About ten years ago, on the evening before an airplane flight, Crabby Old Lady ate a bad oyster. Not that she knew it right away. She attended a meeting in San Francisco the next morning and then boarded her noon flight to New York, miffed that her aisle seat was directly across from a lavatory where there would be a lot of foot traffic for the duration of the trip.
Within an hour, Crabby's displeasure turned to relief. For the rest of the flight, hardly any other passenger had a chance to get into that facility due to Crabby's intensifying discomfort.
Back home, except for frequent trips to the bathroom, round-the-clock cramps and sweats kept Crabby in bed for two days and she didn't fully recover for a week. It is absolutely true that sickness from tainted food can turn your face green.
Until then, Crabby had not taken tales of food poisoning seriously. Several years passed before she ate another raw oyster and although she has taken it up again, she thinks about that miserable week every time and knows it could happen again. No one can tell a good oyster from a bad one by looking.
Following the recent horror news about egg contamination and conditions at industrial egg farms (live rodents, dead chickens and eight-foot piles of manure), local markets have taken pains to post signs in the dairy case that their eggs are not from those farms.
TOO BAD! Crabby doesn't trust the stores any more than she trusts the producers so she has given up eggs now – probably permanently. Crabby will miss poached eggs on toast, but a hard yolk is not her definition of poached.
There are already a lot of things Crabby Old Lady doesn't eat. After E. coli was found in packaged spinach four years ago, she stopped using packaged vegetables – leafy ones, roots, herbs, anything. If they aren't loose, she doesn't buy them; those sealed plastic bags are perfect petri dishes for growing nasty, disease-bearing bacteria.
Crabby isn't much of a beef eater, but a couple of times a year she craves a big, fat hamburger with all the fixings on a toasted bun. No more; Crabby hasn't eaten one for years because it's not a burger to her if it's not medium rare and there are too many, regularly-occurring recalls due to E. coli. - just three weeks ago, one million pounds were recalled.
Plus, if you've ever seen that documentary (or was it a segment on 60 Minutes several years ago?) with graphic video of how ground beef is produced, you'd never eat it again anyway. Crabby misses her occasional burgers.
She struck large fish – shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna, etc. – from her diet 10 or 15 years ago. They are at the top of the marine food chain, stuffed with all the mercury smaller and medium-sized fish contain and mercury can rot your brain as much as Alzheimer's.
After all the news about hormones and melamine in farmed fish along with the conditions in which they are raised, she buys only wild now. It's expensive, but Crabby doesn't eat much per meal so it doesn't break the budget.
Now they're trying to tell us Gulf shrimp and oysters are safe to eat. Puh-leeze. BP and possibly the government have lied to us throughout the disaster - why would Crabby trust them about the safety of Gulf seafood. She feels for the shrimpers, but values her health more.
Chicken is suspect too. Is it stuffed with hormones or antibiotics? Hard to know. Free range (at $12 to $15 per chicken!) doesn't mean chemical- or drug-free. Crabby still buys it, but not often and she swore off pre-roasted chickens, which she had sometimes bought out of laziness, when she cut one open and it was bloody at the bone.
What can a Crabby Old Lady eat these days?
It may sound like it from this post, but Crabby is hardly a food fanatic. Except for eggplant and feta cheese, there isn't anything she doesn't like, although she has favorites – lobster, Dungeness crab, great huge salads with 12 or 15 vegetables and fruits and in summer, fruit smoothies for breakfast or lunch.
So without intending to be a vegetarian, fruits and veggies have become the mainstay of Crabby's diet by default – well, if you don't count ice cream which is (you do know this, don't you?) one of the seven food groups. And yes, Crabby knows it contains eggs.
And don't get Crabby started on peanuts. It's not a problem only for the allergic; it's salmonella too. The vast majority of food alerts are about peanuts and producers put peanuts in pretty much all prepared food.
Which is another category Crabby doesn't have in her kitchen – anything that is produced in a factory. Aside from dried beans, oatmeal, condiments and crackers for cheese – packaged food doesn't exist for Crabby, nor does tinned food thanks to BPA warnings.
Overall, it is a healthy way to eat, but what's wrong with this picture is that it came about out of fear – fear of contamination in the nation's food supply. The problem with food alerts from the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, recalls.gov, foodsafety.gov, etc. is that they occur after people get sick and Crabby doesn't want to become a statistic.
Whenever there is a new, widespread outbreak of food-borne illness, government agencies go all religious on us about inspections – for a short while. But imagine how long it takes for eight-foot piles of chicken manure to build up and where were the USDA, DOA, etc. - the agencies responsible for the safety of the food supply - during that time?
Could this be a political issue? Undoubtedly, giant agribusinesses have lobbyists in Washington, but even politicians who want to kill Social Security wouldn't trade food safety for campaign donations. Would they?
Crabby Old Lady doesn't get sick often – a few flus in her past and a couple of hospital stays for weird problems no doctor could diagnose. The sickest she has ever been was that bad oyster week and she doesn't ever want to repeat it.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: The Zipper