The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com TudyMr5,09 3
Thursday, March 5, 2009 - 3B
Food gets political
Med school smokers
recent debate with a vegan con-.
vinced me that I haven't been eating
enough red meat.
Last summer, on a quest to better under-
stand the.fast food and
I read Eric Schlosser's
"Fast Food Nation." The
book chronicled the rise of
the fast food system, from
its humble beginnings
as an innovative restau-
rant style to the world- KARA
enveloping industry it is MORRIS
today. Since then, I've had
trouble purchasing meat from supermarkets
without understanding its origin. I've been
interested in - and terrified by - the world
of food politics.
"Food politics?" Stand aside, restaurant
critics; there's food news to be told.
Wonder why consumers weren't imme-
diately notified when the peanut butter
supply went awry? Is there merit to organ-
ics besides the higher price tag? And why
the heck were strains of E. coli found in
raw spinach? Welcome to the world of food
Before reading Schlosser's novel, I held a
fairly stereotypical view of vegans and vege-
tarians. I thought of them as do-gooder ani-
mal lovers and PETA activists who wouldn't
eat meat because they couldn't condone the
killing of an innocent animal. I had also.
heard stories of vegans who were purists
and didn't want to put anything but untaint-
ed fruits, veggies and grains into their bod-
ies. Others, I had been told, decided to forgo
meat for religious reasons.A friend of mine,
meanwhile, complained that vegans held
themselves morally superior for their pro-
While some vegans fit these claims, there
is an entirely different point of view of veg-
4nism concerned with environmental issues,
America's overconsumption, worker's rights
and consumer health.
In short, environmental issues concern
the state of the land and animals. As the fast
food industry has grown, early "home-on-
the-range" farms have given way to larger
factory farms. More similar to chemical
processing plants than grazing pastures,
these "farms" have been known for raising
animals in tight, uncomfortable conditions
before sending them to slaughterhouses.
Aside from the strain put on the ani-
mals, the factories and the transportation
involved in connecting them have had
increasingly negative effects on the environ-
ment as the popularity of meat has grown.
Factory-farmed animals are often raised on
grain. Instead of the animals roaming for
food, energy must be put into growing and
harvesting their grain.
Another problem vegans and vegetar-
ians try to combat is the overconsumption
of meat products. Where we once sat down
to one serving of meat or fish per day, facets
of our culture have encouraged larger por-
tions, like 12-ounce rib-eye steaks. We've
also been encouraged to dine on meat more
frequently. McDonald's thinks it can sell us a
chicken biscuit sandwich for breakfast, and
apparently it can.
Still, others are concerned with workers'
rights. If you've ever read an excerpt from
Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," you'll know
about the calamities involved in the meat-
packing business. There's an entirely differ-
ent debate concerningminimum wage pay
and the mishandling of unions by the fast
Finally, some consumers are just genu-
inely concerned about well-being. They are
worried about the health of animals raised
conventionally in Concentrated Animal
Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Animals
raised in CAFOs are under more stress and
thus more susceptible to disease. Some fac-
tory farms have been known to supplement
their animals' diets collectively with growth
hormones and antibiotics. This raises even
more debates; what effect do the hormones
have on our bodies-and what happens when
bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics?
These views could not exist without
attention to the other side of the vegan/veg-
etarian debate. Is it even sustainable to move
from conventional farming back to individu-
al farms? How much would the price of food
rise? Never mind the price of food; would
Not all vegans are
we even be able to produce enough food to
feedl ourselves? And are CAFOs really a bad
thing? It isn't easy to get those beautifully
marbled cuts of meat from muscular animals
that have been able to run freely.
No debate is without its quirks. One good
example is PETA's recent suggestion to Ben
and Jerry's to use human breast milk in
their ice cream, claiming, "breast is best!"
So when you feel like scoffing at someone
who says "No thanks, I'm a vegetarian," con-
sider their motivations - are they shallowly
concerned or do they have substantial rea-
sons for passing on that succulent meat dish?
In the world of food politics, this is only
the meat argument. Other debates arise -
concerning the disputed health benefits of
organics, community supported agriculture
and the weaknesses of the FDA.
It's also interesting to look at the com-
bination of Washington politics and food
politics. Recently, famed Chez Panisse's
chef Alice Waters has made strides with the
Obama household, making suggestions for a
vegetable garden on-site at the White House.
And don't think the local farmers market
is without its politics. Although it generally
conveys a strong farm-to-table sentiment,
some farmers have come under fire for gar-
nering one too many tables on market days.
- Morris wants to know what's on
your plate. E-mail her what you're eating
for dinner at karamomowumich.edu.
