Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.
Sounds simple enough, till you try to distill 29 days of Oulipo into a single piece. Well, it’s a draft, as always, and rather fun to revisit the various ideas and images that inspired me or drove me crazy over the past month. I will miss the back-and-forth dialogue with fellow Ouliposters, but I received my Oulipo Compendium yesterday in the mail, all the way from Gloucester in the UK, so I’m looking forward to more of this, without the newspaper constraint. Hope you’ve enjoyed the poems. For more patchworks, please visit the Oulipost blog here: http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/oulipost-30-patchwork-quilt/
IN A VACANT LOUNGE IN CANADA, I TOO SAT DOWSE AND WEPT
Winter, mid snowman. City parks bare, a soundscape of static and feedback. This boggy tip of Newfoundland’s northern landscape, sullen winds hang…
Chicken nuggets, with a side of respiratory distress
At one poultry slaugterhouse, more than 40 perccent of workers have carpal tunnel. Then there’s those noxious chemical odors.
Think you have it tough at work? Imagine taking a post at a factory-scale poultry slaughterhouse. Chicken carcasses whiz by at the rate of 140 per minute, requiring repetitive hand motions with sharp knives. Then there’s the caustic odor of chemical sprays and washes—practices the industry has resorted to in recent years as a way to control bacterial pathogens like salmonella.
The US Department of Agriculture, which inspects the kill line at these plants, has been brandishing a proposal since 2012 that would remove some inspectors from the kill line while allowing the industry to speed them up to a rate of 175 birds per minute—a 25 percent acceleration. The speedup would likely increase reliance on those antimicrobial sprays to manage pathogens: In the USDA’s proposal, “visibly contaminated poultry carcasses” would be allowed to remain on-line for treatment with germ-killing chemicals, instead of being taken offline for cleaning, as is the current practice. For companies that opt to keep their “visibly contaminated” birds on the kill line, “all carcasses” on the line would be doused with antimicrobial chemicals, the proposal states, “whether they are contaminated or not.”
The department has delayed finalizing the highly controversial new setup, but has stubbornly repeated its intention to do so eventually. As recently as April 3, Brian Ronholm, acting under secretary for food safety, touted the plan before a House subcommittee.
Meanwhile, new information on the already-harsh conditions that prevail on the factory-slaughterhouse floor has emerged over the past month. On the chemical-spray front, the above video, from Atlanta’s WSB-TV News, shows that some USDA inspectors in the southeast are complaining publicly that the antimicrobial sprays are causing them, as well as line workers, serious respiratory troubles. The Atlanta report builds on an excellent 2013 story by the Washington Post’s Kimberly Kindy, who conducted interviews with more than two dozen USDA inspectors and poultry industry employees, and found a “range of ailments they attributed to chemical exposure, including asthma and other severe respiratory problems, burns, rashes, irritated eyes, and sinus ulcers and other sinus problems.”
Poultry plant workers suffer from a “range of ailments…including asthma and other severe respiratory problems, burns, rashes, irritated eyes, and sinus ulcers and other sinus problems,” according to the Washington Post.
Than there’s this report March report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on a plant in South Carolina operating at the current maximum speed of 140 birds per minute, which found that 42 percent of the workers had carpal tunnel syndrome, an extremely painful condition brought on by repetitive motion.
Stunningly, the USDA trotted that report out in defense of its speedup plan. The report, requested by the USDA itself, did find that carpal tunnel rates at the South Carolina plant did not rise 10 months after its line speed increased from 140 birds per minute to 170 birds per minute. In a triumphant March 26 blog post, Al Almanza, administrator of the department’s USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, hailed that result, declaring that NIOSH researchers had shown that “the increase in evisceration line speeds was not a significant factor in worker safety”—a statement he saw fit to underline for emphasis.
In a scathing April 7 retort, NIOSH director John Howard claimed that his agency’s report drew “no such conclusion.” He called the finding of carpal tunnel syndrome at a steady rate of 42 percent “alarming,” adding that the 10 months between the researchers’ two visits was “not sufficient to result in a change in health status.”
