Transcript

725: Turkey in a Face Mask

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

Back on one of the early episodes of our radio show, I had my friend Vertamae Grosvenor come on. Verta was this amazing cook. She wrote a cookbook in 1970, Vibration Cooking, that is still in print today. And Verta had this story that she would tell sometimes that, back when her book was published, she was interviewed on the Today show by Barbara Walters, who was on the show back then.

And the way Verta told this story, she's on TV, making fried chicken for Barbara Walters. And at some point, Barbara Walters asked her, how do you tell the chicken's done? And Verta says, you can tell by the sound. And in Verta's telling, Ms. Walters gives her this skeptical look, like, give me a break, and cuts to commercial. Verta said that was always people's reaction.

Vertamae Grosvenor

They say, you're crazy, Verta. That's not it. They said, tell me something real, like, what is it? 15 minutes, 20 minutes, or whatever. And I say, you've got to listen to the sound of the grease. Listen to the music.

Ira Glass

So for years, Vertamae claimed that you can tell if a chicken's done purely by the sound. And to prove the point, she agreed to come onto our radio show to conduct this little radio experiment, where my co-workers and I fried a chicken. and we recorded it at four different stages of frying, and then shuffled the order of the recordings to play for Verta to demonstrate, once and for all, was it true? Can somebody tell if a chicken's cooked without any visual clues, without smell?

OK, and so here is me playing the four recordings for Verta and her trying to pick out which one is the chicken when it's finished.

Ira Glass

Let's roll. And our listeners at home can play along with us here. Let's roll the first little sample sound.

[SIZZLING]

Vertamae Grosvenor

I would say--

Ira Glass

Yeah?

Vertamae Grosvenor

I'd say that's something like the middle.

Ira Glass

OK. But that definitely isn't towards the end, you're saying.

Vertamae Grosvenor

Yeah, it's in the middle going toward the end. It's in the 3/4 part.

Ira Glass

OK, let's hear sound number two, please.

[FASTER SIZZLING]

Vertamae Grosvenor

Number two is toward the end, too.

Ira Glass

OK, number three.

[HARSH SIZZLING]

Vertamae Grosvenor

I think that's the beginning, more toward the beginning.

Ira Glass

That is more toward the beginning. And number four?

[SLOWER SIZZLING]

Vertamae Grosvenor

That's an ender. That's toward the end.

Ira Glass

OK.

When all those little balls are forming on the bottom, those little, nice, crusty--

Ira Glass

Now, Verta, if you would have to hazard a guess as to which one would be the very last one--

Vertamae Grosvenor

I'd still say it's one or two that's toward the end.

Ira Glass

The answer is number two, so Vertamae came reasonably close. But she was not totally certain. Telling if a chicken is done only by sound turned out to be harder than she thought it to be.

Vertamae Grosvenor

Yes, it was hard. You have to see it. Do you know what I mean?

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Vertamae Grosvenor

Oh, it's a serious-- it's a labor-intensive thing. You've got to stay on it. You just can't be talking on the phone and watching TV. You got to stay on that chicken.

Ira Glass

I was asking your daughters today, and they were saying how they can also tell if rice is done by the sound.

Vertamae Grosvenor

Oh, yeah, that's true. Yeah, I taught them that. Those are the kind of family values I taught my children. Listen to the sound of the chicken.

[LAUGHTER]

You know? Listen to the sound of the rice.

Ira Glass

Vertamae died four years ago. And so I have to say, it got to me a little, listening to this next part of the interview where she talks about her daughters, and how happy it made her to hear what they said about her.

Vertamae Grosvenor

You talked to both of them?

Ira Glass

I talked to both of them.

Vertamae Grosvenor

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

They were both really funny. One of them said, "Everything that she cooks is golden brown and perfect, perfect, perfect."

Vertamae Grosvenor

Who said that?

Ira Glass

I believe it was Chandra.

Vertamae Grosvenor

Really?

Ira Glass

But she said, "But just because we're her daughters, that doesn't mean that she tells us the real recipes. We ask her for the recipes and she tells us recipes. But then when we cook them, they're not the same, and we know that she's holding back on ingredients."

Vertamae Grosvenor

Well, that's not quite true. But you know--

[LAUGHTER]

Well, now, I just tell them. But then they have to find out the rest for themselves.

Ira Glass

There you go.

