Fluffernutter kerfuffle

Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes

The following appeared in The Boston Globe under the headline as indicated:

Lawmaker Plots Ban On Marshmallow Fluff…

The Boston Globe   |  Phillip McKenna   |  Posted June 19, 2006 03:30 PM

The escalating war on junk food in schools has targeted a new enemy — that gooey, sugary, and often irresistible sandwich spread known to children everywhere as Fluff.

Outraged that his son was served peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches at a Cambridge elementary school, state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios , a Democrat, said he will offer an amendment to a junk-food bill this week that would severely limit the serving of marshmallow spreads in school lunch programs statewide.

Senator Barrios is our state senator.

I just sent him the email below.

I always find it’s best to overstate the case to these guys… Keeps them fired up.

Also, of course, I do, essentially, find him correct. No offense to you Fluffernutter freaks or [gulp] you geeks that eat this crap out of the jar, unmolested by other things that might actually do you some good and taste good besides (like peanut butter, at least the kind that isn’t mixed with corn syrup and trans fat shortenings — why do they do that anyway? because a spoonful of sugar makes the peanut go down?).

Of course, I also find it offensive that The Boston Globe sticks a headline like "Lawmaker Plots…" as if Barrios is up to something nefarious. But I’ve already cancelled my subscription to the Glob for manipulative and, despite the undoubted intentions, un-witty editorial decisions. It’s gone from a mediocre paper to a true piece of trash — sort of intellectual Fluffernutter. But that’s getting off-topic…

"Dear Senator Barrios:

"I applaud and support your efforts to remove unwholesome dietary products, like Fluffernutter®, both from mandated school meal programs and from any recommended nutritional items to be offered in the schools in your district, if not the entire Cambridge school system, or any school program supported by state or local funds in any way.

"The recent kerfuffle in the Senate about Fluffernutter® brand product is a distraction from more important matters facing the legislature, and a sign of the air-headed sensibility of too many of your colleagues.

"I have nothing against free enterprise and capitalism. Indeed, I earned my living one way or another providing marketing counsel to mainly profit-seeking clients. However, at some point common sense and the need for preserving the common weal takes precedence over the freedom to make a profit legally.

"There is no reason whatsoever for the government at any level to condone or appear to endorse products that, taken themselves to the possible exclusion of more nutritional foods, are, in fact, harmful to the health of their intended consumers. In this case, those consumers are the most vulnerable and most susceptible to persuasion, not to mention the most indulgent of their own sweet tooth, the children of our fair city (and other fair cities adjoining).

"I have no children, but my wife and I both are concerned about the extent to which the government intervenes in the ability of citizens to choose to eat healthily. At the very least, the government should not facilitate the mongers of poor nutrition by appearing to endorse the consumption of products like Fluffernutter®.

"Least of all, your fellow members of the legislature should be protected from the effects of even thinking about this, to me, offensive, if not disgusting, foodstuff. There is already too much fluff to be found, in their heads, if not in their bodies, to encourage them further to distract themselves from significant legislative issues.

"I am in your district, and I do vote."

By the way, lest you think there’s less here than meets the eye, the response of two of Mr. Barrios’s esteemed colleagues was to sponsor a bill that would make the Fluffernutter the "state sandwich." Seems the company that manufactures this decay-enhancer (from your teeth to your alimentary tract) is in their district.

California politicians may do some nutty stuff when it comes to food bans. But in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we’ve got Fluffernutty legislators.

Barrios responded to me, and his first sentence was, “I love fluff.” This suggests two things to me. One, that he indeed realizes he put his foot in it, whether a vat of Fluff, or some of the stuff of which Bush père liked to speak (the “deep doo-doo” so perilous to politicians). Two, it suggests the he misread my message.

He was concerned, as I would have assumed, not with putting Fluff on a pillory (hard stuff to keep there, anyway) or even to suggest that people’s lives should be intruded upon in such a way that the government dictates all of what you put in your mouth (though, try telling that to the California legislature, who see no risk in banning things like foie gras). The problem with our kids is that too many of them are fat little porkers (and childhood obesity is a sometimes impossible from which to disburden yourself as you enter adulthood) and, more critically, the incidence of childhood diabetes (the more severe form, with insulin-dependence, also called Type I) in children is on the rise. The complications and threat of Type I diabetes are exacerbated, as one might expect, with improper diet, especially involving sugars, and particularly in victims who are overweight.

Whatever one’s feelings about these things, and whether you have children or not, one must have pause considering the possibility that public tax dollars (largely spent at the local level for education, and all programs associated with it) are being used in any way to foster conditions that lead to the worsening of life-threatening diseases. Also, of course, as diabetes runs its course (and the mortal threat of Type I diabetes increases dramatically after 15 years of insulin-dependence) the cost to the public overall increases as well:  in providing medical care for sufferers, whether in the form of increased medical insurance premiums, or the taxes associated with maintaining health care programs funded by the government.

Responsible politicians pay strict regard to such matters, and accept the risk of running the thin line that divides them from other politicians, responsible or otherwise, with agendas that cause them to see fit to intrude on the privacy of our citizens.

I would like to think that my State Senator Barrios (or “Jarrett” as he signed himself, familiarly addressing me as “Howard,” which, make no mistake, is fine by me, though I haven’t ever met the man) is of the former disposition—responsible, but no meddler (not to mention no moralist, of either the right or left persuasion). I would also like to think he sides with me—and he did say the right things in his response to me—in believing that citizens must also be responsible in wanting to see to it that their tax money is not being spent to promulgate disease in anyone, least of all children, and further, that these moneys are not being used, however indirectly or passively, by encouraging people to think that it’s OK for children to stuff their faces daily with a dose of the likes of Marshmallow Fluff, which I personally find such a repulsive food, if one may elevate it to that level.

As I said to professional chefs with whom I correspond, “if their parents want to use gavage (force feeding through a tube; a technique used to fatten ducks and geese, so as to enlarge their livers for later harvesting as foie gras, see above) from drums of Fluff on the little tykes in the privacy and sanctity of their own homes, that’s their business [however repugnant, I might add at this point editorially].” However, if parents find themselves incapable of saying, “No,” not to drugs so much, but to non-nutritional foodstuffs, then at least public funds should not be used to suggest that the implicit imperative is “Yes,” when it comes to what the ladies in the hair nets in the school cafeteria dole out onto student lunch trays.

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