Tag Archives: Pork

The USDA and the Ruptured Rapture.

When they’re wrong they’re wrong.

Harold Camping isn’t the only one waffling these days, after pronouncing the much awaited rapture to have actually taken place on the 21st, then saying it didn’t happen, then saying it actually did. In case you haven’t heard, it was invisible, but the world will now really, really end on October 21st of this year, so forget your diet, and you probably don’t have to vacuum after about October 7.

Your government has been doing the same thing for years. The United States Department of Agricultured, among other bureaus, has been pronouncing what is good and what is bad, molding America’s food choices for the length of it’s 105 year existence. In 1916 the first food pyramid was created to advise parents on child nutrition. With input from the United States Department of Agriculture, congressmen from agricultural states and commodity board lobbyists, the pyramid has shaped America’s diet in ways which are hardly fact based.

In the most recent upgrade, also under the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups, the FDA said, “Gee, that was all wrong — or, ummhhh, sort of wrong,” and reshuffled the nutritional building blocks of the national diet like a tangram..

The USDA  also tells you what is safe to eat and what to avoid. They change their minds a lot.

I was a baby during  the waning  years of rationed butter, cream and sugar. My mother was always proud that she, guided by her government, had saved the good stuff for me. I was fattened up nicely and am will fight off the pounds until dead. Milk and meat, sugar, eggs  and grains flip flop in Food Pyramid world between beneficial and detrimental. My father after having had a hardened carotid artery shattered by a passing bullet, spent his life until he was about 75 eating only egg whites, chicken and poached fish. At seventy six he said to Hell with it, and lived for another twenty on a diet full of eggs Benedict, burgers, ice cream, cheese  and fried calamari. It wasn’t the cholesterol that got him in the end He would be amused to hear now that butter, eggs and fat are officially healthier than margarine, to which my mother had attributed his survival. We all suffered with him. Thanks FDA.

What the federal bureau advises, local politicians legislate in a rush to show you they care (in the hopes you will care for them) by banning Caesar Salad or  hamburgers or potentially sodas.  San Francisco passed a rule forbidding the sale of steak not cooked through, then backed off and demanded that servers provide warnings. Raw milk is too extensive a subject for now, but raw milk wars rage on, with the US Federal and several state governments scrapping with the Amish on the subject.

These decisions and fiats are not uninformed, but they are pretty often incompletely informed, and the lag between the time when policy is determined and when it adapts to hard science can be bafflingly long, but praise the Lord and pass the medium rare pork chop, it does happen.

One of the great taboos passed down for the past few generations was that of raw pork. It was based on an extremely nasty tiny, deadly parasite called trichina, which once  could be found  in pork and occasionally in wild venison, and, as four US WWII Soldiers discovered to their dismay , in insufficiently cooked polar bear  shot by conquering, drunken heroes and grilled on the spot at the Berlin Zoo.

In all probability  you think of Babe, Animal Farm and Charlotte’s Web, when you think of pig farming – slops, smiling porkers wallowing in mud and talking to spiders. Time was, yes. Today’s pig farming, whether industrial or back to the olden days, is far different, as are most of the pigs, and there hasn’t been a case of trichinosis in the US for decades.

One of my favorite things in Switzerland was “Speck”. This isn’t the Italian speck, but raw, smoked bacon, hung in the wine cellar and sliced off to be eaten with beer, dark brown bread and mustard. I didn’t take any the first few times I was offered. On being asked why, finally, in the farm kitchen of Max The Peasant, I shared my “knowledge” , and set everyone around the long, wax cloth covered table into hysterical laughter. They were bending over and holding their sides, tears running. My creds were shot.  Switzerland – like the rest of Europe – where trichina had probably been wiped out at about the same time it disappeared in the US, has been eating raw, cold smoked speck and rare pork chops for about forty years now, all the while we have been washing down dry, cardboard flavored pig.

We seem to have caught up with them, now, at least as far as pork goes. The FDA at last has realized that pink pork is not life threatening only forty years after the Swiss figured it out, so they have published formal permission to have juicy pork chops and steaks, advising cooking it to 140 (medium) and letting it sit (So it will cook more). I’d say forget that. I’ve had very pink chops, and I am looking forward to more of them.  So, well, thank you FDA. Better late than never. If I were disposed to listen to Brother Camping, I’d probably eat pork without your blessing, but now nobody’s going to look at me funny.