Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deep Fried


When I wrote the following short story 20 years ago in the early days of the internet, it was set in what then was the near future. I meant it as a satire of marijuana laws. As our nation’s food police take themselves ever more seriously with each passing year, however, the joke may be on me.

Deep Fried

CAROL: It is Tuesday night and once again this is Carol Sung hosting Extreme Blue, the interactive real-time police docudrama where you the audience can speak to our officer of the week and then get to direct the action. Our online editor selects the callers who will speak to the officer.
Tonight we  are in Trenton, NJ. For the safety of our officers, all online and broadcast links are blacked out in Trenton at this time. Wearing the helmet cam today is Officer Klaus Mendoza of the Greater Trenton Police Department.
Hello Officer.

KLAUS: Hi Carol

CAROL: Tell our subscribers about the bust prepared for this evening.

KLAUS: Tonight after weeks of careful preparation we are ready to raid some true predators of society. In the ordinary suburban house you see on your screen, criminals are operating a basement bakery. We have analyzed the effluents of the air stacks and sewer lines and discovered traces of deep fried fat, whole butter, and pure cane sugar. Pure!
            And look! What really makes you sick, we are less than 500 feet from a grammar school.
CALLER No. 1: Officer Mendoza, do you really think that junk is being sold in school?

CAROL: How about that, Klaus?

KLAUS: No, doubt about it, Carol. Look, some kid sees his older brother sweating 40 hours a week flipping tofu and slinging watercress at McSprouts without earning enough to move out of mom’s house. He can earn as much selling one Danish as his brother takes home in a day. A single nickel-bag (that’s $500 to you and me) of donuts scores him more than his brother earns all week. A kilo of éclairs sets him up for a month. For that kind of cash, some kids will poison their fellow students in a heartbeat.
            And you know how this starts, Carol? Popcorn! I know I sound old-fashioned, and that a lot of hippie bleeding hearts who popped corn over candles in their college dorms think our penalties for popcorn possession are excessive. They are not. And I don’t want to hear about how harmless it is or how it comes from a plant that George Washington grew on his farm. Popcorn is a gateway junk food. It gets kids psychologically dependent. We have to think about whose rights are important. I think our kids come first. Our kids have a right to grow up in a fat free world.

CALLER No. 2: But isn’t this taking things beyond the intent of the original safety regulations? Wasn’t the FDA, for example, meant simply to ensure the purity and freshness of food and the…

KLAUS: No! That is one of the preposterous claims by extremists so dogmatic that they are willing to sacrifice our children to their narrow ideology. The FDA was always concerned about the safety of food and other dangerous drugs. Sure, in the massively addicted societies of the 20th and early 21st centuries, it took time to build political support for the proper control of especially popular poisons, but safety always was the intent. There is nothing more unsafe than sugar and fat. More people die from heart disease and the other wages of an improper diet than from all narcotics combined.

CALLER No. 3: Klaus, this is Jerome. I’m with the NYPD. I must say it bothers me to waste time harassing people who are just doing what they want to do. There is no space in jail for muggers and carjackers because of all the pastry chefs and binge-eaters. We have to let violent criminals walk. We’re supposed to "Serve and Protect." Snacking is a victimless crime.

KLAUS: I can’t believe I’m hearing this from a brother officer! Have you ever seen a family destroyed by what some irresponsible parent shoved in his mouth? What about the kids unable to learn because they’re all hopped up on chocolate chip cookies. I makes me puke to hear pastry abuse called a victimless crime.

CALLER No. 3: But what about the victims of street violence and drive-by shootings  as gangs battle for territories in which to sell muffins and tarts? What about the families disrupted by our own arrests? What about the financial bonanza we are handing to organized crime?

KLAUS: The answer is not to give up! The answer is to work harder to cut off supplies. The recent invasion of Jamaica has brought the sugar plantations and refineries there under our control. We haven’t yet toppled the Cuban sugar lords, but the Coast Guard is making it tough for them. The Coast Guard seized 300 sugar smuggling boats just last year. We are making progress.

CALLER No. 3: You talk about our kids all the time, but isn’t it also important to leave them a country where their freedoms are protected?

KLAUS: I’m all for freedom. As Americans, we all believe in individual rights. No one is suggesting we out-and-out outlaw the right to possess sweets or fats.  With a doctor’s prescription you or any citizen are free to buy the foodstuffs appropriate for you, as determined by your elected legislature. We simply can’t have people doing whatever they like whenever they like. Freedom should not be equated with anarchy.

CALLER No. 4: Hello, this is Sue Packer, Regional Director for CAFÉ, the Coalition for a Fat-free Environment. I want you to know some of us appreciate everything you are doing to preserve traditional family values.

KLAUS: Thanks, Sue. That’s rewarding to hear.

CAROL: Alright, you’ve heard the arguments. Now it is up to you, our subscribers and viewers, to decide whether the raid on this pie den should proceed. Please transmit your
votes now. We’ll have the results after this commercial break.

[Ad runs for Hostess celery sticks.]

CAROL: OK. We’re back and the numbers are in. We have 58,348 in favor and 21, 766 opposed. It looks like a go.
[Perspective shifts to Klaus Mendoza’s helmet cam.]

Aren’t these some great action shots we’re getting? You can see the risk our brave officers are taking, not only by surprising these criminals but by exposing themselves to a toxic environment. It is hard to believe human beings can live in a place like that. Look at the crumbs and powders on the surfaces.
Look! The police have nabbed a suspect in a bathroom trying to flush ingredients down the toilet. He didn’t have the time. Officer Mendoza is picking up one of the bags stacked in the sink. The officer is tasting a pinch from the bag. Is that what it looks like, officer?

KLAUS: Yes, Carol. Sugar. Pure Granada White. I wouldn’t even try to guess the street value of this. It’s enough evidence to put these crooks away for a very long time. Also, we’ll be seizing the property from the landlord. Landlords who receive cash from people engaged in this business are as guilty as the tenants. They have a responsibility to society to see that their tenants are using their property legally.

CAROL: I see your other team members have arrested two more suspects, an adult female and what looks like a 10-year-old girl. Were both of them working in that basement bakery?

KLAUS: Indeed they were. And just look at this equipment: wall ovens, stovetop burners, refrigerators and freezers. We have counted 18 pies, 14 cases of donuts, 16 boxes of Danishes, and at least 50 kilos of cookies laced with everything from coconut to chocolate chips. This is a fortune in junk food.

CALLER No. 3: Why is the suspect shouting "24 cases of donuts!" officer?

KLAUS: She is on a sugar high and doesn’t know what she is saying. Either that or she is trying to escape punishment by slandering Greater Trenton’s finest. You can be sure our count is accurate and that the evidence will be saved for trial and then destroyed.
            But you pointed out what really is sick about this whole operation. This criminal couple actually had their 10-year-old daughter baking cookies. Abuse like this calls out for responsible state intervention.

CAROL: This sounds like another question for our viewers. Under the judicial provisions of the Omnibus Entertainment Act, you the viewers can decide. Should this child be removed from her parents and turned over to state care? Vote Now.

[Pause as votes tally on the bottom of the screen.]

            We are ending voting now. And once again, Klaus, we have a yes by a margin of 48, 348 to 27, 389.

KLAUS: It’s comforting to know the common folks will make the right decision if you give them a chance. This girl is going to need detox and years of therapy.  At least now she’ll get it.

CAROL: That’s all for tonight. I want to thank Officer Mendoza and our participating audience.
Join us next week when Extreme Blue investigates a gang suspected of distributing hate literature including the long banned Huckleberry Finn.
This is Carol Sung. Good Night.

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