An annual Bartlett, it "began (in) about
1914 as a service organiza-
showcase of tion whose primary focus was
to support children's health
everent humor activities throughout Washt-
SARA SCHNEIDER The original medical soci-
Daily Arts Writer ety consisted of-14 juniors and
14 seniors from the medical
e stereotypical medical school, and outgoing mem-
nt wears a white coat, bers determined membership
s a stethoscope and has in the group.
fe outside the library. ' Bartlett's creative insight,
this as well as the introduction of
in women audiences and partici-
audi- The GalenS pants in the late '70s, helped
of Smoker: change the definition of the
year's , ,, Smoker forever. In 1962, he
is Od Stoo thought the participants
er, 7 p.m. could do better than just a
medi- Tomorrow series of skits, so Bartlett pro-
hool's and Saturday posed doing a parody of popu-
al lar musical "The Music Man,"
al At Mendelssohn aptly titled "The Medicine
dy, $0-$12 Man." This production was
be in the first "modern" Smoker
shock- and set the precedentfor years
rprise. Completely writ- to come.
directed, produced and Despite the format change,
rmed by University of the Smoker's characteristic
igan medical students, vulgarity and faculty roast
moker is packed full of continue to be its defining
by innuendos and the qualities.
rous roasting of med "The most surprising thing
I professors. about the Smoker is always the
ough most . medical irreverence of it," said Geof-
ls hold some show of this froy Sisk, co-director of this
he University's is one of year's Smoker and fourth year
dest in the country. The med student. "The Smoker is
locumented Smoker was - in every sense of the word -
by medical students at uncensored, andI'msuremany
Michigan Union in 1918. people are shocked at how
show was originally a brutally honest we are about
ilation of comic skits fea- our own lives and the lives of
g pop culture elements of our professors and attendings.
me, issues in the medi- In a sense, it's shocking that
hool and the mocking of we don't get more complaints,
te faculty members. or that we don't suffer conse-
Robert Bartlett, Uni- quences at the hands of angry
y of Michigan Medical professors."
l alum and current pro- Poking fun at - or rather
of Surgery, recalls the ripping apart-medicalschool
phere of the Smoker professors could be interpret-
y 40 years ago as being ed as an easy way for medical
what racy. students to find themselves in
'hen I was a medical stu- trouble,;but the faculty knows
I participated in the '61, that being part of the show is
d '63 Smokers," Bartlett more of a compliment than an
'Many of the skits I was insult.
'ed in were raunchy and As a past participant and
r to say the least, but current professor, Bartlett
dees were limited to the understands the Smoker's
udiences. Everyone was comedic roasting.
raged to smoke a cigar "It is a silent honor among
we gathered to make fun faculty members if you are
h other and the events of mentioned in the Smoker,"
me." Bartlett said. "It is the people
until the '70s, women who don't get mentioned that
forbidden membership should start to
er, "Old Stool," parodies the.
classic Will Ferrell and Vince
Vaughn movie "Old School."
"As in the movie, a certain
dot gets a second chance at
bachelorhood,'and other does
rally around him and try to
start a fraternity for faculty,
much to the dean's dismay.
Hilarity ensues," Co-director
and fourth year med student
Tom Scott-Craig said.
Although the movie being
parodied isn't a musical, the
Galens script includes sev-
eral "spoof songs" like "Dots
Just Want to Have Fun" and
an old school rap by the lead-
ing character. The songs also
include dances, which are part
of annual traditions like the
"Babe Dance" and the "Stud
Dance" typically performed
by senior students.
"The latter is basically
a bunch of guys bumbling
through a choreographed
dance," Scott-Craig said. "And
then we take our shirts off."
The content of this year's
Smoker shatters the usual
image of a studious University
medical student and uncovers
the fact that even the people
beneath the white coats have
interests beyond medicine.
"The stereotype is 'work
work work' - don't get me
wrong, that's true - but the
wealth of talent and the col-
lective sense of humor among
med students is mind-bog-
gling," Scott-Craig said. "I
think that's also part of the
surprise of the show, even to
fellow students, like 'Wow
she's an incredible singer' or
''I didn't know that guy could
shred on the guitar!"'
Producer Joshua Cohn,
fourth year med student,
agrees with Scott-Craig and
believes that medical school is
"The stereotype of the
medical studentwithout inter-
ests in anything else besides
studying, if such a person ever
really existed, is dying off,"
said Cohn. "People come into
school with amazing back-
grounds, interests and talents,
and they don't want to lose
that part of themselves."
After watching the
rehearsal, it's clear that the
participants are more than
just medical students. In fact,
except for the stray pair of
scrubs here and there, it was
difficult, to distinguish the
med students from the "real"
music students practicing
"The Pirates of Penzance"
in the Student Theatre Arts
Even though the general
audience may not understand
an inside joke within the medi-
cal community here and there,
the "rated R" Galens Smoker
promises awell-crafted riot of
laughter and exactly the kind
of tasteless humor college stu-
dents crave most.
- Managing Arts Editor
David Watnick did not edit this
article because his sister is
performing in this year's Smoker.
e Galens Medical Soci-
group formed by medi-
tudents. According to
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