Vertamae Grosvenor

You see what I'm saying?

Ira Glass

As with so many things in parenting.

Vertamae Grosvenor

I say, I put a little ginger in. Now, I'm not going-- then they have to figure out how much a little ginger is.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Vertamae Grosvenor

That's what they have to do.

Ira Glass

Food, of course, really is everything. It's family, and it's culture, and it's tradition. It's improvisation and it's art. And today on our show, for Thanksgiving weekend, we put together a show made of stories we've done over the years about food. In every one of these stories, somebody heads out on a quest, either to figure something out or to do something very differently with food than most of us do. From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One: Dead Ringer

Ira Glass

Act One, "Dead Ringer." So a few years back, one of our producers, Ben Calhoun, set out on a mission much more eccentric and labor-intensive than figuring out if a chicken is done by listening to the sound. Here he is.

Ben Calhoun

I first heard about this whole thing in an email. It came from a listener, a woman named Emily Rancer. She works in the food industry. And the letter Emily wrote was about a story she'd heard from a farmer. The farmer who told her this is apparently a person of some standing in the pork industry. And admittedly, I don't know the first thing about the pork industry. But he's in charge of a pork-producing operation that spans several states.

The story he told Emily went something like this. A while ago, he was visiting a pork processing plant in Oklahoma. He's walking through it with a friend, a guy who managed the plant, actually. And at some point, he saw boxes stacked on the floor labeled, artificial calamari. He stood there, wondering for a second. And then he asked his friend, what's artificial calamari? Bung, his friend replied. It's hog rectum, rectum that would be sliced into rings, deep fried, and boom, there you have it.

OK, if I can, let me just narrate for you what this would mean. It would mean that in restaurants everywhere, right this second, people are squeezing lemon wedges over crispy, golden rings and dipping the rings into marinara sauce, and they're eating hog rectum. Now they're chewing, satisfied and deeply clueless. It's payback. It's payback for our blissful ignorance about where our food comes from and how it gets to us. It's amazing, and it's perfect.

But it also seems like it couldn't possibly be true. So I called up the farmer to talk to him personally, I wanted to hear it firsthand. And the farmer confirmed the story, the entire thing-- the boxes, the bung. But when I asked him to go on the record, to tape an interview and give his name here on the radio, he very politely declined, which seems suspicious, right? When I asked him why, he said he'd spoken with his girlfriend about it, and she suggested that he should think about the words that he wanted to come up when somebody googled his name.

This was all fine, though, because he referred me to the real expert, the guy who gave him the tour of the hog processing plant. And that guy, he agreed to talk.

[PHONE RINGS]

Ron Meek

Hello?

Ben Calhoun

Hi. Is this Ron?

Ron Meek

Yeah.

Ben Calhoun

Yeah, this is Ron Meek, meat processing plant manager, presently residing in Mountain View, Missouri, where he runs an organic beef processing plant there called Beyond Organic. If the story really were true, Ron would have been the guy who explained to the farmer what was in those boxes.

Ron Meek

The boxes are 10-pound boxes. And they were all-- they cut off so much, like, maybe a 10 or 12-inch piece of the bung. And you know what it looks like? This looks like-- after they're cleaned, and washed, and everything, they just look like a bunch of big noodles in a box is all it looks like.

Ben Calhoun

But specifically, the labels that said "imitation calamari," where did you personally see the imitation calamari labels?

Ron Meek

Oh, I've never seen a label say that. That's all I was told by the people that told me that. The people I worked for, they told me that.

Ben Calhoun

Oh, the people that you worked for told you that it was used for imitation calamari?

Ron Meek

Right.

Ben Calhoun

And is there any possibility that you think that when they were explaining this to you that they were kind of having you on a little bit?

Ron Meek

Having me on?

Ben Calhoun

Yeah, like--

Ron Meek

Bull-[BLEEP] me?

Ben Calhoun

[LAUGHS] Yeah.

Ron Meek

Well, I wouldn't think that. But you know, it could be 5%. It could have been that, you know? But I seriously doubt it.

Ben Calhoun

OK, just to give a little better picture, a pork bung-- and bung is the actual industry term for it-- is long, and floppy, and ugly. At one end, it widens out into this more bulbous shape, like a pink, wrinkly pear. That's the rectum. At the other end, it narrows into a soft, pinkish-white tube. I know. It sounds gross.