Moreover, the plant didn’t just speed up its line, it turns out. It combined two lines, each operating at 140 birds per minute, into a single one operating at 170 birds per minute—and kept all of the employees working on the combined line. Howard noted that because of the unusual arrangement, “no conclusion can be drawn” from the report about “the effect of line speed changes on worker health.”
In an email to me, a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service public affairs specialist responded that the NIOSH report “illustrates that a plant can adjust its processing so that increased line speeds do not necessarily lead to more birds being processed per worker, a fact FSIS has continued to point out.” Fair enough. But FSIS has also repeatedlyclaimed that the sped-up system would benefit poultry processing companies to the tune of “at least” $256 million annually in reduced costs. It’s hard to imagine where that cool quarter-billion in savings would come from, if not from each workers processing more birds per minute.
“The work speed is so unrelenting that it has forced workers to urinate and defecate in their clothing while working.”
At any rate, the report shows definitively that even the current maximum line speed is sufficient for “alarming” rates of carpal tunnel among workers.
Finally, things have gotten so dire on the poultry line that three organizations—Nebraska Appleseed, the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center—appealed to the the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (part of the Organization of American States) for a hearing on the “Human Rights Situation of Workers in the Meatpacking and Poultry Industry in the United States,” which was held on March 25. Drawing on SLPC’s harrowing 2013 report compiling the complaints of poultry workers called “Unsafe at These Speeds,” SLPC attorney Tom Fritzsche delivered blunt testimony (video here), calling on the USDA to abandon its new plan and instead slow down the kill lines. This bit from caught my attention: “The work speed is so unrelenting that it has forced workers to urinate and defecate in their clothing while working on the line because employers deny reasonable bathroom use, violating workers’ rights to dignity.”
The Amazon ecosystem, and especially the rain forest, is considered one of the world’s most complex animal and vegetable habitats. Its most important characteristics are the sheer number of different animal and plant species, and the extraordinary variations in macro and micro-habitats. In this park alone, over 100 species of tree per hectare have been identified. To give us some idea of the scale of this number, in the richest, densest jungles of Central America, the equivalent figure is no more than 40.
Until about a year ago, Ñame and his family lived in Quehueiriono, on of the most important settlements along the Shiripuno, a tributary of the Napo. But natural resources were running out, and were not enough to feed the 160 members of the community. So, Ñame decided to move out, and settle in a different place, two days walk from Quehueiriono.
To prepare one of the most notorious dishes in French cuisine, you start by locking a small, live songbird in a darkened box with a large amount of millet. Closed away from the light, the bird eats constantly, fattening its spindly body in a matter of days. After being gorged, the bird is drowned in a shot of Armagnac, plucked of its feathers, and roasted whole—guts and all. Served straight from the oven, diners eat the ortolan, a type of bunting, with a napkin tented over their head. Some say this odd tradition is designed to keep the fleeting aromas of the small birds, which are said to taste of foie gras and truffles, from escaping too quickly. Others say the cloth is to shield the diner’s greed (or shame, depending on who’s recounting the myth) from God as they crunch down on the endangered songbird.
Whether or not the napkin is a sufficient defense against the prying eyes of God is subject to debate. However, symbolically speaking, the ceremonial hood has helped hide the long-standing culinary tradition from France’s government. Ortolan are listed as a threatened species, per the European Union, and it has been illegal to hunt or sell the birds since 1987. But for decades there was such lax enforcement that the government had to announce it would actually start imposing the restrictions it in 2007.
“The small birds, which dine on berries through their brief lives, are cooked whole, with the head on, and without cleaning except for removing the feathers,” Craig Claiborne, the influential New York Times food critic, wrote about ortolan in 1975. “They are as fat as butter and an absolute joy to bite into because of the succulence of the flesh. Even the bones, except for the tiny leg bones, are chewed and swallowed. There is one bird to one bite.”
American gourmands like Claiborne have eaten their fair share of the songbird, but the man who is most strongly associated with dining on ortolan is François Mitterrand, the former French president. Just days before he died of prostate cancer in 1996, he gathered with friends for a famous last meal that featured the bird among other delicacies.
