Wife: That’s why people are so freaked out.
Husband: I better grab these two 96 oz. jars of Skippy we got at Costco while I’m up here, too.
Wife: No, they’re fine: peanut butter isn’t part of the recall.
Husband: What?
Wife: Doesn’t make sense, does it?
Husband: How can “peanut butter” not be part of a peanut recall?
Wife: Beats me.
Husband: You know what’s gonna happen, don’t you? In a few months the government’s gonna say they were wrong and that peanuts are okay and that the media just over-reacted.
Wife: Maybe.
Husband: So I say we forget this nonsense.
Wife: You want us to ignore the warning and go have a couple Snickers and a bag of Poppycock?
Husband: No – we’re still on our post-Christmas diet. But I don’t think we really need to throw anything out.
Wife: And you’re sure about that?
Husband: Sure enough.
Wife: Fine, but if anybody throws up in their bed… on the carpet in the living room… in the back seat of your car… you get to clean it up.
Husband: Me?
Wife: Yes.
Husband: All of it?
Wife: Yes.
Husband: On second thought, why take chances!