But also, consider we are a nation that eats more than a billion pounds of sausage every year-- billion, with a B. Maybe you like liverwurst, or capicola, or summer sausage with a natural casing. Then you, like me, have eaten bung-- stuffed, dried bung. A lot of brats and Italian sausages are stuffed in intestine. So if you eat those regularly, you pretty much live up the street from bung.

So why does the idea of a fried ring of bung just feel grosser? Well, partly, it's the visual, right? When you see that little ring of calamari, you don't want to picture it in the context of a pig's behind. Then there are all the people who don't eat pork, period. Ron said there's also another reason.

Ron Meek

Just because of the word bung, probably. People don't just want to jump up and say, man, I'm going to eat me some bung tonight. That's just the way it is.

Ben Calhoun

But the big question, the question you've been thinking about since we got on this topic, have you or I eaten imitation calamari, bung dressed up as seafood? Well, Ron didn't know. He said his plant exported a lot of their bung to Asia. But he just didn't know much about whatever happened after it left the door, so he could only speculate. Anything, he said, would be a wild guess.

So I turned to people who would know. Is pork bung being falsely peddled as calamari? I called the USDA. The USDA's food inspection service issued the following statement to me. "Products we inspect, including those derived from pork, must be accurately labeled and cannot purport to be a product of another species."

So it's against the rules, but people break the rules. A recent study of seafood by a group called Oceana used DNA testing and found that all across the country, fish is regularly being labeled as other species in restaurants and in grocery stores-- escolar sold as white tuna, Pacific rockfish being fraudulently sold as snapper.

In Miami, more than 30% of fish was being sold as something it wasn't. In New York, the number was 39%. Boston, 48%. Los Angeles-- are you ready? 55%. 55%. That means if you order fish in LA, you are most likely eating a species you did not order.

In other words, seafood substitution is rampant in this country. And depending on where you live, from what I can tell, you can get cleaned hog bung for about half the price of clean squid. So there would be money in it, if you could pull off the switch. And as best as I can tell, were you to do this, you would not be caught.

A lawyer who's familiar with this area of law and regulation told me, once bung leaves the plant, there is a variety of agencies and entities that would be in play-- USDA, FDA, state and local government. But ultimately, he said, the regulation we have is not designed to catch an offense like this. It's aimed mostly at sanitation and food safety. So bottom line, the lawyer said, if somebody wanted to do it, chances are they'd get away with it.

So is someone out there doing this? Well, for weeks, I looked for an answer. The USDA says they've never heard of anyone trying to pass pork bung as squid or any other species.

[PHONE RINGS]

I contacted the National Restaurant Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Pork Board--

Receptionist 1

Hello?

Ben Calhoun

--a squid fishermen's association--

Receptionist 2

Good afternoon, National Pork Board.

Ben Calhoun

--Sysco and other big food and restaurant supply companies.

Diane Pleschner-steele

It's hog what?

Ben Calhoun

Bung. Hog rectum.

Diane Pleschner-steele

Oh my gosh.

Ben Calhoun

That's the executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. But the answer was pretty much always the same, nobody had heard of it. But almost to a person, they added that that doesn't mean it's not happening somewhere.

Ron Meeks said a lot of the bung from his plant got exported. So my next call was to the US Meat Export Federation, which confirmed that, quote, "The main destinations for pork bungs are China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines. They are mainly used for processing, but we are aware of some uses in soups and certain entrees. We are not aware of them being used as a substitute for calamari, but it's not impossible," unquote.

So over the past few weeks, I've called Asian food suppliers, people who live in, work in, and eat in those countries. I talked to a woman named Corinne Trang, who's written an overarching compendium of Asian cuisines. I've talked to academics at NYU, and Haverford, and USC, and Harvard. I've reached out to chefs who know Asian food. The answer, again, always similar-- never heard of it, but it's possible, partly because bung doesn't have such a complicated reputation in Asia where it has to be some kind of secret ingredient, like it does here.

On the other hand, though, people pointed out that in Korea and Japan, you can't get more than a few hours from the ocean. Squid is cheap and it's readily available. You'd only eat a substitute if you wanted the substitute. Generally, people said, if the switch was happening somewhere, they guessed China.

Eventually, I found my way to this guy who I was really excited about, someone who I thought might have my answer. He was-- get this-- an anthropologist who lived and worked in China for 40 years where he studied food, and specifically, meat. When I talked to him, though, he made two points.

