Limited Taxation & Government
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Barbara's Bi-Weekly Column

The Patriot Ledger
Saturday, November 21, 1998

Humor is Best Defense Against "Killer Kitchen"
By Barbara Anderson

During the holidays, you may spend more time cooking and baking. So today's timely topic is "Killer Kitchens."

I read the guest column in my local weekly four times, trying to determine if author Amy Todisco was serious or doing a parody of environmental hysteria.

"Living and learning in the Non-Toxic Kitchen" began by stating that the kitchen, once the "heart center of the home," has become, "like the rest of the house, more like hearts with arteriosclerosis clogged with all sorts of toxic synthetic chemicals.

"Have you heard about the human and environmental health effect of: food irradiation, genetically engineered organisms, food additives (artificial colors, flavors, preservatives), hormones, antibiotics, municipal sludge used as fertilizer, mold, bacteria, or industrial chemicals in our food supply?"

Sufferin' succotash! let's never eat again. No, wait, read on for the solution.

"Certified organic (editor's note: organic is now apparently a noun), ideally home-grown or locally grown, is the only choice for my family. We also choose to filter our drinking and bathing water to protect ourselves from the many contaminants present in our water supplies."

She filters her bath water? I began to suspect she was joking. So I skipped past the section on cookware, with its long-debunked theory of Alzheimer-causing aluminum pans, to the section on Microwave ovens, in which she references a book called "The Zapping of America." Ms. Todisco informs us that she is "a proud member of the 10 percent of the population that does not have or use a microwave oven."

O.K., I'll admit I've always been a tad uneasy about a product whose operating guide contains two pages of safety instructions. I have, however, dealt with this uneasiness by actually reading and following the instructions, just as I deal with my fear of my gas oven by not putting my head in it and blowing out the pilot light.

I also buy the cancer warnings in her next section, about barbecuing and grilling, which is why we only do it on occasional summer weekends, not every day. And I don't use disinfectant sprays either; I don't want my household germs to build up immunities and become killer plague bacteria.

By the time I get to the part about avoiding cleaning chemicals, I'm almost hooked: I don't like the way some of those things make my eyes water, so I clean as little as possible. Maybe I too can be a home-environmentalist! Then I read about "the formaldehyde outgasses from pressed wood kitchen cabinets (solid wood is a much better alternative)," and the toxic chemicals in "paints, stains, wallpapers, adhesives, vinyl flooring." What if we don't eat them; are they still dangerous?

Well, fair warning for the upper classes, which can afford cherry cabinets, organic foods, oak floors, and who-knows-what for walls. Are the rest of us doomed to die?

Actually, yes; we are all, including those who bathe in filtered water, going to die. But on average we are dying a whole lot later than we used to, back when we lived in pre-industrial revolution harmony with our natural environment.  A very high number of us now live long enough to reside in a nursing home, one shared room with bath, no kitchen at all.

When I wrote a letter-to-the-editor expressing my enjoyment of the amusing column, I soon learned that it was not in fact meant to be funny; the next week's paper contained Amy's response to my "odd and twisted sense of humor," an inference that I never heard of Rachel Carson, and a recommendation that I read a book called "Our Stolen Future."

I've read Rachel Carson, I don't use pesticides, I recycle hazardous waste, I'd be an environmentalist if I didn't have to hang out with humor-impaired technophobes who are afraid of wallpaper! I guess I could stick my head in a microwave oven and get it all over with fast, but instead I'll just plead guilty to a twisted sense of humor and get on with my dangerous life.

"Our Stolen Future" does sound riveting, but I think I'll read the new Anne Rice vampire book instead. Better to fantasize about living forever than drive myself and others crazy actually trying to do it.

As for you, you've been warned. If you can't afford the premium cost of organic food, try to develop a twisted sense of humor too, and use laughter as your best medicine when the genetically-engineered chickens come home to roost.

Barbara Anderson is co-director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government. Her bi-weekly column is syndicated and appears in the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, (Salem) Evening News, (Attleboro) Sun-Chronicle and the (Worcester) Telegram-Gazette.

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