The transgression of Mitterrand’s last supper, where the dying former president consumed what’s romantically thought to be the soul of France, presents such a heady mix of seduction and compulsion that it has not only been recounted in a book but was depicted in a movie too. Those buntings he chewed through under the private cover of a white napkin, alone in his momentary pleasure so near to death, are surely the most famous specimens to have ever been eaten.
“And there’s a lot of contemplation that goes underneath that cloth napkin. It’s like sort of being in a confessional,” Michael Paterniti, who re-created Mitterrand’s last meal, including the illicit songbirds, for a 1998 Esquire story, told NPR in 2006. “You have to own up to your own mortality. And I think that’s what François Mitterrand was most attracted to, trying to achieve some immortal gesture, felt that this bird was the perfect ending of his life.”
The political ironies of a Socialist president ending a life of eating with such a bourgeois meal—the menu also included oysters and foie gras—are somewhat glossed over by Mitterrand’s strong connection to the southwest of France, from whiche both he and many of these dishes originated. But a somewhat similar political ideology has helped push delicacies like shark-fin soup off of communist party banquet tables in China. Last December, Xinhua, the state news agency, announced that a ban on shark fins, bird’s nest, and other wild animal products at state dinners was intended “to regulate the use of public funding on receptions by local authorities to receive visiting Party or government officials.” Or, in other words, consuming these incredibly expensive delicacies was too capitalistic for the People’s Party to continue to endorse.
Now, under a new law that just paseed in China, 420 rare or endangered species, including pangolins and giant pandas, will be illegal to eat in China. Unlike France’s lazy bunting ban, offenses will be punishable by between three and 10 years behind bars. It used to be that it was illegal to take part in the trade of these animals, but diners were off the hook. Kill a Asian black bear, go to jail. Eat a red-braised bear paw that’s killed by someone else and cooked in the Hunan style of stewing meat beloved by none other than Chairman Mao, and you could go home satisfied and scot-free.
I wouldn’t wish time in a Chinese prison on anyone, even if they managed to get past the moral alarms that surely must blare when presented with a plate of panda bear, but it does seem that cutting off demand for these ecologically damaging foods is the only way to curb their appeal. In a recent Los Angeles Times review of the sushi bar Q, Jonathan Gold wrote about a series of courses that featured different cuts of bluefin tuna. While he describes the slices of maguro, chu-toro, and o-toro as “spectacular,” he regretted not stipulating that he didn’t want to eat the increasingly endangered fish.
“There is no excuse for a chef like Naruke to serve bluefin tuna, a species hurtling toward extinction,” he wrote, “and I am furious with myself for not sending it back.” Slipping a piece of sushi into your mouth, a single, simple bite, is far less involved than the ceremony of ortolan. But the point is that once the bird or the bluefin or the bear paw is in front of you, it’s often too late to say no.
Chinese cooking has long played outside the boundaries of chicken, beef, and pork, but the booming economy of recent years has increased the hunger for dinner menus that read like the Endangered Species Act. Rhino and elephant populations are continuing to drop because of the demand for horns and tusks; as many as 100 million sharks have been killed in a year for their fins; Asiatic black bears have been hunted to near extinction in South Korea and are threatened throughout their range; ortolan have the sad distinction of being one of the fastest-declining bird species in Europe.
And before you got othering those crazy Asians and gluttonous French, reprimanding their amoral appetite for threatened species, remember that America’s appetite for sushi has contributed to a 96 percent drop in Pacific bluefin tuna stocks. The Internet may not trade in cute videos of pelagic fish rummaging through dumpsters and eating garage freezers full of meatballs, but the demise of a menacing-looking fish is just as tragic as that of a cute, fuzzy bear or any other animal.