Point one, my question about this happening in Asia was racist. Even just asking the question was racist because it plays on ignorant stereotypes about other cultures eating things that we perceive as weird.

Point two was that Ron Meek, my guy from the pig plant, Ron was pulling my leg. And he was getting away with it because I was a dumbass. He told me more than once that I should, quote, "find something worthwhile to do with myself." When we ended our conversation, he told me that he was refusing to even dignify what I was doing by appearing on the radio or by letting me use his name.

OK, so to respond to his points one by one, first, am I racist against Asians? Well, I'm half-Chinese. My mom's Chinese. Like anyone, I've had the occasional issue with my mother, but this has not been one of them. We grew up eating chicken feet and fish eyes, and I think it's possible to raise the question of who eats what without being racist.

His second point, though, that Ron Meek was pulling my leg-- the guy was still an expert on meat in China. So I called Ron back.

Ron Meek

All right, shoot me some questions, dude.

Ben Calhoun

I told him the whole thing, about the anthropologist, about what he said.

Ben Calhoun

I guess, the only thing I want to ask you is are you messing with me?

Ron Meek

No. That was what my boss told me. I was like, what the hell do we save these hog bungs for? He says, they use them for imitation squid and stuff like that.

Ben Calhoun

But so in your heart of hearts, you believe it.

Ron Meek

Yeah, man. I ain't going to set here and tell you things that are bull-[BLEEP] and play with you when I'm just going off of my knowledge of saving hog bungs. You got to think about how far advanced slaughterhouses are, especially big ones, that want to make every penny count.

Like the one I worked at, you bring the pigs in. You stun them, then you stick them. And the blood goes off into a trough. And it goes down, and it's vacuum sucked out of there with a vacuum into centrifuges. And they separate the blood from the blood plasma.

Ben Calhoun

Mhm.

Ron Meek

And they save that. They save the lungs. They save the pancreas. They save the spleens. They save the hearts. The only thing left, by the time it's all said and done, is a skull and jaw bones. You can be an anthropologist all you want. If you don't work in a processing plant, you don't know [BLEEP].

Ben Calhoun

I contacted the plant Ron worked at where this happened. And for what it's worth, they backed him up. They said their sales team had heard of people eating pork bung as imitation calamari, though they hadn't witnessed it firsthand or heard it directly from a customer. It was all hearsay.

So at the end of all this, I still had no proof that anyone was passing off bung as squid. Then I realized, I hadn't asked the more basic question here. Could bung do it? Could it pass as calamari?

And that question led me to a guy named Eddie Lin. Eddie Lin has eaten a lot of bung. At least a hundred times, he said, probably more. Eddie has an extreme food blog called Deep End Dining and an online TV show called Kamikaze Kitchen.

Eddie Lin

I could definitely see a resemblance texturewise.

Ben Calhoun

Oh, really?

Eddie Lin

Yeah, yeah, definitely. They're sort of a rubbery texture, sort of like a calamari.

Ben Calhoun

Huh.

Eddie Lin

But you would really have to get rid of that, needless to say, foul flavor and odor from the bung.

Ben Calhoun

Somehow, I hadn't figured that the bung, once it was scrubbed, and rinsed, and cleaned with steam, that it would still taste like-- you know.

Eddie Lin

So yeah, you would definitely have to do some major, major blanching [LAUGHS] or brining. I meant brining, yeah.

Ben Calhoun

Mhm. Just to try to leach those flavors out of there.

Eddie Lin

Yeah, those flavors have been marinating in that pig for quite a while, so--

Ben Calhoun

A lifetime.

Eddie Lin

Yeah. [LAUGHS]

Ben Calhoun

He thought it wouldn't be easy, but he thought it could be done. And there was only one way to tell if he was right, to cook up some bung and eat it. And if the taste was overwhelming and the texture was all wrong, well, then I'd have my answer. And at this point-- I'll be frank-- I started to root for the bung.

I realized that this is not a story about fraud. It's not a bait-and-switch story. It's a story about possibility. It's classic rags-to-riches. It's about whether a cut of meat, perhaps the lowliest, most malignable cut of meat in America, might somehow, in at least one place on the planet, be dipped in the redemptive oils of the great culinary equalizer that is the deep fryer.

