Following the example of former New York Mayor Bloomberg, who tried to ban Big Gulp, the United Nations is cracking down on bacon and processed meats. From the halls of Nathan’s Deli to the shores of Italy, there’s a deafening outcry as the masses plead, “Save our bacon!”
The Agency for Research on Cancer says processed meat can lead to colorectal cancer and has put it on a list with other notorious carcinogens like tobacco and asbestos. Not to be late to the party, or a wienie roast, the State of California is considering whether to add processed meat to its cancer-alert list — a move that could lead to warning labels and possible lawsuits against meat companies.
After the U.N. report was released, PETA immediately began a billboard campaign that pictured a child puffing on a cigarette and said, “You wouldn’t let your child smoke. Like smoking, eating bacon, sausage and other processed meats is linked to cancer. Go vegan!”
For each 50-gram portion of processed meat you eat daily — one hot dog or two slices of bacon — your risk of cancer increases 18 percent, the U.N. agency said. Although the risk is considered small, it increases depending on the amount you consume.
I’m worried because everything on the U.N. list is also on my personal list of culinary delights — hot dogs with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard; sausage with broccoli rabe; bacon, egg and cheese on a hard roll; Reuben sandwiches with corned beef; and of course, the ever popular prosciutto with melon. And let’s not forget the salami on my Italian combo.
You have to wonder why the U.N. issued this report right before the World Series. Is it an international conspiracy orchestrated by the Chinese in order to derail the sluggish U.S. economy by discouraging hot dog consumption? Last year, we ate 20 billion hot dogs and 14 billion sausages — for a total cost of more than $5 billion. (For that matter, the Chinese better start worrying, too, because pork fried rice could also end up with a warning label.)
Across the Atlantic, the report got the Italians worked up, because prosciutto makers are terrified of economic repercussions that could threaten 180,000 jobs in the meat processing industry. Even worse, can you imagine eating an antipasto with tofu?
I’m afraid to ask what this means for the future of … pepperoni pizza. I’m a guy who grew up eating fried pepperoni sandwiches — you had to pour the grease off first — and now I may have to join a support group or go to rehab for red meat lovers.
In our home, every Tuesday was Hot Dog Night, which meant my mother had to invent new and exciting ways to make Oscar Mayer appetizing. She was a virtual Caravaggio with her frankfurter creations. We had fried franks, baked franks with beans, an occasional boiled frank, the “Frankenstein” slathered with “the works” including bacon bits — and my personal favorite, “Spanish dogs.”
She probably got that recipe off a can of Hunts Tomato Sauce. She made them by cutting the hot dog into bite-sized pieces and frying them in tomato sauce with onions and peppers. Ole! As an added treat she would entertain us with her castanets in the flamenco tradition of Pine Rock Park.
Yes, it’s been a lifetime of cured, salted, nitrated and smoked meats, so I’m surprised I haven’t grown a second head or had my one head shrivel up like the shrunken heads in the Amazon jungle.
I don’t know what the future holds, but it can’t be good, and I often find myself asking, “What the heck is safe to eat?” Not potato chips, not dairy products, not anything with processed sugar, not fruits and vegetables sprayed with insecticides, and not GMO foods.
To my thinking, obesity and air pollution are far greater health threats than salami. Besides, haven’t we picked on red meat long enough? For millennia, it served us well, but now it’s as verboten as wearing a leather biker jacket to a PETA garden party.
It’s time to turn our attention to a new cause. I, for one, would like to see stringent U.N. controls on women’s perfume and men’s cologne. They haven’t been linked to colorectal cancer yet, but they sure as heck cause serious post-nasal drip, which for those of you who are unfamiliar with medical terms, means a runny nose. And if I had to choose between pepperoni and perfume, I’d take the pepperoni every time.
Contact Joe Pisani at [email protected]