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Artificial calamari?
January 19, 2013 6:26 PM   Subscribe

If you missed this story, you missed one of the All Time Great stories on This American Life: A while ago, a farmer walked through a pork processing plant in Oklahoma with a friend who managed it. He came across boxes stacked on the floor with labels that said "artificial calamari." So he asked his friend "What’s artificial calamari?" "Bung," his friend replied. "Hog rectum." Have you or I eaten bung dressed up as seafood? Ben investigated. (26 minutes) Dead Ringer. Educational and hilarious. If you prefer, the entire episode.
posted by spock (118 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
again, if you're not within say a half day's drive from the sea, don't be eating seafood.
posted by philip-random at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


Is imitation calamari made from pig rectum? A charming urban legend gets its start.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


So basically, if illegal fake pretend calamari made out of excess pig rectum wasn't a real thing at all before this public radio show episode, it sure the heck will be coming to a friendly neighborhood restaurant to you for reals soon.

I think I'd prefer it to the mollusc (yuk) meat anyway.
posted by Bwithh at 6:33 PM on January 19, 2013


I should note that the 2nd story of the full episode (which follows "Dead Ringer") is the opposite of hilarious.
posted by spock at 6:34 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


again, if you're not within say a half day's drive from the sea, don't be eating seafood.

You know there are transportation options other than the car, right?
posted by kenko at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Heh, backdoor squid.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I heard a brief bit of this story whilst in the car last week. The word "bung" was said about 50 times in three minutes.

Up until this point, I had no idea what they were talking about, though I a had a vague and disturbing sense I would be needing some TP.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is imitation calamari made from pig rectum? A charming urban legend gets its start.

All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.
posted by spock at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2013 [30 favorites]


I hope these are organic bungs. Otherwise so gross. ewwww. amirite.
posted by special-k at 6:40 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Act two: Perdition. Mefites, public radio devotees shuffle out objections, rejections and alternatives to public radio's broad barn side. Coming up after the break.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 6:41 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


"and a taste test showed that switching rectums for calamari might indeed go undetected."

So, Bob, you enjoyed taking the Pepsi Challenge, right? What are you doing Tuesday? We've got a job for you.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:41 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Bob, you enjoyed taking the Pepsi Challenge, right? What are you doing Tuesday? We've got a job for you.

Umm. Yeah. Listen to the episode.
posted by spock at 6:43 PM on January 19, 2013


I wouldn't eat REAL squid either.
posted by DU at 6:46 PM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


You'd think they had never heard of prairie oysters.
posted by arcticseal at 6:46 PM on January 19, 2013


Here on the prairie, we call them "mountain oysters" but nobody that eats them thinks that they are eating seafood.
posted by spock at 6:48 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


PapaLobo: I heard a brief bit of this story whilst in the car last week. The word "bung" was said about 50 times in three minutes.

Up until this point, I had no idea what they were talking about, though I a had a vague and disturbing sense I would be needing some TP.


I. AM. CALAMARIO!
posted by capricorn at 6:48 PM on January 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


Then there's "Mountain Oysters Rockefeller," where you start with a financier, and....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:51 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sometimes it doesn't suck to live in Louisiana.
posted by localroger at 6:52 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


spock: I will listen to the episode, when I get the time-- thanks for posting! Do they go into detail about the poor sucker who had to taste-test the rectums?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:54 PM on January 19, 2013


Just out of curiosity, you all know about sausage casings, right?*

*Weirdly, they're made out of actual tiny squid. Who would have thought?
posted by stet at 6:57 PM on January 19, 2013 [33 favorites]


I had freshly fried calimari at my son's rehearsal dinner. Please don't spoil my pleasant memory. That is all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:58 PM on January 19, 2013


I won't spoiler it for you, but yes... Ben's sister is a chef. She prepares bung that they purchased (accurately labeled for what it actually was) and served both it and real calamari to a regular calamari eater (with full disclosure). I won't tell you what the eater concluded.
posted by spock at 6:59 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So... this imitation calamari, would it be kosher?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:01 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, you all know about sausage casings, right?

Yes. They are called "natural casing" and they have been a part of most cultures' eating for centuries, if not millennia. I love em. This isn't about whether eating animals is gross or what parts are gross (brains? yuk! though some say yum!). This story is about Truth in Advertising and getting what you ordered (calamari) and the role that pig sphincters could play in that story.
posted by spock at 7:03 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


In fairness, the sphincters are probably used for something else.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:06 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How bad could pig rectums be if they were breaded and deep fried. As a kid I used to have calamari stuffed with a mixture of egg, breadcrumbs, and blue crab roe, that might be good as well. I've had pig intestines with a spicy red chili sauce, that was so-so, but I don't exactly what part of the intestines it was, if give it a shot with rectum I guess.