Gold may be furious with himself for eating those pieces of red, raw tuna. But despite having strong words about eating bluefin for years, it still seems that he can’t bring himself to simply say no—and he’s not alone. As someone who has guiltily eaten bluefin tuna on a handful of occasions—which is indeed delicious—saying no to the fish can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
At a sushi bar like Q, it’s presented as a delicacy, as the apex of a cuisine and culture that, with centuries of tradition behind, is hard-pressed to grapple with the ecological realities of 2014. Skillfully carved into a slight slip, gone in just one bite, eating bluefin is an experience that’s beyond simple to disassociate with the global collapse of a species that can weigh in a at over 500 pounds. As long as it’s there, as long as it’s that simple to fulfill the desire to know what it tastes like, diners will continue to eat bluefin, to eat bear, to eat buntings.
Fuchsia Dunlop, who has written extensively of China and Chinese food, has joked that she’s eaten “far too much meat from endangered species.” But despite any transgressions she’s committed at the dinner table, Dunlop has raised some interesting, difficult questions about the immediate condemnation that people respond with to reports of endangered animals being poached, trafficked and eaten. Writing about China’s hunger for bear paw in 2009, which she has never encountered in her travels, Dunlop says that she would turn it down, should it be presented to her—but it’s not quite as simple as saying now.
“And yet I can’t help wondering if eating such things, gross and unconscionable though it may be, is any worse than driving a car, travelling by plane, using consumer goods whose manufacture and disposal causes catastrophic pollution, or eating a lot of factory-farmed meat,” she continues. “It’s much easier to make a moral point by refusing bear’s paw (particularly if it’s not part of your own culture) than it is to address seriously the impact of our consumerist lifestyles on the planet and its biodiversity, isn’t it?”
Food has intersected with French presidential identity politics in the years since Mitterrand’s death, as is to be expected in a country where food and identity are so intertwined. Charles de Gaulle once famously quipped, “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” There was Freedom Fries in the Chirac years, hot dogs and burgers with the Bush family in the Sarkozy years. But no mythic meals of ortolan.
Despite the now actively enforced law against capturing and selling the birds, the culinary promise of ortolan still persists, despite the now actively enforced law against capturing and selling the birds. Around 30,000 birds are trapped in southwest France every year—although some conservation groups say the number is closer to 100,000. In an AFP story from last year, Jean-Roland Barrère, president of the Landes Federation of Hunters, suggested his own plan for slowly limiting the hunt—just let the old men who take part in the tradition die off.
“That is, as the hunters pass on, the role of hunter disappears, and little by little the practice dies out,” he said. But will the appetite for the soul of France die out too?
SPCA ANNUAL GARAGE SALE Our annual garage sale is happening May 31 – June 1 at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds from 8:30 AM to 3PM. We are now accepting any quality used items until May 17th. All proceeds from this sale stay in the Cowichan Valley to help our homeless animals.
COWICHAN & DISTRICT S.P.C.A.
7550 Bell-McKinnon Road
Duncan, B.C. V9L 6B1
Phone: 250-746-4646 Fax: 746-4633
Food stamp recipients should make healthy nutrition choices, Delaware lawmakers say
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes Tags: food stamp recipients, healthy choices, Delaware
Food stamp recipients should make healthy nutrition choices, Delaware lawmakers say by J. D. Heyes
Some lawmakers in Delaware believe that residents who receive state and federal food assistance should be required to make healthier food choices, to provide a better return on the taxpayers’ investment.
One such lawmaker, Republican Tim Dukes of Laurel, is so convinced of it that he has recently sponsored new legislation requiring it.
“This problem, food stamps, SNAP is supplemental nutrition, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We want to see people purchasing nutritional food,” said Dukes.
Right now, there are few requirements for federal and state food stamp recipients to buy less of the most questionable foods, in terms of health: sugary or salty snacks, desert items, sugary soft drinks, energy drinks and high-calorie foods, all of which have been proven to lead to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other costly health problems.
Dukes told local media that his bill does not in any way reduce the amount of benefits or the amount of food that can be purchased by the state’s “most vulnerable citizens.” However, he said, “I just believe it is ludicrous to have a government nutrition program that subsidizes poor nutritional habits.”
In addition, his legislation would direct the Delaware Health and Social Services Department to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees federal food stamp and assistance programs, in order to be able to implement the revisions.
Legislators in the world’s most populous nation have taken endangered species off the menu.