And it might emerge transformed, no longer an outcast, but instead, hair combed, clean shaven, in a suit and tie, it might walk reborn onto a table. Through shear force of resemblance, it might be loved. Its history, years of drudgery and hardship, doing the body's least glamorous job all washed away.

No, this is not the story of a conman like Bernie Madoff. It's Pretty Woman. This is whether Goodwill Hunting finds his way out of Southie. It's whether Charlie, on that very last chocolate bar, really can get a golden ticket.

To do all this, to try it, I called my little sister, Lauren. She's a chef, trained abroad at the Cordon Bleu. Worked at Michelin star restaurants. She's that kind of chef. Soon, we were standing in front of a deli case. And I don't know why I feel hesitant about saying this, because I don't think it's racist. It was in Chinatown.

Lauren

Pork bung, there it is. Look at it. It looks like the sphincter.

Ben Calhoun

Wait. What do you mean it looks like a--

Lauren

This one up here that's cut up, it looks like a butt hole. [LAUGHS]

Ben Calhoun

It does.

And Lauren had theories about pulling it off-- brining, soaking, maybe braising. But once we got to the store, once she'd seen the meat up close, her doubts got worse.

Lauren

I think after looking at it, I don't think that-- I don't think it's going to--

Ben Calhoun

You don't think it's going to work.

Lauren

No. It's too thick. There's too much-- there's too much, like, muscle tissue. It's too thick. You'd have to use a ring cutter to make it the right thickness.

Ben Calhoun

What do you think those bits are in there?

Lauren

Oh, you know, poo.

Ben Calhoun

My sister said Eddie Lin was definitely right. The giveaway would be the stubborn flavor of poo. That flavor, she said, it's tough to get rid of. The Earth revolves around the Sun, and bung will always taste like [BLEEP].

But there was no backing out now. We would eat. We would eat our way to the truth. And so what if it didn't look good? So what if bung was destined to taste like bung? You know who it didn't look good for, and he still put up a fight? Rocky Balboa, that's who. This was it, the bung versus calamari, squid versus tail, the rumble in the bung hole.

We set up the tasting at a restaurant, in the lull between lunch and dinner. In the dining room, there was just a few tables eating. And all around the restaurant, the morning shift was wrapping up as we walked in with a red cooler filled with squid and hog bung.

So originally, I'd recruited some half a dozen people from our office at This American Life as tasters. The final group the day of the tasting included, from the office, Seth Lind and Brian Reed.

Ben Calhoun

So when's the last time that you guys had calamari?

Seth Lind

I had calamari probably like a month ago.

Ben Calhoun

And what about you, Brian?

Brian Reed

I haven't had it since we got this tip about the possible--

Ben Calhoun

Oh, my gosh. Have you been avoiding?

Brian Reed

Yeah, no, totally. And to be honest, I ate calamari pretty-- I'm a regular eater of calamari. Not like all the time. But it's something I'll routinely order if it's on an appetizer menu. Yeah.

I grew up in an Italian-American family, where my grandparents were also born here. I feel like calamari is just big among that sector of people, at Olive Garden and stuff like that. So I just grew up eating it, you know?

Ben Calhoun

I hadn't realized this. For weeks, Brian had been avoiding calamari. He'd been living in fear.

Ben Calhoun

Brian, if you find out that they're indiscernible from each other, will you ever eat calamari again?

Brian Reed

No, I don't think so. That's why I want to do this, just to know going forward.

Ben Calhoun

Back in the kitchen, things were looking bad. I'd given up on the idea that bung would taste the same as calamari. Now I'd hung my hopes on the idea that, at least visually, it would look the same. But as my sister dropped the floured rings of hog bung into the fryer, they had turned into this kind of big, ugly, tangled wad-- nothing like the jiggly squid rings.

Ben Calhoun

Oh, they're very scraggly-looking.

But then, as if by a miracle, they changed. My sister gave a shake to the fry basket. And as they sizzled, the bung just seemed to gracefully snap into rings.

Ben Calhoun

Oh, look at that, though. It's like magic. They're turning into circles.

Lauren

Yeah. So I'm going to pull these first ones.

Ben Calhoun

Soon, we were face to face with the plate. On it, there were two piles of rings, similar in size, similar in shape. The bung had more of a frizzly edge to it, kind of like a fancy onion ring. The calamari was smoother. I asked Seth and Brian to just give a first impression.

