What to eat for Y2K

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Sunday, December 26, 1999

Sunday Dinner: What to eat for Y2K

Debbie Moose examines the meanings of food in our culture.


Now that we're all reasonably certain that planes won't drop out of the sky at midnight on Dec. 31, I'd like to bring up some potentially serious food-related Y2K problems that have been ignored up to now. I bet you thought you'd make it through Y2K just fine with your stash of bottled water, canned tuna and Hershey's Kisses. But consider how the eating habits of those brave propeller-heads -- who have placed their pocket protectors between us, the why-won't-it-print public, and Certain Doom --may affect our fate on New Year's Eve. In my husband's December issue of Computer magazine (motto: "Over One Million Geeks Served"), one Howard Rubin, chairman of the department of computer science at Hunter College and CEO of Rubin Systems Inc., notes that most companies have held dress rehearsals during the day for the flip to the year 2000. In daylight hours, people are rested, refreshed and have just come back from long lunches. They're eating like responsible adults, with the occasional lapse into staff birthday cakes and leftover Halloween candy. But the actual event will occur at night, obviously, and possibly require staffs to work around the clock. Some organizations, Rubin writes, have tried staging more realistic, after-midnight dry runs -- with distressing results:

"People unused to working such hours act like they're at a bad fraternity or sorority party: They stay up all night and start ordering junk food like pizza, burgers, fries, shakes and so on. All that grease and sugar interferes with their alertness and causes mood swings. So, after two or three days, they start getting on each other's nerves, stop role-playing, and the rehearsal falls apart." So, if Rubin is right, the last things we'll hear as our computer processors fry and the world goes dark will be, "Who ordered the large Canadian bacon?" followed by a chorus of "Louie, Louie." Rubin ends with: "Working at these centers will be an endurance event and should be trained for accordingly, with a sound nutrition plan and plenty of exercise." That means consuming some-thing green besides Mountain Dew. But these problems are just the tip of the proverbial Titanic-whacking iceberg. Consider champagne. A benign enough elixir, supposedly compared to stars upon its invention. Champagne has long been the New Year's Eve beverage of choice for those who enjoy wine, but for the last hurrah of this century, everyone wants a bottle of bubbly, even people who usually think that term refers to a tube of Mr. Bubble. Eventually, these neophytes will have to open the champagne. That means placing the beverage equivalent of an elephant gun in the hands of folks who haven't faced a champagne cork since drinking Boone's Farm in college. If people can't cut bagels on Sunday mornings without losing digits, imagine what emergency rooms can expect by 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. This time, your mama's right: You could put an eye out with that. Laugh if you want, but I've seen what champagne corks can do in inexperienced hands. The ceiling of 343 Ehringhaus Dorm at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may still bear the divot from an errant cork released during my sophomore year more than 20 years ago. Fortunately, my roommate and I were able to duck and avoid the dangerous projectile released by the man who would later become my husband. But many won't be so lucky. Remember: Champagne corks don't kill people, people who open champagne only once a century kill people. New reports say that people are planning to stay home in droves Friday night, and that travel promoters can't give away some of the more outlandish New Year's Eve packages. ("Yes, for a mere $1 million you can welcome the new millenium while circling the globe in the Concorde, playing Monopoly for the actual Atlantic City properties with Donald Trump and dining on a meal personally prepared by Julia Child.") So, partying like it's 1999 may end up to mean a sofa cruise and an "Austin Powers" video. And staying home in this great country means only one thing: calling out for pizza. If you think tipsy drivers are bad, wait until the roads are filled with oil-burning pizza rockets piloted by drivers who have inhaled just a wee too much pepperoni. If you want a meal that's fully Y2K compliant, try the feast that Southerners were eating at the turn of the last century: greens, pinto beans and hog jowls (or just pork, if you don't want to get that intimate with the pig). It's hard to say for sure how those foods became the good-luck meal to eat on the first day of the new year, but greens and beans are part of the day's tradition in many cultures, particularly around the Caribbean. The greens mean greenbacks, obviously. Mama used to say the black-eyed peas were for the "silver money": the change. Since I didn't like black-eyed peas, I told her I'd just go for the big bucks, and concentrated on the steamed cabbage or turnip greens. All of the items are available in good old North Carolina and, in most cases, do not explode nor require the Internet for preparation. And take some to the millenium-minded geek you love. Debbie Moose is a former food editor for The News & Observer. Reach her at: djmoose@mindspring.com.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), December 26, 1999


...I expect Crow will be a popular dish eaten here during, and after the date-change. Steamed, fried, boiled, smoked - get ready cause here it comes...

-- major mystery (major@mystery.com), December 26, 1999.

Does this belong on the prep forum?

I'm storing up 20-30# of (strong) french roast coffee...(don't need more since we grow coffee on Kaua'i), along with a couple of cases of twinkies (I think they say something like: "Best if eaten before 1910."). What else does one need?

And, yeah, there's nothing like a couple of back to back 24-hour days of sleep deprivation to bring out the hostility in ANYBODY!

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), December 27, 1999.

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