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(Photo: Getty Images)
April 26, 2014 By Salvatore Cardoni
“Put down the chopsticks, and step away from the pangolin stew!”
Chinese diners of rare animals will soon be hearing such commands from police officers after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, reinterpreted an existing law Thursday, making it illegal to knowingly eat endangered species. Offenders could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
In China, it is already illegal to catch, kill, or trade in rare animals, but the ramifications for eating them were murky until now.
“Eating rare wild animals is not only bad social conduct but also a main reason why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite repeated crackdowns,” said Lang Sheng, deputy head of parliament’s Legislative Affairs Commission.
The Chinese government classifies 420 species of indigenous wild animals as rare or endangered, including tigers, giant pandas, pangolins, and Asian black bears.
Rare animals have long been a staple of traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine.
The Race to Save the Pangolin, the Most Trafficked Animal on Earth
Though there is no scientific basis for such claims, the roasted scales of a pangolin, for example, are believed to detoxify the body and treat asthma and cancer. The meat of the scaled mammal is considered a delicacy by China’s emerging middle class. According to one estimate, poachers have killed up to 182,000 pangolins since 2011.
Pressured by both international and in-state animal activists, Chinese officials finally appear to be recognizing their citizens’ role in the poaching epidemic. Two dozen people were arrested in January for trafficking animal parts across nine Chinese provinces. And in a public display intended to discourage smuggling and reduce demand, authorities crushed six tons of elephant ivory in March.
This week’s amended law only emboldens activists. “This is very, very encouraging,” said Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “Adding consumption to the criminal law can play a very important part in curtailing and…stigmatizing” dining on rare animals, she said.
PARECE QUE A NADIE LE MOLESTA QUE SEAN CABALLOS ROBADOS LLEVADOS A LOS FRIGORÍFICOS LEGALIZADOS POR MENEM PARA SUS COMPLICES ALEMANES! http://www.change.org/petitions/presi…ón-prohibir-la-matanza-de-caballos-y-el-consumo-de-su-carne
Por favor no insulten a la Patria, que somos argentinos los que luchamos, Firmen la petición y difundan el video Gracias http://www.change.org/petitions/ec-eu…
En la Argentina cada año unos 200.000 caballos se mandan al matadero para exportar su carne, fundamentalmente hacia Europa. Existen sólo cuatro frigoríficos habilitados. Uno en Entre Ríos, con 18% de la faena. Otro en Río Cuarto, Córdoba, con el 26%. Y los dos restantes en territorio bonaerense. El primero en Trenque Lauquen maneja el 21% de la torta, y el segundo y más activo de todos está en Mercedes, con el 35%.
Pese a que la carne nacional cotiza más barata, el negocio marcha. El año pasado, la Secretaría de
Agricultura registró que cada tonelada de carne de caballo se vendió a un promedio de 1.384 dólares. Son cerca de 4 pesos por kilo. Ese precio no quedó muy lejos del de la carne vacuna, que se exportó a un precio promedio de 1.512 dólares.
Una situación que hace más lucrativo el negocio es que en el país no se faenan caballos criados especialmente para ese fin, como los robustos animales de la raza Percherón, que en Europa se utilizan con un “doble propósito”, para tiro y para carne. Aquí el negocio es de rezagos. Los intermediarios van por los campos recolectando caballos que han cumplido su vida útil o que fueron robados, obteniendolos a muy bajo precio
A nivel local las cosas son distintas. Durante mucho tiempo, la faena de caballos para consumo doméstico directamente estuvo prohibida, por las consideraciones especiales de los argentinos para con dicho animal, un noble compañero para los hombres de campo. En 1998, cuando Carlos Menem habilitó por decreto también el mercado interno, la Asociación para la Defensa de los Derechos del Animal (ADDA) le pidió que diera marcha atrás. Hoy seguimos padeciendo ese Decreto, ya que fomenta el robo de equinos.
MY THOUGHTS: PICTURES LIKE THESE, CAUGHT IN A VIDEO, MAKE ME THINK UNTO ARMAGEDDON …