FISH, WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
I know the state reigns through regulation on our highways, though I still believe they ought to outsource their construction and maintenance to the private sector. But restaurants, I thought, were safe from the tentacles of government. Wrong again. Ever heard of your city’s Department of Health? It’s not a single employee sitting behind a used desk. It’s a swat team of inspectors clothed in body armor, deadly chemical sprays and a thick pad of forms to fine restaurateurs.
They evidently raided one of my favorite eateries – rounded up, I presume, any fat-loving eaters and any kids drinking caffeine-laced soda. Before they left, siren shrieking red lights flashing, they made the owners paste up on the wall the following remarkable sign, which I witnessed with my own eyes:
“Under Alabama law the consumer has the right to know upon request to the food service establishment the country of origin of farm-raised fish or wild fish.”
This is an enigma. It poses a book full of questions. The simplest is why is it necessary to impose the Q and A with a law. The second might be who cares. Why? Why? Why do I care whether the fish lived his short, happy life swimming around in Mississippi or North Dakota? He tastes the same. And notice that the customer has the right to ask, but the server is under no mandate to tell. No doubt a holdover from the “ask, but no tell” era.
Customer: “Waiter, where did this puny, boney member of the icatharus family spend his youth?”
Waiter: “None of your bloody business. Your question violates the privacy of the fish and the merchant from whom we purchased this puny, boney entrée.”
Maybe the idea is to cater to the ethnic prejudice of the eater. Maybe he’s opposed to Chinese catfish. Maybe he’d prefer a nice, fat, Alabama catfish even though they cost less to the vendor and subsequently could be sold cheap. Could the poster be the fruit of the Alabama Catfish Lobby – the powerful ACL who behind locked doors feasted on tasty Chinese catfish? Can you imagine the spirited debate in the state legislature interrupted only by serving each lawmaker a healthy chunk of unlabeled fish – then a vote as to which tasted better; alien oriental fish (secretly injected with motor oil) or the pure homegrown product served with slaw and hushpuppies? All this while Jefferson County went bankrupt? Yes. It is true. They went broke even though they enthusiastically market Alabama catfish.
Notice the sign included “farm raised” fish as well as “wild fish”. What is a wild fish? A misbehaving fish? Why not farm raised and non farm raised fish? Why not “all fish”? What in the name of Jehosaphat are they trying to say? If origin is so important why not a law mandating a tuxedo-clad maître D at the door of every food store. He’s got a 400-page book under his arm with the origin of every food product in the store. Or maybe carry it a step further. He also can answer questions about the customers: “Jacque, that blond sitting on the 5th barstool on the left – where’s she from? Phone number, too if you please.” And if she’s eating catfish, get the origin, for a great opening line. “Don’t you just hate those Chinese catfish? You were so wise to order the Alabama fish.” Aha, she’s hooked.
The humor of ted, the Scribbler on the roof, appears in newspapers around the US, on National Public Radio, and numerous web sites.