Dear Mrs. Vera,
Should we be eating Stem-Cell Bacon?
Miss Rumpled Pig Skin, Peoria
Hello Dear Readers! One of the perks of writing a political advice column is the exposure I get to the endless variety of problems facing people faced with problems, and the satisfaction one gets from imagining helping even one single person along the way, at some point. Statistically, I am as overdue for this to happen as is this here manuscript, by Louis Pasteur, from the Ecole du Fronch por Mediseine, on the subject of Trichinosis that I checked out in 1957 which, by the way, I used to press flowers and keep flat-iron steaks flat on the grill for decades, but which has now come in pretty handy for this week’s topic about piggish etiquette at the dinner table and the boorish behavior strangers often display when visiting other peoples’ gross kitchens.
It was a special bonus to hear from a dear, really very old friend who wrote in with this week’s question, who I haven’t heard from in over a hundred years, Charlotte Rumpelstiltskin. Loyal readers without dementia will recall she last wrote about being spun out about being overworked and harassed by her boss in that non-union weaving factory with all the thorny branches everywhere and his wicked Grandmother Wolf flying around the warehouse, made from candy and gingerbread of all things, on her big blue ox, which was always spitting magic beans at glass slippers. If only she had heeded my advice and either A: taken a vacation, or B: crawled into her shoe forever then her problems would have ended there. But, as fate would have it, she is here today and once again in crisis, this time about the weird food we are supposed to find edible and be polite about instead of just staring at it, uncomprehendingly, on our plate and then screaming repeatedly at in transfixed horror and shock before passing out and missing the dessert course. Good to hear from you, Charlotte!
There are ways not to be rude when people serve you garbage, and most of these involve either total avoidance of eye contact, hungry pets or occasionally a potted plant that loses all its leaves while trying to get an Oscar nod. But one man’s landfill can be another’s salvation, so I figured I’d better do some research before making any rasher (Hilarious British Pun), purely barf-based recommendations regarding quasifoods. The difference between science and magic, as some have noted, is something about advanced technology, DARPA grants and sexy, ax-wielding forest princes, so I figured a short quest to conquer the Labradragontory of the food science White-smocked Wizards was in order.
“Break In” is such an ugly word, it is much more flattering and less legally actionable to do undercover investigative journalism, so even for a gal on the manners beat it pays to be discreet. But I was determined to get first hoof knowledge of this debaconacle, concerns over which are tearing up the internet and, possibly, the digestive tracts of every living creature on the planet once it escapes the lab and gains free will like a rampaging Frankfurterstein Monster. Those things are notoriously impolite and anguished, no thanks! Anyway, anyway, in order to learn about stem cell bacon, I squashed my squeemishness into a wet lump and climbed into my Fantastic Voyage shrinky science-Lady catsuit, which got torn alluringly in all the most almost revealing places right away and, looking fabulous, shrank myself down to atomic scale to find out what makes this quantum bacon tick. Right off the top of the bat we can all relax, as I reveal that while there is much to be concerned about, ticks and Lyme or lemon diseases are not, repeat not involved, so thankfully no one need put that disturbing image in your head, and that’s a relief.
I will say, the stem cell bacon does taste exactly like the chemicals that a majority of Food Scientists denote as the ones representing the society’s associations with crispily rendered fatty pork products and pointless donut technology considered referenceable as “bacon” by human consumers. Yum — aside from the texture, flavor and smell. What I found shocking was the amount of waste and the brutal amounts of labor required to bring this product to market, to homes, to compete with other products that have Roast Beef, or have none, and to appeal to shoppers that go Squee-Squee Squeeeeeel all the way home.
The tiny microscopic people tasked with the slaughter and butchering of stem cells work under conditions of extreme duress while attempting to meet unrealistic quotas with very few protections in the workplace, especially from giant amoeba-like killer white blood cells attacking their microverse mom-and-pop farms. The typical stem cell contains hundreds of organelles and structures, and the percentage of those which are bacon is vanishingly small. Even more disturbing is that most of the rest of the animal is discarded, unused. The amount of surgical skill involved in the removal of the bacon from the cell is astonishing, but is for the most part performed by undocumented bacteria picked up in parking lot hand rails and grocery cart handlebars. The heaps of rotting mitochondria, cytoplasms, nuclei and vacuoles is nightmarish, and nothing is done for the surviving widowchondrias and baby orphanvacuoles — no one so much as changes their smelly diapers. It’s like a harrowing scene full of endless degradations stretching to the dinky horizons in the deepest pits of a teensy-tiny, itty-bitty widdle hell. And all, I ask, just to produce a cheaper, allegedly sustainable pipeline to heart failure, one made out of umbilical cord scrapings? Well, when you put it like that it doesn’t seem very appetizing. Because it isn’t.
And I think, while the experience is still so new and unsettled, that it is probably just as rude to serve biofilm bacon as it is to actually eat it, so basically it is a lose-lose situation, socially. Unless, I guess, your customers are demanding a very unpleasant way to ruin their health with fast food featuring ingredients that can be tricked into growing on the top of a bucket filled with glop containing the DNA of anything and everything.
Many people with cultural restrictions on pork consumption (Vegans, Jews, Pig People and shwetmails — Sea-Horses Who Eat The Meatballs At Ikea LunchlineS — among others) appreciate the importance of choice in a healthy diet, but even the most committed pro-choice activists will find a moment of pause when they have the perennial great taste/innate-revulsion-to-cannibalism debate, whenever it comes to burger-topping picking time, however liberally one chooses to apply the morally and ethically challenged congrediments made for people, out of people.
Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!