I'd be a bit more wary of pig rectum cerviche or pig recutm in a pulpo salad.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:06 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I listened to that early today and that show really bugged the hell out of me. Even by TAL standards the show was really, really, really heavy on the irony. There was also this really weird quip about how the producer was half-Chinese and this meant that this would be impossible for him to be racist. It was a one-off quip among a thousand one-off quips in that segment (including but not limited to playing the Rocky theme to ironically underscore a really tortured metaphor about absolving the pig asshole of its tarnished culinary record; fugh, I can see why people hate TAL) but it sort of just sat there like a big unexamined turd. All this then exacerbated by the fact that he demonized a cultural anthropologist who had scolded him for asking whether or not pork rectums might be an unknown, unregulated substitution in China.

If experience has taught me anything, being racist towards other ethnic minorities is part of the process of being a minority in the USA. You reject your identity to fit in because people are shitty sometimes and you don't want to be a target anymore so you start shooting just to show everyone that you too have a gun. To say that you're half-Chinese and thus are exempt from prejudice towards Chinese people is just ignorant. To make the cultural anthropologist's concerns about how reductive people can be about China in the US (the dog-eating cliche persists, even on Yelp) sort of a sideshow to the irony is just shitty.
posted by dubusadus at 7:07 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Raw Bung Roll. Be sure to max out the wasabi.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:07 PM on January 19, 2013


Now I'm curious if whole calamari could be used as sausage casings. Wouldn't they be much too thick?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:08 PM on January 19, 2013


dubasadus, your point might be valid if it was only Ben's opinion that was being aired in thrashing the anthopologist. However I think it was the words of the guy who worked in an actual slaughterhouse that did that:

"I mean, you got to think about how far advanced slaughterhouses are, especially big ones that want to make every penny count.

Like the one I worked at, you bring the pigs in, you stun them, then you stick them. And the blood goes off into a trough. And it goes down and it's vacuum sucked out of there with a vacuum into centrifuges. And they separate the blood from the blood plasma. And they save that.

I mean, they save the lungs. They save the pancreas. They save the spleens. They save the hearts.

The only thing left by the time it's all said and done is a skull and jaw bones. I mean, you can be an anthropologist all you want. But if you don't work in a processing plant, you don't know [BLEEP]."

posted by spock at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rectum? Hell - it nearly killed 'em!
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Now I'm curious if whole calamari could be used as sausage casings. Wouldn't they be much too thick?

Yeah, stuffed calamari exists. It is way thicker than sausage casing though.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:13 PM on January 19, 2013


would it be kosher?

I thought that pork wasn't kosher? So octopus made of pig would be double-not-kosher, so if kosher is like grammer and a double negative makes a positive, then... yes?
posted by windykites at 7:14 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


All this then exacerbated by the fact that he demonized a cultural anthropologist who had scolded him for asking whether or not pork rectums might be an unknown, unregulated substitution in China.

If experience has taught me anything, being racist towards other ethnic minorities is part of the process of being a minority in the USA.


though Chinese people are not a minority in China.... and fake food scandals in China are a major issue of concern for ordinary Chinese citizens today (of course, the US also had rampant major food industry scandals at a similar stage of industrial development as China today, before the establishment of tighter food regulation)
posted by Bwithh at 7:16 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's true, that's just how kosher works. Which means bacon is totally cool as long as you rub it an odd number of times with a piece of cheese.
posted by and so but then, we at 7:17 PM on January 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


Could you please put a warning that the link leads to a picture of Fred Armisen next time? I did not need that.

(By contrast, "warning, contains hog rectum" is optional.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:18 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've had tripe -- isn't that just pig colon? It was rubbery and not very good, which is also true of calamari.
posted by jb at 7:24 PM on January 19, 2013


Chittlerlings are pig intestines.
posted by brujita at 7:25 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tripe is stomach, I believe.
posted by spock at 7:25 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite part of this show was the text exchange afterward between Dan Savage and Ira Glass.
posted by gladly at 7:27 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Pigs are the atheists version of salvation.
posted by srboisvert at 7:29 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, tripe is stomach, and it's almost always cow stomach. Chitlins are ("is"? "are"?) indeed pig intestines.
posted by and so but then, we at 7:37 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is almost as bad as the time I ordered swordfish penis and was served a hotdog.
posted by orme at 7:39 PM on January 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Upton Sinclair said they used everything but the squeal, but I always figured by now they've figured out something for that, too.
posted by ckape at 7:47 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


That segment was almost as long as my commute to work and I had to sit in my office parking lot to hear the end. I have had some calamari that maaaaaybe was a little off...or was it calamari at all? That magical last-minute moment when the bung rings suddenly crisped up into a squiddy facsimile? And then the taste test? That's some fantastic audio longform right there.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:49 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


First radio show to make me gag.
posted by princelyfox at 7:51 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So basically, if illegal fake pretend calamari made out of excess pig rectum wasn't a real thing at all before this public radio show episode, it sure the heck will be coming to a friendly neighborhood restaurant to you for reals soon.


