First snow of the season = first pot of split-pea soup. I’ve been planning this for a couple of weeks, so the timing is strictly a coincidence. I bought the ham but kept forgetting the split peas, then remembered when I was getting hummus from the gourmet-y market down the street. I found not the plain, unadorned bag of split peas that Kroger sells, but an everything-you-need soup-assembly kit, which translated to two cups of split peas plus a seasoning bundle.
Price: $5.99. No, I am not kidding.
I think I did one of those cough-explosions you do when someone tells you the thing you thought would cost a dime is actually $20,000. That’s roughly the disproportion here, as split peas are among the humblest and cheapest foods on the planet. For a long time I’d pay 69 cents a pound, but lately it’s around 84 cents, which I figure is skyrocketing energy prices asserting themselves. Or perhaps that six-buck soup kit reflected the true cost of what I’ve long believed is the truth about split peas — that they’re painstakingly split on a long, Tim Burton-style assembly line:
An army of workers arrives and take their seats on the line, hammer and chisel in hand. As the factory whistle blows, a single pea is released down a chute to land in front of each worker. A small vise is tightened, the worker places the chisel, taps it once, and the pea separates into equal hemispheres, each rolling down to a collection bin. A tap of a foot lever releases the next pea, and the process starts all over again.
Well, that’s how it should go.
More likely, the peas were “organic,” a designation that requires a lot of faith in the purchaser. I buy organic food when the price differential isn’t insulting, but figure the designation is a crapshoot and, perhaps, a fairy tale. (Also, at the midcentury mark, I figure all my filtering organs have already been poisoned by the chemicals of half a lifetime, so why lose sleep over it now?) Organic is hot, “green” is hot, and the marketplace is cashing in. The $5.15 difference in what I pay for split peas at Kroger and what I’d pay for the soup kit at Fancypants Market isn’t for the extra tablespoon of dried herbs; it’s for a complicated mix of overhead, packaging, advertising, distribution and a harder-to-quantify factor I guess you could call specialness. (This is the sort of thing I think about on bike rides. If only I could make it pay somehow.)
I realize discussion of what things cost is about as interesting to some of you as shoveling snow, but it seems to be a theme of late. My health-care news farming last night harvested a lengthy NYT report on how global “free trade zones” abet prescription-drug counterfeiters. (There’s money in heroin, but there’s also money — and fewer automatic weapons — in fake and otherwise squirrelly erectile-dysfunction drugs. Even Tony Soprano was getting in on it in the last season. Remember his meeting with Bobby and the Canadian gangsters? They were discussing bulk pricing on expired Fosamax.) It’s an interesting story, because it illustrates what happens when one country — that would be us — makes health care so complicated for people living at the margins of affordability. If it were just a bunch of boner drugs being faked and sold on the black and grey markets, it would be a problem for the patent holders and the people who gamble on swallowing them. But alas, it’s more complicated than that:
…An examination of the case reveals its link to a complex supply chain of fake drugs that ran from China through Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the Bahamas, ultimately leading to an Internet pharmacy whose American customers believed they were buying medicine from Canada, according to interviews with regulators and drug company investigators in six countries. …These were not just lifestyle drugs; this medicine was supposed to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and acid reflux, among other ailments.
…In the Bahamas, investigators had also made an important discovery. The computers at Personal Touch Pharmacy were connected to a server hosting a Canadian Internet pharmacy Web site.
The site belonged to RxNorth, described by one trade association as the world’s first major online pharmacy.
A founder, Andrew Strempler, had been the subject of numerous profiles, including one in The New York Times in 2005 that described how at the age of 30 he had two Dodge Vipers, a Jaguar and a yellow Lamborghini with a license plate that reads “RX Boss.”
The article reported that Mr. Strempler’s innovation “created a whole new Canadian industry that has plugged a niche in America’s troubled health care system almost overnight, providing about $800 million worth of low-cost drugs a year to two million uninsured and underinsured Americans, many elderly.” Drugs have traditionally been cheaper in Canada because of its health care system.
One of the counterfeits of a name-brand blood thinner was found to contain cement powder. And that’s what some geezer was taking to head off a stroke. Ah, free enterprise.
But I don’t want to bring you down on what promises to be a lovely day. We got another dusting of fresh snow overnight, and the world is white and beautiful. We’re promised enough sunshine to make glacier glasses a necessity today, so I’m bucking up. Besides, we have a special sub-category of bloggage today: NN.C Readers in the News!
First, John Ritter — who I think comments here as just plain John — writes an op-ed in his hometown paper, The Day. The headline is typical of op-ed pages everywhere, in that it states an obvious, inoffensive truth with a lot of capital letters:
An Understanding Of American History makes Us Better Appreciate Who We Are
That’s too bad, because John was reacting to a previous letter to the editor, in which the writer stated Daniel Boone died at the Alamo, a rather major fact-boner that either skated under the editors’ noses, or was thought harmless enough to pass unchallenged. I think John gets at, but does not explicitly state, the reason for the confusion here:
Yes, Daniel Boone was a big man and yes, he did fight for America to make it free. He did quite a few things in his life but one thing he didn’t do was die at the Alamo. He had died a peaceful death on Sept. 20, 1820, only 15 1/2 years before Davy Crockett perished at the Alamo. Davy Crockett is another larger than life American legend. But he was not Daniel Boone, although the actor Fess Parker did portray both of them very well.
Fess Parker played them both! You can see why we get these things mixed up.
On the other side of the world, communist bomb-throwing college professor Ashley Morris does his best to bolster jihad on his way home from a two-week teaching stint in the Persian Gulf:
I have been in Bahrain for two weeks and I am quite happy to report that as a New Orleanian, I feel vindicated. I travel around the world, and people ask where I am from. I do not say, “America”, I say “New Orleans”. After the complete and utter abandonment of the city and people of New Orleans by the American government, I do not feel like an “American” anymore. Being in the Arabian Gulf has made me realise that most people here understand the feeling.
As I commented on Ashley’s own blog: Enjoy your next strip search, professor.
Less personal bloggage:
You’ve heard of a turducken? Or a tofucken? Meet the…turdugoosquapartsquab…en. Or something. Make up your own name. It sounds vile, but then, I’ve always considered goose to be the white-people version of chitlins. Sure, it has a long history — very Dickens and all — but you don’t have to live in the past, and anyone who would eat one of those greasy beasts when a nice tender chicken or turkey was available is simply nuts. Of course, the percentage of goose in this thing is pretty low. Still.
Off to find my glacier glasses (although the sun is still behind a cloud bank somewhere). Have a swell day, all.