Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Safe food vs. scary food

I bookmarked two news stories today and was trying to decide which one to write about... then I realized that they're actually opposite sides of the same coin.

Side the first: A Seattle woman who was trapped in a snowbound car with her husband and two little kids for nine days was able to keep the girls alive by breastfeeding them, despite her own lack of nourishment. I'm glad to see the media reporting on this angle, especially given some of the furor over breastfeeding in recent weeks. I think a story like this does a lot more to spread information about the positive effects of BFing than any number of nurse-ins. (Thanks to Zoot for the heads-up on this saga, which I hadn't heard about. And here's hoping that the husband, who left to find help, is found safe and sound very soon.)

Side the second: The e. coli outbreak at Chalupa Ding Dong (sorry, I can't resist; Phantom and Songbird have infected me with their imaginative aliases, of which this is but a poor imitation). Given the recent spinach debacle, I wonder when we are going to start talking about the problems in the corporatization of our food system, particulary as it relates to agribusiness. Rather, I wonder when those conversations will move from the rarified circles of food bloggers and the buy-local crowd into the mainstream. (Yes, Michael Pollan wrote about this topic for the Times Magazine a while back, but I'm not sure that counts since he is the king of buy -- and eat -- local.)

All that said, Chalupa Ding Dong is my fast food weakness. I got addicted to it when I lived in, of all places, the southwest, where real burritos and enchiladas were everywhere. But Chalupa Ding Dong was super cheap, and so I ate their (then) 79 cent bean burritos like they were going out of style. Luckily for me, the only one nearby now is in the mall food court, which I do not frequent all that frequently. But I can tell you at which exits between here and the state of my birth have a convenient Chalupa Ding Dong; we've stopped at all of them at one time or another. So I understand, I think, the diners who are eating there despite the outbreak. But I'm coming to the conclusion that I may have finally lost my taste for Chalupa Ding Dong. What fun is a guilty pleasure, after all, if it may land you in the hospital, or worse, and when it supports the very factory food system you claim to abhor? (And that is causing American vegetable farmers to lose market share to overseas growers who are flooding the market with el cheapo produce?)

So there you have it. Wonderful, amazing food that saves lives -- and, really can you get any more local than your mom's breast? -- and frightening eats that kill people. With so many links that you might think Jody had written this post (although her prodigious linkage puts this mere smattering to shame).