I'm sure one of those trendy snout-to-tail places will soon start to cheekily offer "calamari" appetizers.
posted by gyc at 7:53 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe live squid tanks in restaurants , like lobster tanks, will be a thing now.
posted by Bwithh at 7:55 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like how Calhoun goes for a wide-angle shotgun spray when he tries to taint as many different varied cherished pop culture rags to riches story memories that the listeners have as he can:
It's Pretty Woman. This is whether Good Will Hunting finds his way out of Southie. It's whether Charlie, on that very last chocolate bar, really can get a golden ticket.
posted by Bwithh at 8:02 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


First radio show to make me gag.

Clearly you've never listened to Prarie Home Companion.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:05 PM on January 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


I couldn't understand why the anthropologist was so adamant that even asking if there is fake squid made from pig's ass, is racist.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:08 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was fun. Trying to play the episode produced about 3 seconds of Metal Machine Music, and then I discovered that Firefox can stay running despite the Adobe plug-in crashing. Maybe I'll try Chrome.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:13 PM on January 19, 2013


You mean you can make seafood out of pigs too? That is one magical, wonderful animal.
posted by spilon at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I dunno. I've never cared for calamari, but I love hotdogs. So, mixed feelings I guess.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:41 PM on January 19, 2013


Man. I had some pig rectum a few weeks ago. I was out for Korean BBQ with some senior, distinguished colleagues, one of whom was born and raised in Korea. The menu was in Korean with bad English translations, and there was one English word that I had never seen before. Can't remember what it was. It was definitely not "rectum" or "bung". Anyway, I asked my Korean colleague what the hell it was.

He responded, "That's rectum. R. E. C. T. U. M. Rectum. Let's order some."

So we did. It didn't taste anything like squid.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:46 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whatever you do, do not steal the calamari from the mohel's fridge.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:01 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is almost as bad as the time I ordered swordfish penis ...

I am now thinking of Captain Beefheart porn.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:11 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


if you're not within say a half day's drive from the sea

Why? Essentially all seafood sold in the US was flash frozen at sea. Even in Seattle they're eating Alaska salmon, and there's no way that would survive the trip fresh.
posted by miyabo at 9:16 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The semi-live recording of the taste-test was very well done, they built up a lot of curiosity and suspense. But most of the rest of that segment was twee and heavy-handed as hell. Definitely had me thinking that it was the type of thing people have in mind when they say they hate NPR. I wanted a fast-forward button when the narrator was forcing the food-redemption idea into the latter part of the piece.

I also wondered how hard it could possibly be to get some actual experts besides the one guy who worked at the factory to explain what the buyers of pig rectum are generally using them for. It seems like narrator didn't really want to know what they did with them, since that might ruin the story.
posted by skewed at 9:18 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Calamari, eh? Squid?"
"This is Rhode Island. Most of the world's edible squid is caught by the Point Judith fleet."
"What are those green rings?"
"Banana peppers. Pretty mild. Grab one of them, one of the calamari rings, and dip them in the marinara sauce."
"What the fuck are those? The squiggly things?"
"Tentacles. Those are the arms and tentacles of the squid. You can see and taste on your tongue the little suckers."
"EW! Why on earth would you leave those on the plate? Do they taste better than the rings when battered and deep fried?"
"No. They're chewy and terrible. We eat them anyway."
"But why, when the rings are so tender and delectable?"
"Bung."
"I... I don't understand..."
"Good. Eat your tentacles."
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:33 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Anthony Bourdain talks to Mario Batali about the aftermath of eating warthog anus.

The original episode with Bourdain hanging with the Kalahari Bushmen.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:40 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


mr_roboto, was it fried chicken rectum, by any chance? It's classic Korean street food, kind of like how you might buy hot dog at a food cart. People love it with beer.

I've never tried chicken butt, myself -- I think it sounds really gross -- but I suppose it's better than wasting the parts.
posted by tickingclock at 9:48 PM on January 19, 2013


I don't understand people here saying they don't like calamari... maybe you haven't had it cooked properly?

Flash-fried salt and pepper calamari with a wedge of lemon and sriracha sauce is one of life's culinary treasures.
posted by panaceanot at 9:54 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell: First radio show to make me gag.

Clearly you've never listened to Prarie Home Companion.


When I saw the Smithsonian television & radio exhibit, they had a skeleton on display in the radio section. It was the body of the first person outside Minnesota that ever found that show funny.
posted by dr_dank at 10:26 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


All this then exacerbated by the fact that he demonized a cultural anthropologist who had scolded him for asking whether or not pork rectums might be an unknown, unregulated substitution in China.

Saying that pig rectums may be passed off as calamari in China isn't racist. It's a direct inference I can make from remembering just one word: Melamine.

It has less to do with "those darn Chinese will eat anything" and more to do with "if food producers in China think they can make extra money with adulterated or misrepresented food, someone will probably try."
posted by chimaera at 10:37 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many people who won't eat pigs are pescetarians, happy to eat seafood, because they feel mammals are cute and lovable and thus can't eat them, but feel no such attachment to creatures of the sea.