Brian Reed

I have a guess. But I could-- it's one the things where you're pretty sure, but you could totally be wrong.

Seth Lind

God, I thought I would be more sure. I don't-- I'm waffling now.

Ben Calhoun

It's kind of just, I don't know.

Brian Reed

My gut reaction-- my gut reaction is that this was calamari, and this was not.

Seth Lind

OK, before you eat it, see, I totally thought this was calamari, the other one.

Brian Reed

OK.

Seth Lind

So I'm going to do it at the same time.

Brian Reed

All right.

Ben Calhoun

OK, so just to be clear what's going on here, Seth has chosen one pile of rings, which he thinks is calamari. Brian has done the same thing, only Brian is choosing the other stack of fried rings.

Brian Reed

OK, so we're about to bite into these simultaneously, which we both think this is calamari.

Seth Lind

But they're the opposite ones.

Brian Reed

But they're the opposite ones. OK.

[CRUNCHING]

Ben Calhoun

So in actuality, Seth is right. Seth is eating calamari. The chewing you hear from Brian's mic, that is the sound of a calamari lover eating fried pig rectum.

I should also add, there were actually two varieties of bung on the plate that day. One bung that my sister had blanched over and over to mellow any organy fecal flavor, and then untreated, straight-up bung, unfiltered, unchained, uncut, 100% pure bung. That one, the latter one, bung at its purest, at the height of its bunginess, this is what Brian was eating. As they ate, Seth still looked confident.

Seth Lind

I think that was-- I think I was right.

Brian Reed

I think I was right.

Ben Calhoun

Really?

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS] Yeah. I totally think I was right.

Ben Calhoun

Game, set, match, bung. And it wasn't just Brian. I thought so. Damian, who manages the restaurant, he also thought it was passable. A few of us picked up a faint flavor of pork rind. But if you weren't really looking for it, you wouldn't notice it was there.

One of the restaurant staff, a guy named Ethan Van Buren, had the simplest, clearest explanation.

Ethan Van Buren

I think that when you slice something up really thin and deep fry it, it's going to taste like something that's been deep fried.

Ben Calhoun

If a plateful of the bung came out, how many people do you think would even-- do you think you'd notice if you were in that setting?

Ethan Van Buren

I'd say top scenario is somebody says, this calamari tastes funny, and keeps eating it.

Ben Calhoun

And as for Brian-- oh, Brian-- Brian was reeling a bit, trying to figure out just what this was going to mean for him.

Brian Reed

I'm sure I've been fooled in the past. I'm just, like, sure of it.

Ben Calhoun

Oh, you're thinking that you've been places in the past, and you've had bung?

Brian Reed

I just imagine seeing a plate with this food that looks like this on it, sitting with my family growing up. We definitely have eaten something that tasted like this and just thought it was calamari, for sure.

Ben Calhoun

Not only wasn't he sure if he'd ever eat calamari again, he didn't want to eat the calamari on the plate in front of him, calamari I guaranteed him was real.

Just to repeat one last time, I have no proof that anyone, anywhere has ever tried to pass off pork bung as calamari in a restaurant. All I know is if you wanted to do it, it would be easy. And I'm choosing to believe that it's happening somewhere, because at some point in working on this story, I stopped identifying with Brian and anyone who might feel ripped off or grossed out by getting imitation instead of the real thing. Now, I identify with the bung.

And I'd like to think that somewhere out there, right now, under a heat lamp, a platter is sitting. It's warm, and it's full of promise, and transformation, and redemption. That's the world that I'll choose to live in, for me, for you, for the bung, for the bung in all of us.

Ira Glass

Ben Calhoun is one of the producers of our program. Ladies and gentlemen, before you swear off calamari forever, please, please notice that Ben is only saying that it is possible that this is happening, that he did not find actual documented proof that pig bung is being substituted for calamari, abroad or especially here in the United States.

Coming up, cooking chicken for dinner right in front of the chicken who is your pet, who you live with, who watches you do it. That's in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two: Still Life With Chicken

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, turkey and a face mask. For the holiday season, this unusual COVID Thanksgiving, when so many things about the holiday are different, we put together a show with stories about food that we have done over the years. We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, "Still Life with Chicken."

