Caveat Auctor

Yesterday morning I stopped by our butcher to pick up an order for the weekend.
--Do you like fresh goats cheese? he enquired.
--Do whiting swim in the ocean? I countered.
--Then have this one, he said, dropping it into the bag. But don’t tell anyone where you got it. I’m supposed to throw it away - it’s past its sell-by date.
--So am I, if it comes to that, but the Eurocrat who tried to toss me on the scrap heap would have a fight on his hands.
--Ah, but you’re an overripe Epoisses -- no Brussels hit man could get close enough to do the dirty on you. This is a mild little cheese, barely ready to eat. But the EU calculations are based on a refrigerator temperature of 8 degrees Celsius. Because of my meat storage requirements I also keep my cheeses at just under 2 degrees, so that they mature very slowly. But Brussels doesn’t care about that. If I put my cheeses straight into the deep freeze, I’d still have to throw them out when the sell-by date had passed.


WHAT lengths the Eurocrats will go to in order to protect us from our appetites! (You can tell that they have no palates – or that they have their private sources, like the White House smokers of Havana cigars. I wonder if Clinton . . . forget it.) And yet, the favoured method of raising money for those worthy causes which the government can’t be bothered to support is the lottery: in the trenchant words of Dr. Johnson, “a scheme whereby the ignorant are made to tax themselves.”

Thus we are allowed, even exhorted in expensive advertising campaigns, to take chances, so long as the risk is institutionalised. Perhaps this could also become the means whereby we might satisfy our craving for foods which are less that certifiably safe. Caveat Emptor food shops could be set up in which the buyers assumed total responsibility for their purchases. These establishments would specialise in over-ripe cheeses, well-hung game, anonymous mushrooms – even the notorious fugu, that poisonous fish which lures the Japanese into expensive piscatorial roulette. (A yen for danger, perhaps?)

But this would be irresponsible. Even if individuals were prepared to guarantee their own survival, the state would still be faced with the social and financial responsibility of caring for those who had ruined their health by overindulgence. In extreme cases, it would be necessary to support their families, and even the victims of their inadvertently destructive behaviour, as in automobile accidents. The sale of such substances would be out of the question.Quite so. We should therefore act immediately to extend this wise principle. Doctors tell us that every weekend the emergency wards of our hospitals are full of those who have come to grief through the excessive consumption of alcohol; those not hospitalised, having wasted the time of the police with their carousing, will be occupying the local jails. Furthermore, many other hospital beds are taken up by life-long smokers in the terminal stages of lung cancer. We must therefore, by means of total prohibition, protect the public from all those substances – unpasteurised milk and cheese, unbleached tripe, sweetbreads, brains, tobacco, alcohol – which can be shown to be even theoretically harmful.

Now, what about irreparable damage to the intellect? I have here a list of newspapers and TV programmes . . .

©2000 John Whiting, Diatribal Press

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