GateHouse — You hear a lot about pink slime these days, because frankly, pink slime is an a-MA-zing turn of phrase. It’s a writer’s dream, a lyrical, almost onomatopoeic slice of verbal sleight-of-hand that grabs your brain and demands it to conjure up an image, requires you to stop what you’re doing — eating a hoagie, feeding your baby, delivering a baby — to consider it. Frankly as soon as someone coined the phrase “pink slime” it was over, stick a fork in it. Actually that wouldn’t work because sticking a fork in an industrial-sized vat of gelatinous goo wouldn’t be practical and actually probably really frustrating; maybe you should go with a spoon in this scenario. Or an ice cream scoop. Ooh, soup ladle!
We think about pink slime for the same reason most people think about pink slime: Because we are writing “Ghostbusters II.” But also we think about it because with a meaning that evocative, especially in an age where headline value is measured by the level of instinctual milliseconds it takes someone to click on something distracting while they’re supposed to be working and/or driving, it’s perfect. It’s like “swine flu” or “SARS” or “Newt Gingrich” — your brain can’t help but think “THAT SOUNDS JUST AWFUL AND UNELECTABLE YET I CANNOT STOP MY HAND FROM CLICKING ON IT,” and there, before you know it, you’re 12 pages into pink slime material on the web and vowing to never eat beef, or slime, for the rest of your life.
Honestly I think it’s the color pink that’s the hook here; it’s a perfect descriptor for a unidentifiable, multisyllabic and wholly chemical-sounding foodishthing that it’s easy to imagine being horked into your kids’ lunches via murderous-looking machine in a factory in North Korea, or, more likely, a country with functional factories.
It works because it’s a color that no food in its right made would dare be made of — yeah, I said it, cotton candy, get out of here with your wispy tongue-dyeing weirdness — but it’s also just normalish enough to be plausible. The phrase “purple slime” is not believable, “blue slime” is an obvious giveaway and no one would even believe a container marked “yellow slime,” unless they were driving a prop truck to the Kids Choice Awards.
But that all said, it is also awful, because it’s pink slime, and it’s double-pants awful because it’s pink slime that goes in food, and it’s triple-pantsy-pants awful because some of that food is fed to children in school cafeterias, and I am very much looking forward to the day when “triple-pantsy-pants” becomes a nationwide catch phrase and all of you suckers owe me royalties, which I will immediately spend on fancy meats of unqualified freshness.
Listen, I am not here to swing your opinion on a cut-cost meat filler product that’s made from fat-heavy lumps of scraps that are cut off the edible meats, heated to vanquish the fat and then given a steamy ammonium hydroxide gas shower to kill E. coli and salmonella — a process that, I am learning in my research, works up to some of the time. Nor am I here to make jokes about a food-ish item so mired in controversy that is has been ungraciously yanked from Taco Bell and a supermarket chain with the savage-sounding name of Food Lion.
Nor am I here to refute the argument that “it’s OK because pink slime has been available for years,” because so have cigarettes, and those are also generally disallowed at school cafeterias, even in Texas, I’m like 75 percent sure.
Nor would I DREAM of adding to the legion of commentary about whether a semi-nutritional byproduct paste that appears to be something between the areas of “Baby Food” and “The Stuff That Darth Vader Probably Has To Eat, What With His Burned Up Throat And Everything” has supporters, including oh hey this is weird Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the lieutenant governors of Nebraska and South Dakota, which, taken together, make up a wide plains swath of Places You Do Not Want To Stop To Grab Lunch.
No, I am here only to say that as soon as pink slime became pink slime, its days were numbered. Now can I get you a hot dog?