Tuesday, June 28, 2005

If I Ruled the World

As it happens, the first day of spring is often not wonderful where I live, so I think that I'd have to go in a different direction. (I feel compelled to note, tangentially, that while Dickens is one of the two or three best writers of novels in English, I find the idea of turning his work into musical comedy to be fundamentally misguided and kind of embarrassing; I imagine him cringing in the great beyond.) Anyway, I lived in Boston for eleven years, and if you take away kvetching about the weather, what are those people going to talk about? (And don't say the Patriots or the Red Sox. Having lived in Boston at the end of the last Celtics dynasty, the whole idea that Boston has a championship team in either baseball or football, let alone both, completely upends my worldview.)

Anyway, when the Powers That Be finally have the sense to put me in charge of everything, my first acts (after putting a stop to hunger, war, and Exodus International) will be to improve the quality of life through better food. Let me be specific.

A pepper grinder on every table. Pre-ground black pepper is an abomination, and pepper shakers are meant to be seen and not used. It is approximately twenty-four years and ten months since I first had freshly ground pepper, and the scales fell away from my taste buds. Along with not overcooking the meat, there is perhaps no single other practice that will do more for your enjoyment of food than freshly grinding your own pepper, and there is absolutely no legitimate excuse for any restaurant with its own seating not to put a pepper grinder on your table. For as long as I can remember, if you were eating in the sort of restaurant that had cute, reasonably well-dressed waiters, you were at the mercy of your waiter for your pepper. He would swagger over, carrying his massive piece of wood, and offer, smirkingly, to grind some pepper for you. Oh, please. You just know that same guy drives a red car. Let me grind my own pepper, and let the waiter find another way to augment his testicularity.

No ketchup on hot dogs! Ever! (You can still use wire hangers, but only to roast marshmallows, and then you have to throw the marshmallows away.)

A six-hour work day. Is there anything as tedious as listening to American business types telling the Europeans that they need to make their workers work longer hours and take fewer vacations? I don't know anyone who spends eight to ten hours working at his desk who couldn't get more done in six hours if he or she were better rested and fed. The work day should begin at 10 (am, with apologies to Dorothy Parker), after a leisurely breakfast. After three hours of work, everyone should have three hours for lunch and a nap. You come back to work at 4, refreshed, and at 7, you're done for the day. I'm also considering implementing a two-hour, four-course minimum on dinners (eating faster than that promotes indigestion; if you can't make dinner conversation for two hours, we'll re-educate you), but my cabinet is still working out the details.

Free pho! Honestly, what sort of world is it where we pay subsidies to the sugar producers but not to purveyors of Vietnamese noodle soup? And you fiscal conservatives can stop your whinging. The free pho will be means tested, and we'll pay for it via a tax on faux cheeses. If the extra five cents per pound for Velveeta stops some people from eating it, I don't reckon it'll keep me up nights.

New holidays. I know that you think I was already being generous with the six-hour workday, but I'm not done yet. It is a great national disgrace that Americans currently get a day off to honor Columbus but there is no Julia Child Day. (I will retain Veterans' Day, and insist that on that day veterans receive free meals at two-star restaurants. It's the least we can do to make up for creamed chipped beef on toast.) We also need at least a week off for feasting at harvest time and another week for whichever winter solstice holiday you choose to celebrate. I'm stopping short of mandatory fruitcake, at least until I've had more time to prepare the populace for its introduction. Also, employers will be required to give up to an additional twelve hours off per year for each employee who wants to gather strawberries from a pick-your-own field. Provided that said employee puts by at least one half-pint of jam for every two hours off, of course; I don't want anyone to think that I'm giving labor a free ride.

Better food labeling. I'm mostly thinking of warning labels on foods like CoolWhip. Something in the vein of "The Chef General has determined that consuming this food may result in the death of your soul. Go get some heavy whipping cream and a clue."


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