A Sideways Glance with Richard Bogartz: Cuisine during a plague year

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Veteran Sideways Glance readers, even with their Glance-induced post-traumatic stress disorder, remain aware that I engage in recreational lying, not to deceive but to entertain. Perhaps even to amuse.

Newbies are hereby warned that if mind-vexing contortions are experienced, mind-numbing media news will restore normality in a few moments. Rest assured, what lies ahead is safe. There’s no language or nudity, and any disturbing violence will be in the eye of the beholder.

Throckmorton and Brynhildr, fictional friends who’ve appeared here in many columns but not recently, showed up unannounced last Friday. As always they entered without knocking and excitedly assured me they had fascinating news based on unimpeachably reliable sources. I girded my loins.

“Bogie,” said Throckmorton, “I know you’ve heard rumors about Democrats eating children in the White House basement. We have news about that and other more important news, too.”

“Yeah, we’ve got the straight dope,” added Brynhildr. “We met a guy online whose sister works with the brother-in-law of a friend of a White House custodian. This reliable information channel confirms the following.

“The custodian was swept up in a Secret Service drill. The President hasn’t time to participate in every drill so White House folks know that if they’re grabbed and told ‘You’re the President,’ they must play at being president until the drill ends.

“The custodian was grabbed, cued, and taken down, down, down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. There he saw government officials munching finger lickin’ morsels, comparing the palatability of savory boy morsels with honeyed girl morsels, and assigning scrumptiousness scores. Naturally, he told his friend, we got the word, and thought you should know.”

“But,” added Throckmorton, “we weren’t sure that you, at your advanced age, could cope with such discordant news from the cuisine world. We took a chance. You seem to be taking it well”

I responded, “Not to worry. I still avoid the elderly, so I won’t be afflicted by their brittle personalities and inflamed joints. I even wear a mask when I Zoom with folks of the older persuasion so their frailty will not electronically infect me. And my age is not advanced. I’m an 85-year-old spring chicken so watch your disparagements.”

“Well, that’s good news,” replied Brynhildr. “Because we have an even more important cuisine story for you. We have it on the irrefutable authority of an unnamed Facebook group that the food supply is under attack from an unexpected direction: the dead.”

“Ah, interesting,” said I. “Indeed, unexpected. Tell me more.”

I love the two of them dearly, so, heroically, I refrained from rolling my eyes.

Throckmorton fancies himself an amateur economist. He began as follows. “Not reading economics journals you’re probably unaware that mortuaries have been having trouble making ends meet. Price increases of land for cemeteries, the cost of materials for coffins, benches, decorations, tools and prayer books, were already afflicting the business when the gravediggers decided to unionize, seek salary raises, medical insurance, extended vacations with pay, time-and-a-half for working on Halloween, and all the other accoutrements that normal workers, the ones who avoid cavorting with ghouls and goblins, are given.

“Their robots immediately followed suit, unionizing, demanding new software, assistant drones, and less shocking charging stations.

“International mortuary cartels were careening toward bankruptcy when the saving concept was manufactured by a little Chaplinesque part-time accountant who worked at a mortuary and a supermarket. He’d noticed the tremendous popularity of sausages with names such as turkey kielbasa, andouille, bratwurst, chorizo, longaniza, sai ua, blood sausage, and the list goes on. He suggested to mortuary management that converting from burial and cremation to sausage manufacturing could solve both the mortuary financial problems and alleviate food shortages. The management made him promise silence about this idea and before long the cartel heads had decided to proceed to conversion.”

Brynhildr added, “And now you know why governors of certain states, themselves personally heavily invested in mortuary ETFs, have opposed mask and vaccine mandates to ensure a greater supply of sausage material. Throckmorton and I have long suspected that opposition to abortion was linked to wanting to maintain a population of military enlistees, but this deceased-to-delicious angle complicates the whole picture.”

Throckmorton threw in two final factoids. “We’ve also heard from equally trustworthy sources that Transcend Flesh, the thriving new meatless sausage and burger phenomenon, is not what it appears to be. Apparently, the mortuary cartels have infiltrated meatlessness, and ‘pea protein’ is fake news. Also, a former president is organizing a deceased-to-delicious PAC for 2024.”

Richard S. Bogartz is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.