the cancer competition

Yesterday morning I absentmindedly turned my box of Quaker Oat Squares sideways and began to scan. As an obsessive-compulsive bibliophile, I read everything. I read every road sign and billboard I can manage while driving. I read trade magazines I have absolutely no interest in as I sit in waiting rooms. I read newspapers, books, books, books and, yes, product information. I do this because I love LOVE love words. But yesterday, as I worked my way down the Quaker Oats Squares ingredients, I read something that shocked and disturbed me... Yellow Number Five.

I have no idea what Yellow Number Five is. Some people say it will shrink my intimates. The truth is, I don't care. What I care about is that Yellow Number Five sounds like a dirty pop song, that I have no idea what it is, and that it is in my food. And I'm talking, like, in almost all of it. Even Quaker oats! I mean, if you can't trust the rosy-cheeked chubby guy, who can you trust?

The truth is, I have been growing more and more suspicious of this jolly old religious elf who, like Santa Clause, seems be something of an international figure and therefore answerable to no one. As I have gradually weaned myself off food products with a lot of sugar (everything), the old quaker's food has begun to me to taste more and more like... well, candy... and I have begun to become very suspicious of the claim to "just a hint of brown sugar". I mean, what the fuddruckers! It's the third freakin' ingredient, right after "whole oat flour" and "whole wheat flour" and right before "sugar" and "molasses".

I don't want to eat candy for breakfast, dodge gambit, so the only breakfast cereals I can really enjoy and feel good about now are those expensive, preservative-free granolas that do not apparently entail pouring more than a quart of oil per box onto arable farmland. What does this mean? What will I do when every single time, I can't help but taste the difference between actual food and a Molotov cocktail of chemicals masquerading as food? How will I eat?

See, food-shaped chemicals are apparently cheaper to make (not grow, mind you... make), so what we have here is a serious conflict of principles: World's-Cheapest-Male-Human meets Man-Who-Doesn't-Want-to-Eat-Cancer-for-Breakfast. For some reason, the no-cancer part of me has started to win. At first it was just a hobby. I dabbled in "organic this" and "carcinogen-free" that; but then something changed. Now that I am a dad shopping for food for a small human wormbaby (for whom I am terrifyingly responsible) it is becoming less and less conscionable to feed him any cancer - even the tiniest little bit.

I long ago gave up putting cancer on my ever-so-absorbent skin in the form of lip balms and moisturizers and colognes and anti-antiperspirant and hair cleaning products and hair restoring products that try to fix the damage done by the cleaners. I nearly freeze to death riding a motorcycle to work in the dead of winter so I can use less gas (and, yes, less money). I recycle nearly everything so I don't contribute to that whole "Wall-E" scene, and I've moved out of my bedroom into the living room so I can close it off and save on heating bills.

But now I have to stop eating cancer, too? Almost everyone in America is involved in a big old cancer competition, and here I am dropping out of the game and losing my chance to die a horribly painful death at the hands of my own warped sensibilities.

Well, I have just one thing to say to that... genetics. That's right, suckahs. My grandfather died of cancer at a fairly young age. So you may think that with all your yellow fives and your aluminum disulphates and your tocopherols that you're on a fast track to beating me to this whole mess of free money all those frickin' liberals want to pump into the medical system (how dare they try to fix what we broke... it's un-American!), but you've got another think a-comin'.

I'm number one and you? Why, you're probably all no better than a yellow number five.


  1. I found your blog through Austin's blog and I need blog friends. Hope ya don't mind:)

  2. Welcome to the "Reed" / Josh / Austin Triangle of Love and Ridiculousness, Are You Hung Up?

    Wow. You write lots and lots and often. Kudos.

  3. I have most recently read Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food, and Francis Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet. Your post made me laugh, and I appreciated your thoughts very much.

    I like Bob's Red Mill brand lately for oatmeal & such. I love the morning glorious muffins from the Good Foods Coop for breakfast on the go. May you find many good things to eat!

  4. I feel like this post may be influenced by my eating habits. Don't worry, buddy, I ate well this week...not excited to go back to rice and beans (which of course are waaay bad for you...I think rice is made of tobacco, carbon monoxide, rat poison and tar...wheras black beans are actually Satans tears).

  5. Growing up abroad adds to your longevity - the ladies who brought yuka and woven baskets did not use any chemical fertilizers on any of those items and we (your fam and mine) rarely had McD's. RARELY. and the meat from the comm was possibly ash-free. . . who could afford bought feed after all? Be blessed young man - ahhhnt Aureol.

  6. Yep, my rude awakening came when I read that orange juice, including the not-from-concentrate, all-natural stuff, has ORANGE FLAVORING added to it regularly, legally, and silently (ie manufacturers don't have to put it on the label).

    If orange juice has lost its innocence, what can we trust?

    The things they tell you about are scary enough but it's the secret stuff that is really chilling...!


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