Fishing Out Scofflaw Scallops

TO WIT

November 27, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

If you're one of the millions of Americans who are afraid to walk the streets because of crime, you will be pleased to learn that federal law-enforcement authorities have finally decided to take stern action against a shipment of frozen scallops.

Really. According to an Associated Press story sent in by many alert readers, these scallops have been named by the U.S. attorney's office as the defendant in a lawsuit entitled "U.S.A. vs. 268 Cases, More or Less, of an Article of Food."

The lawsuit charges that the scallops contain more water than federal regulations permit. The story quotes a spokesperson as saying that, for technical reasons, the government could not bring charges against the corporation that owns the scallops, and therefore "in essence you have arrested a food product."

The frozen scallops were apprehended after a low-speed chase on a Los Angeles freeway during which they held little guns to what passes for their heads.

No, seriously, the frozen scallops made no attempt to flee, and under our system of justice they are entitled to a fair trial with a properly sworn-in jury of their peers. But if they're found guilty, I hope they go to the cooler for a long time, because like most Americans I'm sick and tired of seeing overwatered frozen scallops getting just a slap on what passes for their wrists and then being set free to roam the streets.

Speaking of cold seafood getting tangled up with the law, I have here an article from the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star, written by Sarah Okeson and alertly sent in by Karen Fyke, concerning a young man who opened his grandmother's refrigerator late one night and discovered that a bag of leftover imitation lobster -- which is made from processed fish -- was glowing. He alerted the grandmother, who took the leftovers at 2 a.m. to (why not?) the Peoria Police Department, where an officer, following standard procedure for this type of situation, took them into a dark room and verified that they were, indeed, giving off a greenish light.

The officer then released the imitation lobster back into the custody of the grandmother, who is quoted as saying, "My light bulb can go out in the refrigerator now. All I need is the artificial lobster." The story also quotes a government microbiologist as saying that the glow could have been caused by bacteria, which, by the way, are being represented in this case by Robert Shapiro.

No, I'm kidding again; Mr. Shapiro is a respected attorney who would not represent bacteria unless they were very wealthy. But the point is that, for safety's sake, you should never eat any kind of imitation crustacean without first having a police officer examine it in a dark room. The only kind of seafood that I trust is the fish stick, a totally featureless fish that just lies on the sea floor in a little rectangle, protecting itself with a thin layer of breading.

Speaking of trust, you should be highly suspicious of any seafood that you're being urged to eat by a scientist. I base this statement on a photograph from the Morehead City (N.C.) News-Times, alertly sent in by Judith Tillman. The photograph shows two women bending over a bowl. The caption, which I swear I am not making up, says:

"Gail Cannon of Duke Marine Lab convinces N.C. Maritime Museum staff member Nancy Martin to eat the gonads of a sea urchin at the Strange Seafood Festival Thursday evening in Beaufort."

Call me old-fashioned, but my firm belief is that a person should not eat any kind of gonad without an extremely good medical reason. This leads us to a nutrition question that is on the minds of many Americans in these health-conscious times, namely: Is it OK to eat your underwear? The answer, I am pleased to report, is: yes. I have here an Associated Press story, sent in by many alert readers, which begins:

"ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- A fisherman ate his underwear and barnacles that clung to his body as he drifted for four days at sea after waves shattered his boat."

The story quotes the man as saying: "I ate my underwear and drank sea water. Shells were beginning to eat my body so I had to eat them too."

Why not? It makes as much sense as sushi. In fact, this man could be giving us the idea for a trendy new seafood restaurant, called "Briefs 'n' Barnacles," which could attract a demanding clientele ("Waiter! Are these Jockeys fresh?). Also, there could be big potential for a weight-loss plan called "Shells Eat Your Body." I don't know about you, but I'm in the mood for a steak.

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