As for me, cephalopods strike me as such intelligent and interesting wild creatures that they are one class of the animal kingdom I can't bring myself to eat, so no calamari for me. But I'd be happy to eat some nice, crispy, fried domesticated hog bungs. . .
posted by DrMew at 10:37 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


All lies and jest ingest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

FTFY. When we are finally capable of producing vat-grown pig rectum, do you suppose we WILL?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:43 PM on January 19, 2013


If you eat commercial meat, there's feces in/on it regardless of whether it came from the "bung" or not.
posted by threeants at 11:05 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


All lies and jest ingest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

I always heard it as "All lies in jest"... ingest is hilarious...
posted by maggieb at 11:13 PM on January 19, 2013


Yeah, I heard this on the radio in the car, and it's one of the few times I didn't scramble to hit the 'change the station now please' button when I heard Ira Glass's voice. I actually listened to the whole episode--the theme was "Doppelgangers", and Fred Armisen was co-hosting, doing a spot-on impression if Ira Glass, echoing Ira as he hosted. The calamari story came first, and I was riveted cause I love calamari (even though I feel a twinge of wierdness now that I know how intelligent squid are). After listening to this, I'll still eat calamari. I'm glad the Market Basket nearby sells squid parts. That said, I don't care if I eat pig rectum. To me, all food is food as long as it isn't poison or tastes bad. Feed me.



Also: the boyfriend in Lynda Barry's comic, "Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend" was Ira Glass.
posted by not_on_display at 11:45 PM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I do not eat pork. The only kind that even tempts me is dalmatinska pršćut, or slanina. Since I have to watch my cholesterol, I think I'd resist that temptation.
Octopi and squid are indeed very smart, so after trying baby octopus once, and calamari twice, I haven't done it again. Regular fish are just fine, salmon or trout, maybe tilapia.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:59 PM on January 19, 2013


My first thought when I heard this on the radio... the signs that we need a new Ira Glass are getting pretty loud. Resorting to airing a story like this mirrors a trend where his team seems to be worn out and to tired and insular to bother really getting out and into the world. It's all about over producing thin narratives with music and inane questions to make them more interesting sounding. A bit stale air if you know what I mean. It's bad enough having to hear Garrison Keillor murder songs every Sunday. Can someone just tell him he has the singing voice of a dying duck? Car cackles is still airing even though they retired. Who are these people and how did they get such a monopoly on the public air waves? Is this really America's life? Bung hole investigative journalism? And you wonder why you get your news from John Stewart? I love public radio but we could use a shake-up in the line-up. Am I the only one who imagines there is more talent out there and a rotation on our air waves might be nice for America?
posted by astrobiophysican at 12:35 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Where do the little arms come from, then?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:45 AM on January 20, 2013


Ever since that FoxConn story, I've basically stopped listening to TIL when they admitted that they often make up stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 AM on January 20, 2013


This seems pretty unlikely.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 12:49 AM on January 20, 2013


Do you know where the hole in your doughnut comes from?
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on January 20, 2013


Ever since that FoxConn story, I've basically stopped listening to TIL when they admitted that they often make up stuff.

What? Did I miss something beyond Daisey specifically being full of it?
posted by jaduncan at 1:46 AM on January 20, 2013


Upton Sinclair said they used everything but the squeal, but I always figured by now they've figured out something for that, too.

It's how those talk radio pundits can talk and talk, never stopping to take a breath....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you eat commercial meat, there's feces in/on it regardless of whether it came from the "bung" or not.

Beef tenderloin has feces on it? Eye of round? Ham? How do you figure?
posted by Evstar at 3:09 AM on January 20, 2013


Rocky Mountain Oysters don't have anything on that Kalahari Calamari.
posted by Devonian at 6:00 AM on January 20, 2013


R.E.C.T.U.M.

A vast evil porkganisation whose chief adversary was K.N.U.C.K.L.E.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beef tenderloin has feces on it? Eye of round? Ham? How do you figure?

Let's say all slaughtered animals have a fairly minimal quantity of the same bacteria present in their feces and leave it at that. I don't think the meat eaters of metafilter really want to know what goes on in the slaughterhouse.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2013


I love public radio but we could use a shake-up in the line-up. Am I the only one who imagines there is more talent out there and a rotation on our air waves might be nice for America?

1. All the good new public radio shows are not making their way to many stations, but they are popular as podcasts. 99% Invisible, and Love & Radio spring to mind.

2. You know who else thinks we need an infusion of fresh blood on public radio? Ira Glass.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:41 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ever since that FoxConn story, I've basically stopped listening to TIL when they admitted that they often make up stuff.

