Saturday, May 9, 2009

News Flash: Grey Poupon Mustard made by Kraft Foods

When I was a little boy my favorite food experience was to go to the counter at Kresges with my grandmother and order french fries, gravy and a coke. When the waitress would place my order in front of me the first thing I would do is cover my gravy sodden fries in ketchup. I loved the sweet, savory interplay on the hot, greasy, fried potatoes. It seemed important to start this post about condiments out with a whiff of condiment nostalgia.

You probably already have heard that the pundits on the far right, or the lunatic right, a more apt description of Faux News et. al. have taken President Obama to task for ordering Dijon mustard on his burger. Sean Hannity snidely remarks "Ketchup isn't good enough for the president". Of course I thought that's because Obama knows that Ketchup is made with two kind of GMO corn syrup (regular as a thickener and high fructose as a sweetener) and is trying to keep his figure. Or maybe he just likes spicy mustard? As a land of immigrants spicy mustard is not a new item here. Spicy is something a lot of Americans seem to enjoy, so much so that Kraft Foods who makes Grey Poupon, one of the more high profile Dijon mustards in the world thought it would be a good brand for their portfolio. What is more all American than Kraft? Really? Don't they make Velveeta?

For goodness sakes, Dijon is so all American at this point the ne plus ultra of American bourbons, Jack Daniels, makes their own uniquely zesty version of it, which they sell in 6 packs!

Obviously, this is all silly distraction from anything more substantial or significant. Just another way for the wingnuts to try and find some criticism, anything really, to say that might tarnish the presidents image. Just imagine how the news would have played if the president had asked:

"Is that burger made with local grass fed humanely treated beef or is it factory farmed?"

Fuck the Dijon let's get to the heart of the matter. What does it matter what condiment you use when the burger itself is tortured, antibiotic ridden, poison? Sorry, I don't mean to sound like a PETA activist. The good news is that I am not part of a fringe minority any more, look at the people of California who passed, this last election, proposition 2 a law requiring more humane treatment of factory farm animals .

The real issue here as I see it is choice. If you're at a restaurant and you want the chicken quesadilla, but there is only one kind of chicken and it wasn't raised on the farm, it was processed in a factory, what are you going to do? Most people are going to order it. We should all have the ability to choose between mustard or ketchup, farmed or factory. Making those decisions based on whatever sets of personal criteria we have decided are important to us. Hopefully irrational xenophobia won't be one of the criteria (did anyone else have a freedom fries flashback with this mustard nonsense?)

The problem of course is that we've reached a place where we know better, but it's all kind of overwhelming. Why can't I just go into a greasy spoon and order a burger and ketchup and not have to have anxiety over the quality, safety and ethical concerns of the food that will be presented to me? Why have we, the consumers been so undermined by agribusiness and our government in the form of the inept, corrupt and criminal FDA?

My fantasy is that we will one day live in a world where president Obama, instead of asking about the mustard, asks about the meat.

It's Saturday morning, the birds are amazingly loud given I'm no the 14th floor of a high rise on the project strewn lower east side. I'm about to make my way to the market (I finally did get that rhubarb, pickles, crumble and chutney are on the to do list today) and it isn't raining out!

If it had just been called American Spicy mustard none of this would have happened.

Can I have some bourbon with that?

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