The federal government told me recently to stop eating romaine lettuce — and right now — but somehow the feds forgot to advise me to lay off petting great white sharks.
They were also strangely silent on whether I ought to pitch my tent in the middle of Interstate 84.
In a blizzard.
As far as involving an activity I might actually engage in, the lettuce warning is about as relevant as the government urging me to put off my plan to scale the north face of the Eiger without ropes and crampons.
Yet as unnecessary as the advice might be, I’m grateful for it.
And the reason I’m grateful is that I waited for years for my mom to order me not to eat vegetables.
Indeed I’m still waiting.
(And my mother is still serving vegetables.)
The government is not my mother, to be sure — I have libertarian tendencies, anyway, and so I bristle when the bureaucrats suggest what I ought to ingest or, as in this case, not ingest.
But I find it a happy coincidence that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to frighten me away from a food I don’t eat except under the most dire of circumstances.
Actually I can’t conceive of any circumstances sufficiently dire to persuade me to swallow a mouthful of any sort of lettuce.
The possibility that munching some romaine these days would give me, along with a bitter flavor and a handful of calories, an extended bout of diarrhea and vomiting — well that only solidifies my feelings about lettuce.
The feds’ romaine warning was prompted by an outbreak of E. coli in the U.S. and Canada.
This is what’s known as a good reason.
Among the parasitic pests prone to infesting our guts and wreaking all manner of havoc there, E. coli is one I have managed to avoid.
Which is not to say I’m confident.
My gastrointestinal tract has been about as effective as the Maginot Line in repelling similar invaders.
In 2003 I was among the victims of a salmonella outbreak in Baker City.
And in 2013, when the city’s water was infected by cryptosporidium, my intestines were just as hospitable to that tiny terror as they had been to the salmonella a decade earlier.
Neither experience was one I would care to repeat.
There is something singularly unpleasant about having your alimentary canal temporarily resemble an actual canal, and I mean one of those concrete canals that allows the contents within to pass unimpeded.
Unlike the feds, which took the sober approach typical of the bureaucracy with the lettuce warning, Oregon’s health officials opted for whimsy in their recent campaign to keep salmonella out of our innards.
The Oregon Health Authority started a parody Twitter account in which salmonella bacteria — not previously known for their comedic talents, so far as I can tell — offer tips for preventing holiday meals featuring turkey from becoming a sort of Trojan horse of an internal invasion.
The email I received announcing the campaign included a picture of turkey — a turkey carcass, specifically, ready for the oven — wearing (sort of) aviator sunglasses of the design that Tom Cruise’s character wore to such stylish effect in “Top Gun.”
I presume this gag was intended to depict the secretive nature of salmonella. Which of course it is, what with powerful microscopes not often being part of a typical table setting.
(Setting such instruments next to the salad forks would prompt interesting after-dinner conversations, however.)
The Health Authority also noted that in a typical year about 400 to 500 Oregonians are infected by salmonella. The average number of crypto cases is considerably smaller.
It pains me — and my colon, which will never be quite the same after its ordeals — to consider that I bucked some pretty long odds in coming dow n with both afflictions inside of a decade.
I’d rather the numbers go my way with, say, the Lottery.
Then I could afford to buy more food that isn’t lettuce.
J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.