Sometimes you’re just better off not knowing.
When I was a kid, I had two things that I dearly loved: hot dogs and baloney sandwiches.
I’ve said before that there are few culinary delicacies that can hold a candle to a thick slice of beef baloney coupled with an equally thick slice of hoop cheddar cheese placed between two slices of fresh, soft white bread, with the inside of each bread slice properly slathered with copious amounts of yellow mustard.
Add some tater chips and a Co-Coler so cold that it has a little ring of ice at the top, and you have a feast fit for the noblest of dignitaries.
A couple of baloney sandwiches accompanied me most of my grade-school days, though Momma did try to mix in a ham sandwich or two when she saw an opening, ostensibly so that I “didn’t just turn completely into a baloney sandwich,” which I seemed to be at great risk of doing, at least in her considered estimation.
And hot dogs, especially grilled ones ... it just doesn’t get much better than that.
But kids also have inquiring minds, and I would give into mine on occasion and ask a question that would bring any adult in the room who happened to be munching on a hot dog to a screeching halt. “What’s a hot dog made of?” I asked inquisitively, and innocently, at first.
Apparently that and “What’s baloney made of?” were two questions adults of my childhood didn’t find particularly appetizing, because oftentimes the adults in the room, once they started thinking about it, decided to forego these tasty delicacies, which, I quickly learned, was beneficial for me. Innocence was lost.
“Quit asking questions like that,” Momma would say, “or you’ll risk growing up to work at a newspaper.” Then I’d inquire about the hot dog she’d just lost interest in and she’d say, yes, I could have it since she was going to just go with the potato salad now, thank you very much.
Now that I know the answers, I don’t do those sandwiches and hot dogs all that often anymore, though I admit I sometimes give in to the urge and just try not to think about it, which is the approach I have to take since I’m not fond of potato salad.
For some reason, all of that came to mind when I was reading about all the problems the Europeans are having figuring out exactly what’s in their beef, frozen food products and Swedish meatballs. Turns out, much to their chagrin, that a good many of our friends across the Great Pond have, without knowing it, been dining on horse meat.
Now that’ll put a little hitch in your giddy-up to the supper table.
What happened was last month the folks in Ireland found out that horse meat had been mixed in with the beef in frozen meals of lasagna, spaghetti and the like from two major manufacturers. It’s also been found in Shepherd’s pie in Britain and, like any good scandal, the horse meat revelation quickly galloped across the European Union, where other countries learned what they thought was beef had, in fact, come from an animal that neighed at one time. Just this week, the Czechs discovered the Swedish meatballs that were being served at some IKEA stores with cafeterias had horse meat in them.
Now that European officials are suitably outraged and have been spurred on to react, laboratories are making a mint checking meat products for horse DNA, even in France, where they eat horse meat and call it “viande de cheva,” which sounds better but isn’t.
So far, there have been no reports of horse meat being surreptitiously sold in the United States, though the prediction that it might soon happen has come up in some people’s arguments against sequestration, the $85 billion federal spending cuts bomb that’s ticking away and set to explode Friday. Of course, the European Union doesn’t have any sequestering going on and they still have horse meat in their food supply, so I’m not sure how much weight to give that argument.
Maybe the Europeans should do what we did in the school cafeteria — after I quit taking sandwiches with me — on Mystery Meat Wednesday. That was the day when a patty/chunk/glob of a grayish-brown meat appeared on your lunchroom plate without any identifiable characteristics, except that it was covered with either gravy, which meant it was Salisbury steak, or ketchup, which meant it was meatloaf.
Once, it came without any covering and I asked a friend, “So, you think this is meatloaf or Salisbury steak today?”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Either way you gotta eat around the spur marks.”
Bon appetit, y’all.
Email Editor Jim Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.