I don't know where you got that impression, but no one ever made any claim that the show makes things up. Since the Mike Daisey debacle, TAL actually employs two full-time fact checkers to make sure they're not fucking up, which is more than can be said for most major magazines and pretty much all book publishers in the country.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:47 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought that pork wasn't kosher? So octopus made of pig would be double-not-kosher, so if kosher is like grammer and a double negative makes a positive, then... yes?

Ahh, yes... well, I thought it was beef bung for some reason or another. But yes, you're right, pig bung is most definitely not kosher, but beef masquerading as shellfish, where would that fall in the spectrum?

Also for what it's worth, I've eaten chitterlings on several occasions and can totally see mistaking it for cheap frozen calamari, if it's been deep fried.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2013


> Let's say all slaughtered animals have a fairly minimal quantity of the same bacteria present in their feces and leave it at that. I don't think the meat eaters of metafilter really want to know what goes on in the slaughterhouse.

While slaughterhouses are disgusting, I think the point was that those cuts of meat wouldn't have feces on them at any rate. Once the cows are killed, they aren't immediately carved up into a thousand different cuts. The sides of beef are sent to be chilled and further processed before you get all the individual cuts of steaks.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:59 AM on January 20, 2013


> Chitlins are ("is"? "are"?) indeed pig intestines.

Is. On the same principal as "Pigs is Pigs".


> "Good. Eat your tentacles."

The Birth of Cthulhu. (By the very great tegehel, on deviantart.)
posted by jfuller at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The DNA-testing campaign, in which dozens of volunteers are provided testing kits with instructions and monitoring sheets, created an uproar when the early results came out. In South Florida, Shester said, results showed that 31 percent of the fish tested at restaurants and markets was mislabeled. In Los Angeles, 55 percent, and in Boston, 48 percent of the fish sold was not what it was touted to be, he said.

And its not just fish:

Ten million burgers have been taken off shop shelves after the revelation that beef products from three companies in Ireland and Britain contained horse DNA. Most had only small traces, but one burger of a brand sold by Tesco had meat content that was 29 percent horse. The contrite grocer told customers that "we and our supplier have let you down and we apologize."
posted by rough ashlar at 7:11 AM on January 20, 2013


When I was a kid, skirt steak (diaphragm) was not popular, and was regularly passed off as flank steak.
Skate wing was passed off as scallops (use a cookie cutter), until it too became popular enough to get a better price as itself.
I've seen DNA testing that showed restaurants regularly having pork in dishes that were not supposed to contain it.
I expect that unless you kill it (or pick it) yourself, you're never going to be 100% sure of what you are eating.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:08 AM on January 20, 2013


Which has lead to some serious questions, like "What kind of bread do you eat with Tesco meat?" Thoroughbred!
posted by sneebler at 8:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's right, Burhanistan. I don't work in one, but I visit an abattoir almost weekly and follow our pigs and cows through for the whole process to make sure the animals are treated well, to scrape any extra hair off the pig carcasses, and to clean the casings myself, which includes squeezing the feces out of their rectums. It's not pretty and neither does it smell good, but it's not filthy. Everything station is sprayed down immediately after use. Mind you, this isn't a big, industrial slaughterhouse but the term used was 'commercial meat' and I take issue with that.

The meat eaters of Metafilter and wherever else should want to know what goes on in the slaughterhouse. I think it concerns them. With regards to feces, or fecal bacteria or whatever, the feces are contained in a closed digestive system which is removed whole from the animal, in one piece. The carcass is immediately sprayed out and passed down the line. The contents of their digestive tract are immediately whisked away to a separate room, in most cases. Actually, I would expect there to be more fecal contaminants in non-commercial meat, that is processed on a family farm.
posted by Evstar at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


As for me, cephalopods strike me as such intelligent and interesting wild creatures that they are one class of the animal kingdom I can't bring myself to eat, so no calamari for me.

I'm a pescetarian, but me too.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2013


I committed the sin of listening to the first five minutes of this story earlier this week and then relating the details to friends, so, uhhh, yeah, that's how urban legends get started.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2013


I couldn't understand why the anthropologist was so adamant that even asking if there is fake squid made from pig's ass, is racist.

Except, we don't know what the anthropologist actually said to Calhoun, because he refused to allow his interview to be aired. All we hear is how Calhoun presents and characterizes the words of a guy who was apparently severely critical of Calhoun.

If the anthropologist did accuse him of being racist, for Calhoun to smugly point out that he can't be racist (or more to the point, say racist things) because his mom's Chinese doesn't exactly address -- in any way -- whatever it was Calhoun actually asked the anthropologist. My guess? Calhoun probably ticked this person off by asking questions in the same "OMG CHINESE PEOPLE EAT WEIRD ANIMALPARTS!!!!!" tone as the entire segment. So OK, even if we allow that you can't possibly be racist or say racist things if you're genetically part of that race, you can certainly be culturally insensitive and patrionizing, which may be what the anthropologist actually meant. Being an American of Chinese descent doesn't inoculate you against being a bigot against China.