So Jonathan Gold was a kind of legendary food writer, invented this way of writing about restaurants that treated hole-in-the-wall places and street food with the same seriousness that other restaurant critics had always written about fancy places. This led to a whole genre of food writing and TV shows, like Anthony Bourdain.

And before he died in 2018, Jonathan was on our show a couple times. And this interview that I want to play you now, it was one of those conversations that just-- it ended in a very different place than it began, as you'll hear. It ended with him talking about-- I don't even know how exactly what to call it-- but the nature of eating. But it began with Jonathan explaining to me how he ended up living with a chicken. He explained that that happened by accident. When he was in his 20s, he was not living the kind of life one usually associates with chickens.

Jonathan Gold

This was during the period when I considered myself to be a performance artist of sort-- a naked performance artist, to be specific.

Ira Glass

He was putting together a performance. He had a PA system, which could put out the requisite amount of annoying feedback sound at high decibels. He had the two full bottles of Glade American Beauty air freshener, which he would spray in their entirety in the performance space. And he had a live chicken, which he bought the day before the performance from one of those Chinese poultry markets in Los Angeles.

And comes the day of the show, an audience gathers in a darkened warehouse in West LA.

Jonathan Gold

I don't know if you've been to a lot of performance art, but this was sort of really typical of the stuff that was going on in the period. And I showed up. And I was naked. And I was carrying a machete. And I was blindfolded.

And I stood in the middle of this pile of supermarket chickens, like the broilers that you buy. And the chicken that I had bought was tethered to a 3-foot rope around me. And I hacked up and down blindly with a machete.

Ira Glass

Toward the chicken, or just in general?

Well, I was blindfolded, so I didn't know if it was towards the chicken or not.

And I had fully intended that, in fact, I would kill the chicken in the midst of the performance. But chickens aren't that stupid. And this chicken wanted no part of the machete. It stayed at the end of its rope the entire time, apparently. And after 10 minutes, when I was completely exhausted, I fell to a heap. And everybody laughed, and the performance was over.

I don't know if you've stuck around after an art performance. But the few minutes after an art performance are some of the most depressing in the world.

Ira Glass

How so?

Jonathan Gold

You've done your wad. You've done your sort of bid for art, which has either worked, or it hasn't. But you're sitting there. You're covered with chicken eflluvia, in my case. It stinks to high hell. Everybody's gone. And you've got to clean up. And you're naked.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Jonathan Gold

It's really not a pretty picture.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

So Jonathan cleaned up. And when he was done, he had a chicken. And he didn't feel like he could kill the chicken. Destiny had brought them together. He felt like he could not turn his back. He says it was the same as if a kitten shows up on your back door, scratching, and lonely, needy. So he took the chicken home.

And in doing that, he stumbled across that thin, thin line that separates food items on the one hand from pets on the other, that divides the animals we eat from the animals we love.

Jonathan Gold

So I get home, and I have this chicken. And I don't know what to do with it. So I spread out some newspaper on the top of my refrigerator, and I put the chicken up there. I get a can of Green Giant-brand niblets from under the counter, and I open it. And I put it in a little bowl for the chicken. And I give the chicken a little water. And the chicken's on top of my refrigerator.

Ira Glass

Because you think chickens eat corn-- you had read that or something-- and that was the available corn.

Jonathan Gold

That was the available corn. I wish I had thought better of the niblets idea.

Ira Glass

Why?

Jonathan Gold

Because, in fact, if you're buying three or four cans of niblets a day, which is what the chicken ate, and you're existing on almost nothing, which I was, then your niblet bill turns out to be like some two-figure percentage of your total income each week.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Jonathan Gold

If you imagine living on $50 a week, but $10 of it goes for niblets.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Jonathan Gold

It's just hard to justify an expense like that.

Though, at the remove 15 years, I think I can probably safely admit to you now that one of the reasons that I stuck with niblets is because I like saying the word niblet so much.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Jonathan Gold

And this gave me the excuse to use the words, like niblet, in general conversation several times a day.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Jonathan Gold

Usually, it just doesn't come up.

And the chicken stayed there on top of my refrigerator for a long time-- months. Six months, I think.

Ira Glass

Is this like a one-room apartment?

Jonathan Gold

A two-room apartment. I had a kitchen and a bedroom. So I didn't have to look at the chicken when I was sleeping, though I did have to look at it when I was cooking.

Ira Glass

Did you ever cook chicken?

Jonathan Gold

Of course, I cooked chicken.

