Hooray! More Freaky Food!

Sure, you can bite it but it can bite you back.
Sure, you can bite it but it can bite you back.
This may come as a shock to you but I, like you, eat. Unlike many of you, I try and avoid immortal food. Mostly because it freaks me out to be near food that carefully avoids the laws of nature. For example, I went to a local grocery store a while back and accidentally dropped a tomato. It bounced. I put it back and never bought produce there again. Many people continue to do so regardless of the risks. That’s not to say I’m a prude, certainly I’m aware that most people can’t blend strippers and baseball into their daily lives with the apparent ease I can and still function, but that doesn’t mean that my personal lifestyle tends to make me think that pigs feet are the gastronomical joy that others perceive. Actually, to be honest, Leinenkugel once ran a promotion called “Lucky Knuckle / Unlucky Knuckle” which featured a free pickled pigs foot with a bottle of Leinenkugel and I participated. Since I was 18 and getting served beer I participated often, pig’s feet be damned.

Another thing in my favor is that I’ve never had sex in the cockpit (insert joke here) of an airplane, wiuht or without food. Not to say I wouldn’t have, I just haven’t. Nor have I attacked my cooking assistants when a critic said my food …. rhymes with plucked.

So, let’s take a look at food that will not die. Food that is being designed to do fun things like, sorry – this is not a part of the official press release – alter your DNA and make your kids mutants. Xanthe Clay, no relation to Cassius as far as I can tell, tells us of a new drug that people are pretending isn’t a drug can make food scary as heck.

Let me introduce you to bisin. No, not a herd of cattle (spelling, guys!). This is a magic ingredient, that will, it is claimed keep food “fresh” for months, years even.

Never heard of it? You’re not the only one. It’s a substance so new that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Bisin was discovered at Minnesota University by Dr Dan O’Sullivan, an Irish microbiologist, who apparently found out about its qualities while working on a culture of bacteria found in the human intestine.

It has antibacterial properties, preventing meat, dairy products and eggs from decomposing, although it won’t stop fruit and vegetables rotting. And it’s likely to appear in foods on the shelf in the next three years.

It’s good news in some ways. It’ll kill nasty bugs like salmonella and e coli, and reduce the need for fossil-fuel gobbling refrigeration. And with £5 billion worth of food being thrown our every year in the UK alone, I’m all for something that cuts down on waste, and ends the tyranny of use-by dates. But fresh?

I want to reclaim the word. Fresh means “recently made, produced or harvested.” Food that is months old might still be edible if it’s been treated with preservatives, but it’s not fresh. Fresh is joyful, young, new, while edible, is, well, just edible. Safe.

That’s not the only reason I find the idea of bisin depressing. Food that doesn’t rot is… scary. Like those chrysanthemums which stay perky in the vase while the stems turn to foul smelling green slime below the water, it just seems wrong. Nutrition levels remain unaffected, apparently, but while bisin itself may be “natural”, there is nothing natural about everlasting burgers or a two-year-old omelette.

I’m not even convinced that longer shelf-life will reduce waste that much. We need to change our cooking habits, learn from our grandmothers, rediscover thrift and use our leftovers. Food shopping has become too much like buying the latest fashion – something we do for fun, without thinking if we really need it.

And while I’m splitting hairs, I’ve got a little issue with Dr O’Sullivan. “We are not adding a chemical, we are adding a natural ingredient,” he says of bisin use in food. Erm, I may only have O-Level Chemistry (yes, that’s how old I am) but I think you’ll find that natural ingredients are chemicals, Dr O’Sullivan.

Bisin is related to nisin, a peptide (yup, that’s another chemical) that’s produced by fermenting milk and used to preserve everything from processed cheese to crumpets. Both are naturally occurring chemicals, sure, but then so is extract of deadly nightshade.

Ah, the joys of deadly nightshade, immortalized in the documentary Nightmare Before Christmas. The fact is that curare is also a natural substance and it will kill any human who is unfortunate to come near it.

Being killed is bad, by the way.

I know, it’s sad that I have to explain this ….. excrement.

Just FYI, today’s video has nothing to do with the genteel friendship if Nude Hippo’s two favorite femmes. But, I won’t try to stop you from pretending otherwise.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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