10/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No Cow Patties On The House...


The analogies are not very appetizing: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, described the bailout bill as a "crap sandwich." Rep. Paul Braun, R-Georgia, called it "a huge cow patty with a piece of marshmallow stuck in the middle," which he declined to eat, and his colleagues declined to pass.

Hey, we get it; nobody likes to eat crap (or step in it, for that matter.) And nobody wants to see the return of Depression-era breadlines, either. But it should be clear to everyone, at this point, that we're in for some turbulent times:

"America better prepare for some uncomfortable changes. Things might get really ugly."

So said an upstate New York pig farmer to Momofuku chef David Chang, who recalls the conversation in an essay for Esquire, What the 21st Century Will Taste Like. Chang calls the rise in food costs a "massive correction," adding that:

The machinery that's pumped so much meat into our lives over the last half century was never built to last, and now it's breaking down big-time. Feed is more expensive. Gasoline is more expensive. Milk, rice, butter, corn--it's all going through the roof. And for the foreseeable future, it's not coming back down... ... At the table, this means our plates will be heavier on grains and greens, and meat will shift from the center of the dish to a supporting role--the role it's played throughout history in most of the world's cuisines.

Not impressed by the observations of a fancy-pants New York City chef? OK, then how about this quote from Matt Simmons, a lifelong Republican oilman from Houston turned peak oil prophet, who told Fortune:

"I do think there are a growing number of people who are getting it. But I guess it just reminds me that as a society, we don't have the ability to actually come to grips with a crisis until it's hit us in the face. I am discouraged enough now to think that we're going to have to have a really nasty shock before we wake people up...

...We should basically be going back to creating a village economy, so that we really reduce the energy intensity of how we live. We need bigtime conservation, not feel-good conservation. Make things where they're used. You'll end long-distance commuting, and we have the tools to do that now with webcams. Grow food locally. Grow food in your backyard. If they're not commuting, people will have time to do that."

There may be an upside to this downshift; you know how we've been diminished in the eyes of the world in recent years? It turns out that we've literally suffered a loss of stature over the course of the last century or so, and the cause, according to the New York TImes, "appears to be due to a lower standard of living, poor health care and inadequate nutrition...In 1880, Americans were the tallest people in the world. But by 2000, American men, at an average height of 5-feet-10.5-inches, ranked 9th, and women, at about 5-feet-5-inches, fell to 15th. "

"We conjecture that perhaps the Western and Northern European welfare states, with their universal socioeconomic safety nets, are able to provide a higher biological standard of living to their children and youth than the more free-market-oriented U.S. economy," wrote John Komlos, professor of economics at the University of Munich.

So I guess that means capitalism stunts growth? Warren Buffet's warning that we're looking at the "biggest financial meltdown in American history." Oh well! If David Chang and Matt Simmons prove to be right, at least it may compel us to eat more fruits and veggies--and less meat. And not a minute too soon--as the Guardian reports today, The Food Climate Research Network at the University of Surrey just released a study declaring that those of us in developed nations "will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change." Seed money's vanishing from Wall Street; maybe now Main Street will start investing in seeds. It's not too late to start some fall veggies!