Here's what bothered me about the article:

(1) The aforementioned "OMG CHINESE PEOPLE EAT WEIRD ANIMALPARTS!!!!!" tone of the segment. They may as well have just gone to some Asian market and walked up and down the aisles making fun of the wacky disgusting things Asians eat. Oh wait -- they did! If you don't know why this might bother some Asian folks, you probably didn't grow up being accused of eating neighborhood dogs and cats.

(2) The segment started out with the mission statement to find out how and where these pig bungs are being fraudulently passed off as real calamari. I kept waiting for Calhoun to answer the most glaringly obvious question the topic raised: what is imitation calamari actually used for in the first place? The question never got answered, because there wasn't even a nominal attempt made to see what the legitimate uses for this product were -- they went immediately to, and never left, the illegitimate uses of this product, because the point of the segment was never anything else but trying to horrify listeners and make them afraid that they might be eating pig bung instead of calamari.

(3) This brilliant piece of consumer reporting sets out to uncover the vast conspiracy of imitation calamari being passed off as real calamari. It finds zero evidence -- none! -- that any of this is actually happening. And concludes that, even though they couldn't find any evidence that this happens or has ever happened (and in fact, in the country where they suspected this was happening, Calhoun even admits that there's no economic incentive for it whatsoever), we should all be terrified anyway because...it's theoretically possible!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:17 AM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Crisp, what an asshole.
posted by flabdablet at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I couldn't understand why the anthropologist was so adamant that even asking if there is fake squid made from pig's ass, is racist.

People have alluded to the long-standing urban legend about Chinese people (sometimes other Asian people, but often Chinese people) stealing pets (especially dogs, but also cats) and eating them. Another common variation is that Chinese restaurants (in the US) pass dog meat off as other kinds of meat. There are laws against killing pets for food in several states. That Slate link doesn't mention it, but California's law (and other states' I'm sure) traces directly to this urban legend. I don't know that this urban legend exists in all parts of the country, but it's fairly pervasive. (I had really only heard a variation growing up outside Chicago--snickers about Chinese people eating dogs, but not stories about stealing pets or raising dogs in the US for food.)

So imagine you're a cultural anthropologist who works on food in China. There's a good chance half the people you are introduced to who find out that's what you study make some crack about Chinese people eating dogs. It doesn't really matter that China has a tradition of eating dog meat, at least in some parts of the country. So when some guy from TAL phones you, you think "Oh for fuck's sake. Can you seriously not see what's happening?" I'd be willing to bet the "You are racist and a bad person for asking" is not an accurate summary of what the anthropologist said, particularly when their other comment was "The guy from the plant is having you on."

Like El Sabor Asiatico said, the whole segment is predicated on some shared bias that Asian people (especially Chinese people--note he justifies dropping Korea and Japan, but not the Philippines) eat weird shit. That's why the story appealed to him. That's why the listener phoned TAL in the first place. And they never acknowledge it, even though it becomes increasingly obvious as the story goes on. The cultural anthropologist is simply more likely than the average person to pick up on it immediately. The rest of us have to wait to realise that the whole story's unprovable because the nefariousness happens in China, but that there's no actual explanation of what the nefariousness could be. There's this weird hand-waving where we're supposed to make the jump from pork bung being exported to China and a significant portion of the fish available in the US being incorrectly labeled to pork bung being substituted for calamari in the US. By whom? Is the unspoken answer 'Chinese people'? Doesn't make much sense, but it'd join the two pieces together. And it fits with the 'dog meat in Chinese restaurants' thing. It's like they started doing the story, realised there actually was no story and decided to go with it anyway. There is a decent TAL segment lurking in the background, though, about the urban legend and how it plays a role in this story about the pork bung and calamari, but they missed it entirely or just weren't interested.
posted by hoyland at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I expect that unless you kill it (or pick it) yourself, you're never going to be 100% sure of what you are eating.

Or, as in pigs and people, not even then.
posted by jfuller at 11:18 AM on January 20, 2013


Top Ten Horseburger Jokes.

Anyone who has eaten a cheapo sausage has probably already eaten pig rectum, as well as eyes, ears, ligaments etc. So while this sounds gross, its probably not as bad as it seems.
posted by marienbad at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2013


Most traditional diets associated with longevity include all parts of the animal, so chow down on that bung or offal or cartilage! It prevents onset of Alzheimers, or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2013


> I don't know that this urban legend exists in all parts of the country, but it's fairly pervasive. (I had really only heard a variation growing up outside Chicago--snickers about Chinese people eating dogs, but not stories about stealing pets or raising dogs in the US for food.)

I have family members who are the sort of people who still think it's suspicious yet HILARIOUS to see a vet clinic or pet shop in the same strip mall as a Chinese take-out joint. In my neighborhood, I hear facetious "questions" about what happened to all the stray cats that should be hanging around open dumpsters near the Vietnamese restaurants (which can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance for the smell. Cat bait, obviously, amirite?)

