I’ll Take My Lunch to Go(ne Forever)

by Chas Smith

A Tribute to Threatened Foods
I’m out at my local farm-to-table, sitting at the communal table that is made of a piece of farm machinery and totally shitting myself because grass-fed T-bone is off the menu due to the drought in California and the waiter is looking at me like I’m a dick for even asking. The world’s food supply is—as every newly-minted foodie knows—in a very precarious spot, its back against the wall to environmental change, over-fishing, over-development, over-eating. It is now almost impossible to get line-caught tuna that isn’t laden with mercury, much less fresh rhino horn, much less—apparently—grass-fucking-fed T-bone.

I generally blame the Chinese for our comestible crisis, but worse is coming and I don’t think what is on its way is entirely their fault. In any case, when my waiter returns—he momentarily stepped away while I was totally shitting myself—I am binge-ordering.


Did you know that, starting in a few years, your guacamole will be made from edamame and not avocado? Gross? Yes. Much like grass-fed beef, avocados are a victim of California’s devastating drought and Mexico’s cartel wars.

The buttery fruit gets its name from the Nahuatl word for “testicle” and predates man. [Editor’s note: Phallus indusiatus, an edible fungus incidentally not named after the mushroom-capped organ—though it is considered an aphrodisiac—was a previously-scarce edible, doing its own part to neutralize the negative effects of food production: it’s grown on agricultural waste.] Avo’ consumption has more than doubled since 1993, creating a 400-million-dollar business in California and an over one-billion-dollar business in Mexico. But California is drying up, and since it takes 74 gallons of water to grow one pound of alligator pear, they will soon disappear. As everyone knows, Mexican cartels—like Box Trolls—will take a piece of anything that ain’t bolted down, so production is severely compromised due to cartels’ fondness for beheadings and the like. Chile is attempting to pick up the slack, but Chileans are also having a drought, so it goes. When my waiter returns I am ordering guacamole, not the edamame kind, and two—no, three sides of avocado.


Did you know that there are almost 1,000 varieties of bananas in the world but we only eat one and it is called the Cavendish? It makes up 95% of the global banana market and was first embraced in the 1950s because it was particularly disease-resistant. Well, if David Bowie taught us anything it was that there will be ch-ch-changes [Editor’s note: And we should turn and face the strange—or something like that]. Present day bananas are now particularly susceptible to disease since each new fruit is an exact genetic duplicate of the last. Now the Cavendish is being destroyed by Panama Disease, a fungus that is impossibly deadly and wears a sexy straw hat.

Asian and Australian crops have already been gutted, the disease will likely tear through South America in 10 years and North America in 20. I tell this to the girl on my right at the communal table because she is eating a banana split with peanut butter ice cream and candied bacon bits—in honor of Elvis Presley—and she seems really annoyed. I tell her she should be royally bummed instead. She scoots away, slightly. She probably denies climate change and is also probably a hater.


Did you know that the Meyer Lemon, even though it sounds totally American, [Editor’s note: It does?] is actually Chinese? Frank Meyer, an agricultural explorer, went to China in 1908—before they developed a middle class who started eating my steak [Editor’s note: Mr. Smith believes the middle class have a particular fondness for beef.]—and found what is thought to be a cross between a traditional lemon and a Mandarin orange.

It was grown in California with much success, until a virus killed every single tree except for one particular stock. Then everyone started planting that stock, which is now becoming susceptible to viruses, too. [Editor’s note: Are you sensing a theme here? Just to spell it out for you, genetic diversity is important.] And the real kicker is, what makes the Meyer so wonderful, its soft skin [Editor’s note: Oh?], also makes it difficult to transport so Mexicans can’t do it cheaper and slave-ier. I want to tell this to the man on my left at the communal table because he is drinking an herbal tea with a slice of lemon in it, but I can’t tell if he is Mexican or Arabic so I just don’t say anything. I really hope he’s enjoying it because maybe it’ll be the last tea with lemon he ever has. Or, not the last but, you know, the clock is ticking.


Did you know that when I’m not eating at my local farm-to-table I’m waiting in line at Intelligentsia, and when I’m not waiting in line at Intelligentsia I’m drinking sustainably-sourced wild Arabica from a demitasse? Arabica is, in my opinion, the best kind of coffee. Robusta is for haters and people who drive cars instead of Ubering and for people who watch Tom Cruise movies. Gag me. But climate change models say that, by 2080, there will be a 99.7% reduction in proper conditions to grow Arabica. That means, when I’m 104 I will be shit out of luck which super sucks because the image I have of myself at 104 is very dapper. My hair is thin but I still have enough to slick back and I wear a kilt and red jackets with shoulder epaulettes and lots of medals pinned over my heart. I am basically Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and I have an awesome cane with a lion’s head on top and I sit around at whatever the Intelligentsia of the future is and sip sustainably sourced coffee all day long. And when I die people will be royally bummed because I was such a fixture on the scene, and really wise, too.


Did you know that Vermont Sugar Maple trees require a “cold recharge period” of several weeks of below freezing temperatures in order to make sap? That means while climate change is gutting my guac and coffee, it’s also swiping the Vermont maple syrup from my [farm-to-]table. Those gorgeous maples up in Vermont that make liquid heaven are not getting cold enough and therefore my pancakes are unseasonably dry. That means no pecan bacon very vanilla vegan pancakes (minus the vegan). That means no happiness. When my waiter comes back I’m ordering maple bourbon eggnog (which has 2/3 cup maple syrup) and also a Vermontucky Lemonade, which only has a 1/2 cup but has “Vermont” in the name and is less fat.


Did you know that nobody, and I really mean nobody, cares about the quince? [Editor’s note: Quince is a bright-yellow fruit, similar in appearance to a pear] Nobody eats it. Nobody thinks about it. [Editor’s note: Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn, and writer of three cookbooks asserts in a post titled “How to Cook Quince,” on The Kitchn website that she’s “cooked quince many times.”] Nobody orders it after eating…anything. It was discovered in Connecticut and people liked it for a minute but now nobody does and so only 200 acres of quince trees are planted and next year it will be 150 and in 10 years it will be zero. So when my waiter comes back I am ordering one more Vermontucky Lemonade because I don’t care about the quince either.