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Trans Fatty Asses
What's with these idiots trying to "save" a handful of people in New York City from crappy French fry grease? I loved the op-ed piece on the proposed trans fat ban in Monday's LA Times (in my favorite section in the paper) by Mark Kurlansky. While I don't believe in rent control (you should be able to charge whatever you want for your property), I think he has a good point:

But what is odd about New York City banning artificial trans fats is that nobody I know eats them. They are not eaten in Manhattan and the better parts of Brooklyn. They are used in cheap restaurants for things like French fries. In my Upper West Side neighborhood, we don't eat French fries. In the unlikely event that we do not find ourselves on a low-carb diet, we eat frites. Frites are not cooked in trans fat but in the better oils, some of which, by the way, may also prove fatal.

In protecting New Yorkers from trans fat, the city would be largely protecting its lower-income citizens. And that is the surprising part. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — the billionaire reelected last year in a landslide against Fernando Ferrer, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, who convinced most voters of his incompetence by repeatedly bringing up issues affecting poor people — defended the ban on trans fat by comparing it to the city's ban on lead paint. He had a point because the lead paint ban, which was adopted in 1960, was one of the last times anyone can recall that the city focused on helping the poor.

In my Upper West Side building, one by one the artists, waiters, musicians, teachers, actors and social workers have been leaving town and are being replaced by financial advisors and investment bankers. Over the last 40 years, government has slowly stripped away most guarantees of affordable housing. Today it is difficult to find an apartment anywhere in Manhattan large enough for a small family that does not cost more than $1 million or can be had for affordable rent. If the landlords who reap these enormous profits give a little bit away, they get streets named after them and articles written about their beneficence.

...So maybe the city isn't protecting poor people from heart attacks. Maybe it is protecting us from poor people — taking away their French fries the same way it took away their homes. Cars probably are a greater health threat than trans fats, but the type of New Yorkers who are staying like to have their own cars.

Posted by aalkon at October 10, 2006 11:54 AM

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Reminds me of the foie gras ban in Chicago (as mentioned in the article, but not following my take) -- when food that actual, factual rich people eat is being attacked, no one follows the law and the city council is falling over itself to repeal it. I'm pretty sure that foie gras lovers in Chicago are having no trouble maintaining supply. When it's banning something the hoi polloi enjoy, who the hell cares?

My own take is that I'm hoping a ban on trans fats means the fast food guys can go back to using lard and beef tallow. Then the fries will be super yummy! Awesome! Lard is mainly monounsaturated fat, after all. That means it's good for you, right?

I think the NYC council need to watch Sleeper again.

Posted by: meep at October 10, 2006 4:46 AM

Aw c'mon... There's lotsa poor poeple on Manhattan, working. Transfats are cheap, right? I like the idea that this stuff can be made to go out of style. Drunk driving was never in style for people who can afford limos, but it was still a good thing to oppose.

Posted by: Crid at October 10, 2006 5:10 AM

I'm all for telling people it's bad to eat this stuff, but legislating against it? And FYI, my liver-transplant-anesthesiologist ex-boyfriend now lives in a rather pricey apartment in Harlem. If there are poor people still there now, they won't be there for long.

Here's more on the foie gras ban:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 10, 2006 5:22 AM

Here's Bourdain's full foie gras interview with Salon:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 10, 2006 5:24 AM

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