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Yes, I’m funny about my food

“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture, I’d buy a painting.” — Andy Rooney

Yes, I know that I am funny, which is to say quirky when it comes to what I eat and don’t eat, and pretty much just the whole idea of food in general.

I may be guilty of a deadly sin or two, but gluttony ain’t one of them.

Part of that is surely genetics — all the men in my family have been tall and lean (lean is a so much nicer word than “skinny”) — and, fact is, I just don’t eat a whole lot, either.

I know that the world is populated by lots of people who savor their food and who “live to eat” and who do so with great relish and regularity. In the days prior to the arrival of the word police and political correctness run amok, those people were generally recognized and  known as “fat” folks. Now that has become “weight challenged” or some such tripe, but at any rate, I am not among them, nor am I apt to be.

But it is not my intent to offend, so for the sake of this musing, let us just say that there are ordinary folks and then there are folks like me, who in addition to genetic and metabolic predispositions are also afflicted by a particularly rare phobic condition resulting in a strong and enduring aversion to what I will generically label as “food gunk.”

In a nutshell: Some foods and most food remnants give me the willies.

As example, I’m not eating anything that wiggles — aspic, Jell-O, mayo, nope. I want my food to be still. And I can help clear the table after a family meal, carry the plates to be washed, but I can’t look at what’s on them. No, sireee. That is food gunk.

You will never catch me taking a “doggie bag,” home from a restaurant, no matter how fine the meal and no matter how much (see the “don’t eat much” above) might be left. There is gonna be food gunk in that container.

And then there is this: I can’t unlearn stuff. There are food facts I can’t forget. Such as:

• Fact — Almost 99 percent of imported food is never inspected by either the FDA or the USDA, the two agencies responsible for protecting us from products tainted by, oh, mad cow disease and the like.

• Fact — One pound of peanut butter can contain up to 150 bug fragments and five rodent hairs. Yum. What kind of jelly will you be having with that?

• Fact — Wine and cheese tasting fan? When grapes are harvested, so are sticks, insects, and rodents, which end up in the vino and the molds used to make some cheeses can contain listeria, salmonella and e. coli, among other neat things.

• Fact — Fish today? Parasitic round worms, such as Anisakis simplex, can cause a condition marked by severe gastric distress which can last for months.

• Fact — Food allergies can develop literally overnight. Fully one half of annual emergency room visits and two-thirds of deaths due to anaphylaxis are the result of peanut allergies.

• Fact — Despite being rinsed or peeled, independent studies show that bell peppers, celery, kale, carrots, lettuce and potatoes are still likely to expose consumers to pesticides. Like a little DDT with that salad, sport?

• Fact — Red-colored foodstuffs, such as fruit punch and strawberry yogurt are often dyed with carmine, which is made from ground up cochineal beetles. Beetle juice. Literally.

• Fact — Potatoes contain toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids that cannot be reduced in cooking. Consumption of high doses of glycoalkaloids can cause diarrhea, vomiting and even death.

• Fact — Chocolate contains the alkaloid theobromine, which in high doses, can be toxic to humans, and that even in small doses can kill dogs, parrots, horses and cats.

• Fact — Bottled drinking water has long been marketed as being cleaner and more pure than ordinary tap water, but in a recent study by the National Resources Defense Council, a third of bottled water showed significant chemical or bacterial contamination that included arsenic, nitrates, carcinogenic compounds and coliform bacteria.

• Fact — Vegetarian, are you? Feel superior, do you? Well, it turns out that many low-fat and nonfat yogurts and sweets contain gelatin, which is made from animal tendons, ligaments and bones, so if you consume any of them you retain carnivore status.

But hey, that’s just old Jack Sprat me, so all you food lovers — and, after all, half the adults and children in the country are now technically obese — bon appetite.

“I want my food dead. Not wounded. Not sick. Dead.” — Woody Allen

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.