It's still pervasive. People just "politely" refrain from saying it in front of Asian people as often as they used to. (Yes, I call them out for being racist.)
posted by desuetude at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2013


It's still pervasive. People just "politely" refrain from saying it in front of Asian people as often as they used to. (Yes, I call them out for being racist.)

Indeed. I was aghast this past week at this: one of those older guys who does the travel shows was on @create this past week and was eating at a restaurant in Hong Kong accompanied by a (chinese) woman who was a member of the Tourism Board. He told her "You know what they say about the chinese?" She said, "No what?" He replied "They'll eat everything on four legs except the table."

I was not only astounded that he was insensitive enough to say it (and to a chinese person, on top of it) but then that it made the show's final cut!
posted by spock at 11:53 AM on January 20, 2013


I think that given that China is a major importer of meat products considered waste in America (see chicken feet) and also a place with a history of counterfeit products extending to the food sector, there's room for investigation on this front without it strictly being racism.

For my personal experience, I've had pork bung once (above board at least). It was a Lunar New Year dinner my friend's Chinese wife cooked. It was something a little unpleasant, but it mostly tasted burnt and chewy. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal wasn't great either, so I was left wondering whether pork bung was inherently bad, or if my friend's wife had just not cooked a good meal. So the whole experience was exciting going in, but sort of unsatisfying in retrospect. Not unlike this radio show.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:13 PM on January 20, 2013


Indeed. I was aghast this past week at this: one of those older guys who does the travel shows was on @create this past week and was eating at a restaurant in Hong Kong accompanied by a (chinese) woman who was a member of the Tourism Board. He told her "You know what they say about the chinese?" She said, "No what?" He replied "They'll eat everything on four legs except the table."

I was not only astounded that he was insensitive enough to say it (and to a chinese person, on top of it) but then that it made the show's final cut!
posted by spock at 11:53 AM on January 20 [+] [!]


This is basically the kind of thing that people from other regions of China say about the Cantonese (who have a much wider range of very unusual (unusual for other Chinese too) meats and other foods in their cuisine culture (well, they also invented dim sum, so let's give them a lot of leeway here, m'kay?)).

For instance here are some recent quotes about Cantonese food from official Chinese government sites:

"The [Austrian newspaper] article quoted current popular remarks in China as saying that "there is no topic that the Beijingers cannot talk about, no food that the Cantonese dare not eat, and nothing that the Shanghai people cannot accomplish.""

and

"Cantonese are known to have an adventurous palate, able to eat many different kinds of meats and vegetables. In fact, people in Northern China often say that Cantonese people will eat anything that flies except airplanes, anything that moves on the ground except trains, and anything that moves in the water except boats. This statement is far from the truth, but Cantonese food is easily one of the most diverse and richest cuisines in China."

So the likely reaction of a Chinese person to the "The Chinese will eat everything on four legs except the table" line coming from a foreigner may be to say that the foreigner is confusing the Cantonese with Chinese people in general.
posted by Bwithh at 12:49 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a half-Chinese person, I'm a bit offended too by the trope "Chinese people eat weird food," especially from Americans who practice recombinant cuisine such as putting mini marshmallows and cheese cubes (together) into salads.

However, in the interests of potentially giving offense to white Europeans, previously

which sounds much less edible than pork rectum
posted by bad grammar at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2013


philip-random: "again, if you're not within say a half day's drive from the sea, don't be eating seafood"

Unless there's a group of locals that have it flown in every day, anyway.
posted by wierdo at 3:49 PM on January 20, 2013


That was entertaining.

I'm suddenly glad i keep kosher.
posted by zarq at 6:29 PM on January 20, 2013


> I think that given that China is a major importer of meat products considered waste in America (see chicken feet) and also a place with a history of counterfeit products extending to the food sector, there's room for investigation on this front without it strictly being racism.

True, let's not discount the ample room for it to be partially hypocrisy as well, considering the history of American counterfeit and contaminated food products.
posted by desuetude at 9:09 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a half-Chinese person, I'm a bit offended too by the trope "Chinese people eat weird food," especially from Americans who practice recombinant cuisine such as putting mini marshmallows and cheese cubes (together) into salads.

Oh my gosh, this! Some of the food that I've been served here at home in the States is so weird and awful and yet we can critique the food of another culture? Errrr... SPAM? Pimento loaf? Canned green beans? Mixing tuna fish with lemon jello? Gag. The difference being that the food we object to is actually real food, and the food that others find repulsive over here is more often than not processed, chemically, faux stuff. I've found casseroles served at Midwestern church potlucks that probably deserve to be on the list of objectionable US foods.

And I'm not sure I get ALL of the hate for Prairie Home Companion (PHC). The Prairie Home Companion of today isn't of the same quality as the PHC of the early 80's (which had more complicated, nuanced Woebegone storylines, less Garrison singing.) And the TAL of today is a far cry from the really GOOD TAL of the 1990's (and the episodes like Babysitters, Sissies, Kindness of Strangers that used everyday people as subject matter.)

