Friday, March 30, 2012

What is this insidious Pink Slime?

Recently the news has been full of ‘Pink Slime’. At first, I thought it was a new play thing for children, like silly putty. However, I did some research and found that Pink Slime is actually known as Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB). A beef processing company found a way to use previously unusable parts of beef, add them to ground beef, and it lowers the fat content. This sounds wonderful, terrific, and simply amazing. It uses more of the animal and hopefully allows less to be slaughtered for food and it makes meat healthier by lowering the fat content.

Unfortunately, the news people do not like it. They prefer to call LFTB Pink Slime. From what I gather, the disdain for Pink Slime stems from three sources. First, it could be infected with E coli and is treated with ammonia to kill the bacteria. E coli, that little bugger, is likely present in all ground beef, which is why it should be cooked to 160˚ F. So, it seems a bit strange we are worrying about it in Pink Slime.

The second reason for disliking LFTB is that it is pink and slimy. When you consider regular, plain old, ordinary ground beef, it is pink and sticky. Now that I think about comparing the two things, I am not sure which should disgust me more, Pink Slime or the slightly less-slimy-still-pink, ground beef.

The last reason, and I believe the most explosive, is that we do not like people sneaking weird stuff into our food. The most notable figure in this diabolical plan to sneak stuff, into our food is that bubbly queen of cooking, Rachael Ray. This evil fiend actually takes vegetables and hides them in foods that children will actually eat, in order to trick those innocents into consuming vegetables.

This sneaking is reprehensible. When I was a child, it was neither fashionable, nor expected to hide foods in other foods. Once, my mother decided we all needed to eat stewed prunes. She stewed the prunes, put them in small bowls and set them out on the dinner table, totally expecting that we would consume them without question. She did not try to hide them in a casserole, nor did she mix them in ice cream. No, we were to eat them plain and straight up.

Which I did. Almost. Well, I ate all of them, but they apparently were afraid of my gut, since very shortly after grimacing and choking the last one down, they came racing back up out of my stomach, as if propelled by a rocket.

Another food which was served without any attempt to hide it, was liver. When mom served liver she neglected to inform us that it was an organ devoted to cleaning deadly toxins out of the body. She just said it was good for us. When any parent tells a child that something is “Good for you” it really means, “This tastes so bad you will immediately feel like your entire body is turning inside out.” I had a plan to deal with liver. I would sneak pieces of it into my pockets, for later dispersal in the yard. It was quite successful and I would have done it with the stewed prunes, but I am sure mother would have noticed my pockets leaking prune juices.

Somewhere between my childhood and now, the idea of being truthful about what is being served has taken a severe hit. I am not talking about the innocent practice of using “secret ingredients” while cooking. We all do that to protect our recipes. I once made pot roast. My wife, Beloved, thought it tasted particularly tasty. She asked how I cooked it. I told her I cooked it in my secret ingredients. When she asked what the ingredients were, I told her a mixture of half Mt Dew and half Ginger ale. She was incredulous, but she asked me to make pot roast again. That is my secret ingredient, and I would appreciate all you gentle readers keeping that a secret.

But, at sometime, the culinary community has taken a dangerous turn from honest offering of foods to hiding them from easy identification. I think that change happened sometime around my sophomore year of college. Every few weeks the dining hall would have liver for dinner. For many students this meant grazing from the salad bar, making a sandwich, or a light supper of ice cream. For the most squeamish of students, it meant staying as far from the dining hall as possible, and going to the snack bar later for cheese sticks.

The next evening, students would return to the dining hall, thinking the coast was clear, and load their plates with Salisbury Steak, which was not really Salisbury Steak. It was the previous night's liver, disguised with gravy and mushrooms. If you are ever eating on a college campus, ask a student what was for dinner the night before, and beware the Salisbury Steak.

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