(CNN) – I was only on my third cup of coffee and the bacon was not even crisp, much less burned, when the news came through. Salad haters of the nation unite. Green leaves are off the menu — officially, by order of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
A produce supplier is recalling romaine lettuce that it found was contaminated by cyclospora, a pesky parasite that can cause stomach upsets, headache, fever, diarrhea and explosive bowel movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is not the first time the supposedly innocuous romaine has had it in for us. It is only a few weeks since it was discovered to be the source of a virulent strain of E. coli bacteria that put 96 people into hospitals.
This is turning into the summer of bleurgh.
These were once the sorts of things we would expect to encounter in faraway lands, with dubious hygiene and stick shifts.
Now, there can be only one conclusion. Ignore what the dieticians and nutritionists tell us. They can join the other so-called experts debunked by our new populist overlords. The truth is that healthy food is trying to kill us.
In fact, the experts knew. In a 2015 study, the CDC found that about half of food poisoning cases came from fresh produce, compared with only about 20% from traditional bad guys dairy and eggs.
This is nothing new for those of us who have spent time living in the developing world. The two golden rules were to iron your underwear and let nothing pass your lips that was not piping hot. You might still consume parasites, but at least they would be dead. Salad was a definite no-no.
It was far from foolproof. All the best intentions could be undone if the roadside vendor chose to carve the hot, grilled chicken breast with his thumbnail (as happened to me during a visit to the flood-hit plains of southern Pakistan. Of course, I ate it. I was hungry.)
And there wasn’t much that could be done if the server’s hands were dirty.
But I like to think I did the healthy thing by subsisting almost entirely on bread, meat and bottled beverages.
The good news, for those concerned about killer leaves, is that this approach can be largely consistent with life in America, where the average consumer is expected to tuck away a record 222 pounds of meat this year, according to a USDA forecast, and where if you put all the nation’s burger buns end to end, they would stretch around the average waist.
Personally, I would have been happy for the bland greenery of the romaine never to enter my mouth again. I’ve always found it limp and lifeless, unlike the ancient Egyptians, who apparently saw meaning in its phallic shape and used it as a sacred symbol of Min, god of fertility.
It is just boring compared with the atomic crunch of your iceberg or peppery attitude of arugula.
Yet its new role as the bete-noir of the salad bar has me interested. If you ever needed a way to make greens sexy, then this might be it: Add an element of danger.
So, whisk me up a raw-yolk mayonnaise or a Russian roulette dressing. All of a sudden, I fancy a salad.