Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forgive Me Rabbi For I Have Sinned, Part 2

God forbid you should miss Part 1.

Meanwhile, back at the corporate ranch, some of my office mates and I were discussing the imminent arrival of the In-N-Out truck. I had always held this family-owned business in higher esteem than the big burger chains since the food was fresher and the employees were supposedly treated better. But now, thinking about Cowschwitz, I was on the fence.

“The grilled cheese is just as good as the burger because they grill the bun on the same grill as the meat,” said a co-worker.

“I like it better without the meat," someone else chimed in. "You don’t feel as bloated afterwards. And I’m not even a vegetarian.”

Sheesh. After the carnivorous hand of god had touched me, were those two going to turn me into an agnostic again? Oh sure, they sounded like the voice of reason, but Rabbi, doesn’t god know best? I had heard about people ordering In-N-Out burgers without the meat and always wanted to try one, but today? After fantasizing about my bovine bad boy all week? After recalling the times when I had been so sated by his ilk, I could have lit up a Marlboro? Giving up now would be like enduring a Brazilian wax for that night's booty call, only to end up turning in early and watching a little Golden Girls instead. But this booty call would be with a beefcake named Bo.

“The truck will be here any minute,” I announced. “What should I do?”

“Get the burger,” a guy said with testosterone in his voice.

“Get the grilled cheese,” a gentler soul advised.

I decided to stick with my original plan. I would get the burger.

It was 11:55 AM when a couple of friends and I headed outside to line up for the truck before everyone else got wind of its arrival. There were about a dozen people in front of us, and I could smell that grilled meat wafting in the soft, gray drizzle. It wasn’t how I remembered it smelling. Now it had a gamey aroma, like, well, Cowschwitz. Ironically, I had been to the real Auschwitz on a gray, drizzly day, but there was no cow waft. Now, the closer we moved up in line, the stronger the Cowschwitz smell got. “Maybe I should get the grilled cheese,” I thought. But 30 seconds later I heard myself say, “I’ll have a cheeseburger with everything on it.” Pfew. I had made a decision. It was a done deal. But you know what, Rabbi? I didn’t feel a lot of conviction when I said it.

“Can I change my order to grilled cheese?” I blurted out as the order taker had already moved on to the next people in line.

“No problem,” he said.

Feeling both relieved and disappointed, I was an emotional oxymoron. While thinking I might finally be ready to commit to the meatless faith, I also lamented my loss as the burgers passed me by.

After my number was called, I carried the grilled cheese and bag of potato chips (they weren't making fries) to my desk in that wasteful cardboard box they serve it in. I took the first bite and tasted the crunchy bun slathered with the special sauce. Yep, that was how I remembered it. So far, so good. Then the Velveeta-like melted cheese announced its arrival. After a few more bites, it became clear that two overcompensating slices of processed American cheese did not a burger or a grilled cheese make. Sure, it still had that In-N-Out flavor, but did I really like the ingredients? Had I lost my taste for this stuff, even as a rare treat? An infrequent bag of potato chips was usually nirvana to me. But now thinking about the GMOs and the pesticides and the environment and big ag decimating the small farmers, well, it was too much. I could taste all the implications. Rabbi, you know what they say? Guilt is a terrible thing to waste. But I don't have to tell you.

Related Links:

Forgive Me Rabbi For I Have Sinned, Part 1

Monday, December 19, 2011

Forgive Me Rabbi For I Have Sinned

Hello, Rabbi. It’s been awhile. Sorry I haven’t kept in touch. A girl gets pretty busy after she gets her driver’s license. Oh, and those high holiday services I've missed for the past few decades? Whoops. My bad. Guess I figured I could atone alone. It's not too late to get in on the action, is it?

So Rabbi, here's the spiel. After going for a few months without meat, I had been toying with the idea of declaring myself a vegetarian. Not in a press conference or anything, but if someone should ask. Then the unthinkable happened. My company announced the In-N-Out Burger truck would be coming to our office. Yes, free junk food for all. Apparently they thought the Double-Double would be a little somethin’ somethin’ for the holidays. From my experience, one somethin’ is usually enough. In-N-Out would also be making “grilled cheese.” In other words, a cheeseburger without the burger. That’s like Fran Drescher without the whine. What’s the point? A slab of melted American cheese lying limply on sliced tomato, onion and “hand-leafed" iceberg lettuce on a grilled “sponge dough” white bun slathered with sauce? Sounded like a lotta nothin' nothin' to me. Hell, I figured I might as well call in sick that day.

I always loved In-N-Out burgers, and though I hadn’t eaten much meat or even craved it in the past year, the power of suggestion got my brain salivating. The things In-N-Out did with just a few ingredients to create the perfect mouthwatering alchemic reaction was always a mystery to me (but I was never very good in alchemy). So I discussed next week's truck visit with my vegan friend at work, and you know what she said? “You should have a burger if you want one. It’s a treat.” Did you hear that, Rabbi? A treat! I had a vegan’s permission to eat a sentient being! And I had just gotten a blood test back from the doctor that said I had slight anemia, so maybe I needed this. I had a doctor’s note and a vegan’s note! I felt a higher power summoning me to this sandwich. As far as I was concerned, I had been touched by the carnivorous hand of god. I had carte blanche to go hog wild. Oh, sorry about that hog reference, Rabbi.

