Hallelujah, Processed Food
photo taken at Sawtooth Fish Hatchery
While pedaling to lower Stanley, Idaho for an omelet, my eyes keep following the Salmon River. Right now, a majority of the Fish and Game salmon are returning to the fish hatchery. This is a remarkable feat because they float all the way to the big wide Pacific Ocean, and then for some reason, they decide to swim all the way back to where they are born in these large cement bathtubs.
A person can identify a fish hatchery salmon from a native salmon because the Fish and Game make sure to exclude the adipose fin from their salmon.
Cruising past the fish hatchery with my eyes still focused on the river, I see a bald eagle sitting on a post. We both happen to be looking at the same stretch of river. I feel bad for it because this week the Fish and Game have stopped stocking the Salmon River with rainbow trout for the season. I suppose it’s time for the eagle to fly south where it’s warm and where the rivers are stocked year round. Taking a closer look at the bald eagle, I notice it has all of its body parts. I don’t think the eagle was hatched by the Fish and Game. I yell at the bird, “Shoo, shoo, fly to Alabama where it’s warm.”
Our eyes meet, but I don’t think the eagle understands. It remains sitting on the post. I suppose we are too different to connect. The eagle has mom and dad eagle parents; I have mom and dad human parents. With so many animals and fish bred in captivity, I bet test-tube babies can commune more naturally with nature, both being conceived in a similar sort of scientifically engineered environment. If I were a test-tube baby, I would want my animal spirit to be a Fish and Game hatched salmon. Like the fish hatchery salmon, when I have lived a full life, I will feel a tug on my heart and crawl to a rest home to die. Like the farm raised salmon in the grocery store, when I die, someone will come along and add some pink to my cheeks so that I may look presentable at my funeral.
I arrive at lower Stanley in time for breakfast. Choosing a restaurant in lower Stanley is easy because it does not have sprawl like upper Stanley. The town has to compete for space with Highway 75 in the middle, mountains to one side, and the Salmon River to the other.
The restaurant I choose, Palmer’s Café, is adjacent to a whitewater rafting company. I notice the person next to me eating pancakes off of disposable breakfast ware. His snow-white fork and knife do not have a smudge. His clean silverware a reminder that my hands are dirty. I get up to use the bathroom.
The men’s room is shared between the café and raft company. On the wall there are pictures of rafters in unsafe floating situations.
I think it odd that a raft company would voluntarily post pictures of possible drownings. The only other time I saw this odd advertising was in Thailand. The cigarette companies have to place a picture showing the consequences of smoking. So while lighting up, you get to admire tubes coming out of someone’s mouth and nose. The person looks like they could have lung cancer. I don’t think this form of advertising has slowed down the smokers or rafters. Teenagers and young adults love to flirt with death in the form of smoke and water filling the lungs.
The bathroom looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned for a while. The smudge of poop on the toilet leads me to this conclusion. To add to my horror, the soap dispenser does not have any soap.
The dirty bathroom reminds me of Anthony Bourdain’s cleanliness comments in Kitchen Confidential:
“I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn’t a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not. In fact, if you see the chef sitting unshaven at the bar, with a dirty apron on, one finger halfway up his nose, you can assume he’s not handling your food any better behind closed doors. Your waiter looks like he just woke up under a bridge? If management allows him to wander out on the floor looking like that, God knows what they’re doing to your shrimp!”
Despite agreeing with Mr. Bourdain that poop on the toilet seat should raise a red flag, I have already ordered my food and I’m hungry enough to risk an afternoon of being sick. Don’t get me wrong, thoughts of dirty fingers touching my omelet scare me. I calm myself by visualizing latex-gloved fingers cracking eggs, American cheese protected by plastic wrap, beans spooned out of a freshly opened can, and salsa squeezed out of a tube. I can’t believe I’m saying out loud, “Thank god for processed food!”
Here comes my omelet on a paper plate. Oh, fuck. It looks fresh.