I'm not from the Midwest, yet I became fascinated with the 80's version of PHC when I moved from the East Coast to the Midwest for my undergrad/post-undergrand years. Having grown up in a family with at least 4 generations rooted in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I found the stories to be lulling, peaceful and with a comforting emotional predictability to them that was in sharp contrast to my own very loud, frenetic, disorganized family upbringing.

I ended up marrying a Scandinavian-American man, a pastor's kid, whose extended family is right out of a Keillor story. And my obsessed-with-Seinfeld husband was fascinated by my possibly-out-of-a-Seinfeld episode family. Twelve years later, I now know that there are tons of in-jokes in PHC that you will really only get if you've spent a lot of time in the vicinity of Midwestern Scandinavian-American Protestants. And my husband is appreciating more of the NYC nuances that he missed from Seinfeld the first time around.

If you don't like PHC, it probably wasn't written for you and doesn't speak to your life experience. But for thousands of other people, it does. Turn the dial or produce your own radio show if you don't care for it. I turn it off when Garrison sings, but now I get the whole "person w/o a great voice enjoys singing" vibe from my husband's family. Our most recent sing-a-long around the piano with the old folks singing Lutheran hymns was just at Thanksgiving.

But please, dear aspiring radio producer, not another radio show about or centered in NYC.

Also? Have you ever TRIED Lutefisk? Give me bung dressed up as calamari ANY DAY.
posted by jeanmari at 10:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you don't like PHC, it probably wasn't written for you and doesn't speak to your life experience. But for thousands of other people, it does. Turn the dial or produce your own radio show if you don't care for it. I turn it off when Garrison sings, but now I get the whole "person w/o a great voice enjoys singing" vibe from my husband's family. Our most recent sing-a-long around the piano with the old folks singing Lutheran hymns was just at Thanksgiving.

But please, dear aspiring radio producer, not another radio show about or centered in NYC.


Is it not possible that some of us don't like A Prairie Home Companion for the same reasons you don't want another program about NYC? Moving to Minnesota pushed me from not really liking Prairie Home Companion to actively disliking it. It's about this imagined Minnesota that maybe existed at some point, but doesn't now. When this, that or the other Prairie Home Companion event gets advertised on MPR, it's like we're being invited to sit around wishing for this Minnesota where everyone is a Lutheran descended from Scandinavians, rather than enjoying actual Minnesota. (There's a heavy emphasis on Lake Woebegone, rather than the segments that are less located in this fantasy.)
posted by hoyland at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2013


I can certainly understand how people may intensely dislike PHC, but the reasons given by hoyland say much more about hoyland than about PHC. If the concept of "tongue in cheek" is foreign to you, then PHC is probably just ONE of the things that you feel zooming over your head.
posted by spock at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, it totally says something about me, but I think PHC also says something about Minnesota or, more broadly, the audience of PHC. Then again, I've been over TAL for at least a year as well. (I thought it was longer, but I posted an AskMe asking for replacements almost exactly a year ago.) I may just not be cut out for NPR.
posted by hoyland at 4:48 PM on January 21, 2013


Mixing tuna fish with lemon jello

What. I can only assume it's better than the utter unpleasantness of my mental images.
posted by jaduncan at 4:31 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the tuna just in little chunks here and there like a jello fruit thing? Or is the tuna more pervasive, like tuna jello salad?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:46 AM on January 22, 2013


True, let's not discount the ample room for it to be partially hypocrisy as well, considering the history of American counterfeit and contaminated food products.

There's now a Food Fraud Database, and while it's not as sexy as pig rectum passed off as calamari, there's some very prosaic substitutions being made in everyday sorts of food:
Olive oil: often diluted with cheaper oils
Lemon juice: cheapened with water and sugar
Tea: diluted with fillers like lawn grass or fern leaves
Spices: like paprika or saffron adulterated with dangerous food colorings that mimic the colors

Milk, honey, coffee and syrup are also listed by the USP as being highly adulterated products.
posted by gladly at 8:00 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


gladly: "Milk... also listed by the USP as being highly adulterated products. "

After all these years, We still can't get milk right.
posted by zarq at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2013


Tuna Jello Salad recipe.

Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. It also looks very frightening.
posted by jeanmari at 5:10 PM on January 22, 2013


OMG, here is someone who is actually making and eating all of these Jello recipes. Internet crazy.

Maybe we should hook her up with the folks at TAL?
posted by jeanmari at 5:13 PM on January 22, 2013


OMG, here is someone who is actually making and eating all of these Jello recipes. Internet crazy.

I want to say the appeal of gross Jello salads was explained (or put in a historical context) on a recent episode of Good Job, Brain. I've completely forgotten what the explanation was, though. I was busy being relieved it's not exactly my cultural background.

That said, you're right, it's totally a TAL segment waiting to happen.
posted by hoyland at 5:05 PM on January 23, 2013


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