For days I fantasized about that bovine bad boy. The mere thought of a grilled patty (I would have a single) and melty cheese nestling with peppy onion, tomato and crisp, plebeian lettuce between two crunchy, precisely sauced counterparts raised my serotonin. Sure, I still had some moral qualms, but in the sinning department I was no Jerry Sandusky. I would never be caught canoodling tender, young calves in the barn and coercing them into my scaloppini. I haven’t scaloppinied in 30 years. Veal is where I draw the line. My cow would be of consensual age. Although I doubt he'd be giving me the “hooves up” sign.

Yes, Rabbi, I would eat cheese and meat together, and unkosher meat at that. But as the big day got closer, I started wondering about my cow. Would Bo be one of those happy cows from California like in the cheese commercials? Would he be the George Hamilton of bovines with a tanned hide from hours spent luxuriating in an open pasture? Did he eat well on all that bountiful green grass or was he forced to subsist on a junk-food diet of GMO corn?

On the morning of my big day with Bo, I decided to do a little research into his provenance. Turns out my bovine bad boy would be coming from Harris Ranch—that huge feedlot you can smell on the freeway, midway between LA and San Francisco that's crammed with cattle. Rabbi, do you know what they call that place? Cowschwitz. I would be eating a concentration camp cow. I have been to the real Auschwitz in Poland, and can I tell you something? It was not pretty. But I don't have to tell you. So the thought of Bo and his family living in holocaustic conditions at Cowschwitz, subsiding on GMO corn nagged at me. And I only had a few hours left before the In-N-Out truck would arrive.

To be continued…

Monday, December 5, 2011


The sign in the produce section said Pineapples 87¢ each. “Hot damn,” I thought. "Big-juicy-sweet-yellow-cheap-thang: come to momma. I'll make a fruit salad or a smoothie or a pineapple upside-down cake. Hell, I could even throw a little luau. I wonder if it would still be festive without the pig.” Then I saw the cardboard hangtag that said the pineapple was grown in Costa Rica by a company named Kingston. Since they don't use a lot of pesticides on pineapples, I never worry too much about buying organic, but I couldn’t remember if they're genetically modified or not. I knew Hawaiian papayas were, but Costa Rican pineapples? Hmmm. To buy or not to buy—that was the question. Strapped for time on my lunch break, my head swirled with indecision. Sometimes a conscious consumer is forced to fend off a large primate, and you just want to scream, “Hey monkey, get off my freaking back! I’m buying this freaking pineapple whether you freaking like it or not!" This was one of those times.

As I was driving back to work with my questionably sourced fruit, my brain started doing its thing. Why was the pineapple only 87¢? Don’t you know that when something is that cheap, there’s a price to pay? Do you enjoy being a pawn in big agro’s game? So when I got back to my desk, I started Googling. Turns out Costa Rica uses the most insecticides of any country in the world and GMO pineapples would soon be introduced there. Exactly when is “soon?" I thought. Was my big-juicy-sweet-yellow-cheap-thang a dirty, little GMO tramp or a suitable, inexpensive suitor? Regardless, the thrill was gone, and cheap-thang would be going back to the store. Sure, it was only 87¢ and hardly worth my while, but it was the principle. I didn’t want to create the demand for it. And besides, the store was on my way home, so my carbon footprint wouldn't be compromised.

When I was leaving work for the day, my office mate (the one I cheated with last year), saw me carrying the pineapple. I told him it was only 87¢ and that I was returning it. "Only 87¢? I love pineapple," he announced. Then, upon the realization that returning it was more for my sake than for any real impact on the system, I offered it to him. I knew the cashier would probably just nod at me like when you're trying to placate a deranged person who's telling you about some secret society on Mars, and that would be the end of it. Besides, office mate was really excited about the prospect of acquiring a shiny, new pineapple. That is, until I ruined it for him. I'm pretty sure I could buzz kill anything with one strategically placed zinger. Call me gifted.

"It's from Costa Rica who uses more pesticides than any country in the world,” I said. “You want it?"

"Hmmm. Well, maybe not then."

“No, really," I said. "You can have it. You love pineapples, and I was expecting too much from my boycott.”

“No, that’s ok. If my wife wanted me to have a pineapple, she would have bought me a pineapple.”

I paused, scrunched up my face and crinkled my crow’s feet. “If you want a pineapple, you don’t need permission to have a pineapple," I said. "Here, take it.”

“No, that’s ok.”

“No, I really want you to have it.”

“Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

“Take the freaking pineapple!”

“What about the pesticides?”

“Your wife doesn’t buy organic fruit or shop at the farmers’ market,” I said. “This would have been the one she would have bought you if she wanted you to have one.”

Ten minutes later, as I gazed into the cashier’s vacuous eyes, I said, “I’d like to return this pineapple.”

"Okay. I owe you 87¢" he said, and handed me three quarters, a dime and two pennies.

“Thanks,” I said as I put the change in my wallet and walked out of the store. Pineapples, pesticides, partners, primates...I give up.

Related Links:

I am a Shameless Hussy

How to be a Bad-Ass Anti-GMO Activist