Sunday, November 16, 2008

The corniest controversy of all

If the reader(s) of this column have come to expect anything, it’s probably regular disappointment. But after that, it’s probably white-hot controversy, stirred up by my special brand of hard-hitting journalism that’s not afraid to shake up the establishment with daring exposes on the cuteness of my puppy.

Last week, though, I’m afraid that even by this column’s semblance of standards, I took things a little too far, and one line in particular drew the attention of that vigilant media watchdog, the Corn Refiners Association. Some people will tell you that, as a pretend journalist, you’re not really doing your job unless you’re occasionally getting under the husk of Big Corn, but I can’t help but feel that there might be a kernel of misunderstanding on the cob of this dispute.

Here’s the statement from last week’s column that perked up the ears of Corn: “This [the allure of Swedish Fish] is either due to the lasting appeal of an age-old recipe, or the fact that high fructose corn syrup can turn your average child into a less-discerning gourmand than your average goat.”

As you might have guessed, the main purpose of that sentence was to show off that I could use the word “gourmand” in context, once I’d looked it up on to make sure it didn’t mean some kind of fancy gourd.

But a short time after the column ran, I got an email from my editor on a non-deadline day, which didn’t seem right. Emails from my editor usually go like this: “Mike, I needed your column three hours ago. Please send me whatever you have.”

To which I’ll respond, “It will be there momentarily. I’m very close to starting it.”

But this time, he was forwarding me a letter from Audrae Erickson, the president of the Corn Refiners Association, who was worried that my column “may mislead consumers about high fructose corn syrup,” which is the last thing in the world I’d ever want to do, besides watching another episode of America’s Next Top Model, no matter how much my wife insists that I’ll like this one.

As a lifelong aficionado of high fructose corn syrup, mostly in Skittle form, it was never my intention to mislead anyone into thinking that the consumption of this delicious (and nutritionally equivalent to sugar!) sweetener could be harmful, or should be moderated, in any way.

Due to my carelessness, casual readers may have arrived at the conclusion that high fructose corn syrup could, in some instances, turn children into goats. To my knowledge, this usually does not occur, though I have seen it turn them into raving lunatics who can’t seem to stop spinning in circles while singing the only two words they know to “La Cucaracha.”

If I have learned anything from this experience, it is to finally heed the advice of the wise folks who told me to stay away from sensitive topics in this column, topics that people may very well never agree upon, like the death penalty, abortion and Swedish Fish. Some people just won’t see the humor in jokes about Swedish Fish, especially people who make a living by not seeing the humor in jokes about Swedish Fish. These people apparently live in Washington, D.C., not Sweden, as you might have expected. They are also probably having dinner with your senator right now.

So I hope you, as a consumer, are now more educated about high fructose corn syrup, and will start demanding it in keg form at every opportunity. For me to believe that high fructose corn syrup is anything other than an enhancer of life’s simple joys, I’d have to be dumber than ethanol subsidies.

In the interest of drumming up more controversy for next week, let me just add that soybeans are kind of gross.

You can lead Mike Todd through the maize at


  1. Very nice, Mike! I like the satire in this week's piece. Very Jon Stewart-esque.

  2. Oh boy, you're gonna get sued so hard this week.

  3. Did you know they were making a cop show starring a potato and an ear of corn?

    It's called Starchy and Husk.

  4. @ jl

  5. Scott -- That's the best compliment I've ever gotten. Thanks, dude. Nice to see you again. Fire up that blog of yours, why dontcha?

    Allover -- Columns don't usually fall in my lap like that. I'll always have a soft spot for the Corn Refiners Association.

    JL -- Ha! Dude, have you been getting into the Laffy Taffy again? No, seriously, I am unfortunately still laughing at that.

  6. What does turn children into goats if it isn't high fructose corn syrup?

  7. @Allover -- thanks! That's one of the most useful websites I've seen!

    @the loon -- didn't you read the column? It's soy beans!

  8. Loon -- Ha! That's an excellent question, and one that I can't come up with a joke to answer. Good thing Sergey came through.

    The Serge -- Duuuuude. You weren't really talking to me, but I thought I'd say duuuuuude anyway. Plus, I wanted to call you The Serge.

  9. Isaac Perlson11/21/2008 2:34 PM

    Perhaps your best column ever. If you could just get this column into Dave Barry's hands, I'm sure he'd love to read it while pinching a loaf. I know I sure did. Gotta go, Dad needs to change my diaper. - IP

  10. Isaac -- Thanks, dude. You're very computer-literate for a three-month-old, by the way. I hope you haven't poked around your daddy's hard drive too much.