Is anything too gross to eat?
March 30, 2012 § 2 Comments
By now, everyone knows about the “pink slime” additive in ground meat. As near as I can tell, the reason the slime was most objectionable was its inherent grossness, not any actual health hazard. I’m fine with no more pink slime in my meat— don’t paint me as some kind of pink slime enthusiast — but I’m constantly amazed by the food issues that do get widespread action and those that don’t.
While pink-slime mania was in full force, there was also widelyreported research showing direct connections between the intake of red meat and cancer.
While I heard plenty of calls for the useless additive to be taken out of the meat, I didn’t encounter one calling for the banning of the actually harmful meat itself.
Cancer cells and tumors are grotesque, but unlike pink slime, also painful and deadly.
If you don’t die from them, you do go through endless horribleness in order to beat that. That didn’t get the public up in arms, though, and rarely seems to.
Just this past week, Starbucks made some headlines with some equally innocuous food news — it was now going to use crushed up bugs to color its strawberry frappaccinos. Cochineal extract has been used for 500 years as a red-dye and is considered natural, though the World Health Organization reports it can cause respiratory complications in some people, so proceed with caution.
If you’ve had strawberry yogurt or strawberry ice cream in your life, you’ve probably eaten pretty pink little crushed up bugs. I’m not trying to ruin your appetite; it’s a simple truth. Once again, people seem more upset about crushed up bugs — a great source of protein, I believe — than they are cancer-causing red meat.
What other kind of food doesn’t bother people?
Chicken McNuggets don’t seem to raise an eyebrows, so I guess chowing down on “anti-foaming” agent is a yummy proposition.
And then there’s the thing with human placentas.
It came out that actress January Jones — I have no idea, I freely admit, whether she eats bugs or pink slime, by the way — eats her own placenta, which immediately set off a frenzied debate mostly consisting of “What?” and “That’s gross!” as the arguments against. These are basically the same arguments against bugs and pink slime.
However, there are plenty of people in the pro-placenta munching corner, and that makes for a weird dichotomy between what some people consider disgusting and some people consider completely acceptable.
Actually, the placenta news isn’t as exciting as it seems. It turns out that Jones is only taking pill supplements containing placenta that are at the center of the current placenta craze. So relax. It’s OK to go to Jones’ house for a barbecue this summer.
Assuming that these pills actually do contain human placenta and not really pink slime, this makes the revelation just one more example of silly, natural medical treatments, like ground shark fin supplements to beat cancer, which you’ll admittedly need a lot of if you insist on eating red meat everyday.
Regardless, none of these new entries can beat the good old hot dog, the gold standard of “Eww, that’s gross” arguments against potential nourishment. I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed someone say, “Do you know what they put in those things?” as an argument against them.
Actually, I do, and that’s why I eat them. I was a vegetarian for eight years, but it was hot dogs that brought me back to the fold.
People older than me certainly remember a time when no part of an animal was wasted. I can still remember happily eating a scrambled egg-and-meat concoction my grandma would make when I would visit her as a kid in Georgia— until the day she told me it was pig’s brains.
Taste be damned, it was knowledge that ruined it for me.
I realized a couple years ago that hot dogs are a nod to those days, when waste was worse than anything else. I can’t think of anything that dishonors an animal more than the practice of slaughtering it only to eat the “good parts” and throw away the rest. We’ve become a society of entitlement and consumption.
If taking intestines and whatever else, grinding it all up and sticking it in a casing (and bun, preferably grilled outside, with mustard and ketchup applied after cooking) stands as a political argument against out-of-control consumerism and waste, I’m happy to take that stance, and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to do the same.
To me, once you’ve married yourself to eating hot dogs, all the rest — pink slime, crushed up bugs, placentas — are just more weird stuff people ingest.
Just don’t expect me to eat sushi.