The recent hubbub over “pink slime” (a grossly unfortunate term if ever there was one) allegedly started with “celebrity chef” (another unfortunate term), Jamie Oliver slamming McDonald’s for serving burgers containing the filler product. Anthony Bourdain and other celebs quickly sniffed out the blood in the water and began their own rants on this product.
I’m not going to try to defend the substance or the industry that makes it. However, I do take umbrage with Mr. Oliver and his provocateur peers whose stock in trade is to seize upon any controversy for the sake of self-promotion. Anyone who has ever worked in any aspect of food service cannot be surprised to discover that mass producing food is rather gruesome. You can’t buy a $2 (or even $20) hamburger and expect to find June Cleaver back in the kitchen gently patting out fresh-ground patties one at a time, and it is patently disingenuous of Oliver, Bourdain, and others who make their living off mass-produced food (albeit more upscale) to get up in arms over how this stuff is made. Shame on them, and shame on anyone falling for their shtick.
Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” was similarly controversial when it was published 106 years ago, exposing the meat-packing industry’s dirty little secrets and leading to the creation of the FDA. (Similar to today’s financial environment, it was also a referendum on the living conditions of the working class.) But the biggest difference between now and then is that Sinclair’s work actually brought about some changes for the better, and our food chain is arguably safer today because of the regulations in place. Those making a fuss today are doing it to further their own interests and sell a few more books to unwitting wanna-be chefs.
If you really want 100% safe, wholesome food, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and grow your own, and learn to do without foods that don’t grow where you live. Not realistic for most of us – I’m not buying cattle or hogs (or even chickens) anytime soon.
I am a firm believer in making good food from scratch whenever possible, and easing our national reliance on processed and prepared foods. Not only is it better for you, but it broadens your horizons and makes you much more pragmatic. When you routinely handle whole chickens and various cuts of meat, you’re not going to be shocked to discover that cooking is a messy business. When we eat food prepared in a commercial kitchen, we need to accept the reality that the process of transforming it from raw food to our entrée is not entirely pleasant and the unpleasantness grows exponentially with the volume of food being prepared behind those swinging doors. That’s not a revelation and Jaimie Oliver knows it; he’s merely manufactured a new cause célèbre out of nothing.