January 11, 2002
Take Your Lumps!
U.S. President Ronald Reagan suggested that ketchup be counted as a vegetable in school lunches.
George Bush I refused to eat his broccoli.
But now, even these esteemed American leaders have been outdone on the foolishness scale, by none other than the people who most relish (ha!) U.S. bashing: the Europeans!
The story appeared in our local paper yesterday, reprinted from the London Daily Telegraph.
According to the European Union if a preserved sauce contains more than twenty percent lumps (by weight), it magically becomes a vegetable.
No matter what the lumps are made of.
At least for the purposes of import/export tariffs.
What they do is, they run the sauce through a metal sieve, then rinse the remainder in warm water.
While the rinsing might eliminate faux lumps such as flour balls in gravy, it won't do much for material such as small stones, which henceforth must also be considered vegetables.
Food manufacturers are complaining because consumers prefer home style, lumpy recipes which, when classified as vegetables, are subject to tariffs of almost triple the original price.
The reason this is in the news now is that EU officials are meeting to reconsider this policy. They have offered the compromise of raising the tolerable lump threshold to thirty per cent, while saner heads, such as those at the World Customs Organization, are demanding it be abolished altogether.
Sadly, this isn't the first time that food regulators have run amok in Europe.
In the course of my research I have come across allusions to bent bananas, curved cucumbers and too-small peaches.
The symbolic nature of these objects is all too obvious.
Also mentioned were the nearly-legendary prawn cocktail crisps, which Albert Einstein is rumoured to have favoured.
I was unable to find out the details of that particular fiasco - can anyone out there enlighten me, please?
More news from the vegetable bin:
Lettuce may be hazardous to your health.
It seems that harmful bacteria, often present in soil, irrigation water and organic fertilizer (aka manure) are able to enter growing plants through the roots, along with the water, and may live on inside the leaves.
Washing does nothing to remove them and they are suspected of causing the occasional outbreak of food poisoning.
Much as I can live very happily without lettuce, I don't plan to change any habits because of this article. I've been eating lettuce for fifty years, after all.
Even in restaurants, much to the chagrin of my mother, who was a germ freak who would have fit very nicely into today's antiseptic mania.
The only germs I obsess over (beyond normal basic hygiene!) are the salmonella which lurk in raw poultry.
I go nuts when I cook chicken.
Everything that touches raw chicken has to be disinfected immediately.
I started doing this when I moved out of my mother's house, and instead of getting stomach flu once or twice a year, I now get it once or twice a decade.
Before I had kids, I worked as a technician in a hospital microbiology lab. I learned that
germs are everywhere - particularly in our mouths.
Mouths are really the most disgusting parts of our bodies.
And I think I'll cut that tangent short right there.
Need a gift idea?
Does the giftee have a sense of humour?
It doesn't get any better than this.
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