Back at my desk at last with renewed vigor and eager to begin the new year (this must mean, at the very least, that my Key West hangover is at last abating, thank god). While I was away, an email from the Smithsonian arrived telling me about their new food blog. Worth checking out, most recently, a story on scientist using bacteria to chart our ancestors' pathways across Asia:

Speaking of bacteria, the number of products recalled for possible salmonella contamination continues to grow. Newsday asks why weren't lessons from two years ago heeded?  At least 491 have been reported ill, according to the CDC.

Sigh. As Harold McGee once lamented to me, "Bacteria.  Can't live with em, can't live without em."

Will the FDA be of any help in all this?  Not according to several scientists who wrote to the President saying that the department was broken.

In more upbeat happy news, don't miss the Food Blog award winners over at Congrats to all who were nominated–you're all winners, right?  Nah, I know for a fact it's a helluva lot more more fun to win.  (This from a blogger who was left out in the Cleveland cold.  Brrrr.) Congrats to all, nevertheless.

Finall, the most sensible words I've read in weeks come from Temple Grandin, from a NYTimes review of her new book, Animals Make Us Human:

When asked, "How can you care about animals when you design slaughter plants?,” Grandin replies, “Some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal…. [T]he most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”

Hear, hear.  Thank you, Temple.  If we heeded these words, my guess is we'd have to worry less about the bad bacteria that infect our food and could concentrate on growing more of the good ones that help preserve it.


14 Wonderful responses to “Returning Home, food notes”

  • carri

    What, no pictures of drunken sailors along with a play-by-play account of all that was consumed?(truly, thanks for not over-sharing!) Oh well, down to business…it is Monday after all! I’m very glad to see Temple has written a book…her work, not just with animals, but also her pushing through her autism to make such an amazing contribution to our society, should be inspration to us all!

  • Tags

    You missed a chance to plug “Under Pressure” and its thorough explanation of pathogen temperature “danger zones.”

    But, then again, you’re coming back from both a vacation and a hangover.

    Great quote by Temple Grandin, BTW.

  • luis

    After being invested in biotech for over ten years my personal opinion is that the FDA is corrupt and has claimed more American lives than Alcaida ever will… my opinion. end of story.

  • RJ

    I like Ruhlman’s point that quality of life for animals is mostly what matters, much as it is for humans (like Victoria) – especially because this lets us treat animals more specifically than a brute focus on life/death – quality of life for pigs is different than for chickens, etc, whereas death is an up or down proposition… Not trying to start (another) animal rights vs. foodie argument here (especially since I’m not sure which side of that I come down on anyway, or even if they’re always opposed), but I do wonder whether “quality of life” for animals would include not dying early? That is something we would probably include in most human versions of quality of life.

    On the other hand, that distinction is probably linked to the fact that humans are able to conceive of the idea of death in the abstract and fear it the distant future, whereas the animals we eat are, mostly, not. And the point Michael’s made before here is that we need to have moral standards that are appropriate to the animal in question – human, duck, cow, whatever. So maybe early death is not part of quality of life after all, at least if the animal is unable to anticipate it coming.

  • Melissa Magee

    Wow! Temple Grandin was a professor of mine when I was at Colorado State University. She was amazing!

  • Rhonda

    Wow, the Smithsonian…Excellent…I would have never linked chocolate-to-alcohol-to- Irish myself (I thought Strom Thurman died).

    As a chocolate ridden, alcohol laden, Irish woman, I am not questioning their judgement, just their delivery. i.e., “Let’s Do the Jews Next”.


  • Kate in the NW

    Temple Grandin is speaking and signing books just up the road from me next week. I’ve loved her ideas for years, and plan to attend the reading and thank her specifically for her work at slaughterhouses. As someone who seems to need meat to stay healthy, but also loves animals, I very much appreciate her realpolitik approach to the whole livestock issue.

    I spend a lot of time in the “equestrian world” and the recent closure of equine slaughterhouses in the US has contributed more to the suffering of animals than any legislation in recent memory. The closures were a direct result of pressure from misguided animal “activists” who couldn’t stand the thought of ponies being eaten (but few of whom have probably ever actually cared for a horse, much less attempted to rehabilitate on who has been abandoned). Ms. Grandin is absolutely right – a dignified (even if early) death is most definitely not the worst thing that can happen to an animal.

    Thank you for your public support of her work, too, MR.

  • alison bucci

    If you have anyone in your life with autism, Thinking In Pictures, by Temple Grandin, is a MUST READ. She is a national treasure for those of us in the ASD community!

  • Frances

    I remember a vegan once saying that people who eat meat smell funny (’tis a fair cop). I guess we’re at the top of the food chain because we stink.:D

    Temple Grandin is an exceptional human being.

  • Aubrey

    So, under Grandin and Ruhlman’s logic (quality of life is most important) a slave should be happy as long as they are well fed? Animals should be happy that they are ALLOWED to have a “quality” life before being slaughtered?
    Well, under that view, a slave master should get to kill his slaves as long as they got a nice place to live, good food etc. before hand. Under that view the Holocaust would have been just peachy keen as long as Jews were served high quality eats in nice hotels before being gassed.
    Grandin is not an “exceptional human being”- unless by that you mean Grandin is low life murder-rationalizing scum who doesn’t think about what she says and the implications of her messed up “quality of life” philosophy.
    Also, they idea that murder is OK because other abuse is worse is a logical fallacy. False dichotomy. They are BOTH wrong.

    Her life is probably high quality compared to many- so would it be OK to eat her?

    Maybe you can make sausages out of her.