Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chickens: Going to the Dogs?

They may be soon, or so implied the Evening Standard sandwich boards today, heralding in bold typeface the 50% drop in poultry sales here induced by the avian flu panic. Apparently, demand has dropped so low that at 25 pence per pound, chickens are actually "cheaper than beef tripe used for dog food." Appetizing thought, considering that a) I was on my way to the store to purchase ingredients for chicken stir-fry, and b) until this very moment, chicken was my UK dietary mainstay since I still hadn't fully recovered from our last experience living here when mad cow disease was rampant.

Up until now, I'd been able to (sort of) keep a lid on my anxieties over the dreaded avian flu pandemic speculated to hit Britain this winter (largely by stockpiling the drug Tamiflu), but today's ES headline put the kabosh on any hope I had of remaining rational thru March, and of course necessitated that I rush straight into the newsagent and plunk down my 40p for the paper, barely able to contain myself until I got home to indulge in the doomsday fears I've been trying so hard to keep at bay.

Many of you will recall my post this summer about the hazards of the ubiquitous Evening Standard sandwich boards for the panic prone (which resulted in our accidental purchase of an enormous air conditioner during the New York heat wave, despite the fact that we were living in London at the time). I'm unhappy to report that, despite being once-bitten, twice-shy by their sensationalist sales techniques, they still continue to cause me repeated bouts of HIPS (Headline Induced Panic Syndrome).

Playing right into the hands of the evil publishers of this paper, HIPS usually prompts those such as myself to buy this apocalyptic rag to read the trumpeted article (rather than leaving things to the imagination and hence winding up more anxiety-ridden and in extreme cases, burdened with unnecessary appliances), but the articles never exactly prove to provide the soothing balm that you're looking for. As expected, the chicken article was no exception and played right into my fears when I learned that I should not, if I had any sense at all, be eating chicken for the remainder of the flu season, or perhaps even through 2007 if I want to take into account the progeny of any potentially infected birds. (And I do.)

The article noted that one of London's Michelin-starred French restaurants has even gone so far as to take all bird dishes--including (gasp) foie gras--off the menu. Another top restaurant interviewed has seen a slump in pasta sales because homemade pasta apparently is made from raw egg yolks. Pretty soon, there'll be nothing safe left to eat in this country. I'm sure if we're here long enough, something is bound to happen with the local fish supplies...after all, in a country beset by Mad Cows and Flu-ridden Fowl, surely Cholera Cod is just around the corner. It's enough to make even the most carnivorous among us join the ranks of Gwyneth and Madonna by going macrobiotic.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

You Know You've Been in London Too Long When...

Prudential insurance company recently estimated that a lifetime spent living in London will cost the average person 2 million pounds (over 3.7 million dollars). While admittedly, I love to collect factoids like this to bolster my case for getting back to NYC sooner rather than later, there are in fact many warning signs that it may be time to go home. And while I've only been living back here four months this time around, sadly, most of the below already, or in some cases, STILL apply. (These came courtesy of an e-mail forwarded by a fellow expat.)

1. You say "the City" and expect everyone to know which one.

2. You've taken so many relatives, friends and long-lost acquaintances that have mysteriously emerged out of the woodwork on The Original London Bus Tour that you can recite the 'live-guided' commentary by heart, in your sleep.

3. You can get into a four-hour argument about the fastest way to get from "the City" to Gatwick at 3:30 on the Friday before a bank holiday weekend but still can't find Dorset on a map.

4. The last time you witnessed a full day of sunshine was in June...of 2001. And in a cruel twist of irony, you’ve experienced--and now empathize with--the lobster-like condition of the same vacationing Brits you used to gleefully make fun of at the beach.

5. You’ve found yourself wearing a scarf, boots or both…in August.

6. You've briefly considered the merits of stabbing someone.

7. Anything outside of Zone 1 on the Tube is the "suburbs" or "countryside" and the UK west of Heathrow is still entirely theoretical to you.

8. You’ve given up on determining which side of the street or stairwell is actually the “right” side to walk on but take personal affront at foreigners who are ignorant of the “stand on the right/walk on the left” rule on escalators.

9. You now consider eye contact an act of overt aggression.

10. You’ve resorted to threats of legal action to get desired results with your bank, cell phone company, Sky Digital, British Telecom, or in extreme cases, all of the above.

11. Popping out for "a curry" or kebabs have replaced "grabbing a slice" in your late-night food repretoire.

12. You can identify the names and ‘claim to fame’ of more than three B-list British ‘celebrities’, such as Jordan, Jade Goody or Cheryl Tweedy.

13. You refer to an 8' x 10' plot of patchy grass or even cement as a garden.

14. You're paying £1,000 a week for a flat the size of a walk-in wardrobe and you think it's a "bargain".

15. You pay £3 pounds without blinking for a pint of beer that cost the bar 28p.

16. You see a crowd of people and automatically find yourself queing up.

17. £50 worth of groceries easily fits in one plastic bag.

18. You've mentally blocked out all thoughts of the city's air/water quality and what it's likely doing to your insides.

19. You roll your eyes and say 'tsk' at the news that someone has thrown himself under a tube train, again.

20. The phrases “severe delays”, “it’s not ready yet”, or “our next available appointment is in three weeks” no longer elicit a visceral anger reaction from you.