Ira Glass

Didn't you feel intensely disloyal?

Jonathan Gold

No, I felt no particular loyalty to this chicken. I don't know if you've ever had chickens, but it's not like-- you don't pet chickens. Chickens don't really like you to pet them, and you don't hold them. There's really no love that you feel for a chicken in your life, I don't think.

Ira Glass

But yet, you kept the chicken.

Jonathan Gold

I kept the chicken because I couldn't bear to do anything else. And it's not like I could have carried it out onto Pico Boulevard and said, be free, little chicken. Be free.

Ira Glass

Did you give the chicken a name?

Jonathan Gold

I never named the chicken. When I referred to the chicken in public, I always called it "the hen."

Ira Glass

How did you not name it? It was a creature in your house.

Jonathan Gold

The chicken always seemed temporary. It never occurred to me that I might have the chicken as long as six months. The chicken always seemed like something that I would have for just a couple days.

Ira Glass

And then what did you think was going to happen?

Jonathan Gold

I guess I thought-- A, I thought about the chicken expiring. B, I have to admit that there was a possibility that someday, I would actually cook the chicken. I went through a lot of chicken recipes, hundreds and hundreds of chicken recipes. But--

Ira Glass

Thinking, maybe this will be the recipe for my niblet-fed chicken?

Jonathan Gold

Exactly.

Ira Glass

Possibly-- I have to say it-- the most delicious chicken that you could ever eat because of those niblets.

Jonathan Gold

You can't buy niblet-fed chicken, for love or money, I don't think.

I'm not sure that a recipe existed that would have lived up to the fact of the chicken, this animal who you have come to know on fairly intimate terms, and who you have raised, and who you have put a certain amount of emotion into.

Ira Glass

A chicken, if I might say, who has seen you naked.

Jonathan Gold

The chicken did see me naked, dammit.

Ira Glass

The fact is, we need food to be just food. And as soon as it becomes a living thing, especially if we're city people-- we're not used to the conversion of living things into our food-- it's hard to handle without thinking it has to be bigger than food, without wanting to make it ritualized or something bigger than food.

Jonathan Gold

Exactly. Could I tell you a short-- a small story?

Ira Glass

Yeah, of course.

Jonathan Gold

A few weeks ago, I was in this Korean restaurant in Koreatown in Los Angeles. It was this place called The Living Fish Center that I'd always wanted to go, because the name of it was so splendid, Living Fish Center. I imagined some sort of vast vivarium where Flipper was jumping through hoops and stuff.

And I go in there. And of course, it's just like a crummy Korean restaurant. It's not that clean. And I don't know-- there are tanks and stuff, but I didn't know what to order. So I order a fish soup, because it looks like they have a small fish soup specialty on the menu. And it comes, and it's just really strong-smelling, not that great. And I try squid fried with bean sauce and onions, which wasn't that happening.

And I'm about to give up, and pay the check, and go home with a vast table filled with uneaten stuff. And it suddenly occurs to me what the specialty of the restaurant is. And I wave the waitress over, and I tell her that I'd like a prawn. And she is puzzled. She didn't expect me to ask for a prawn. But I repeat my request, and she shrugs, and goes, and tells the sushi chef.

And he goes to one side of the restaurant. He climbs on this chair, this ordinary folding chair, and he reaches into this long tank that's running just below the ceiling. And he wiggles his fingers in the water. When he wiggles the fingers, the prawns just become enraged and they start nipping at his fingers, and they start attacking him. And he picks out a couple of the liveliest ones and brings them back to his counter, and-- without washing his hands, mind you-- just makes a few motions over it. And a couple seconds later, the waitress comes over with the prawns on this huge mound of ice.

Now, what he'd done is he'd taken off the exoskeleton. He'd essentially-- the head was intact. And that little part of the tail that is always on prawns is still there. But the middle part is naked, like a grub. And I picked up the prawn with my chopsticks. And it was not dead, this prawn. It was extremely alive. And it was wiggling its legs, and it was wiggling its antennas. And its eyes were swiveling madly on its eye stalks. And it was looking back at me, seeing me as actually the predator, the creature that was going to eat it.

And that was a really freakish moment, because as much stuff as I eat, and as low as I eat on the food chain, and as many prawns as I have dispatched in my life, I have never before killed a living being with my teeth. And the prawn knew what I was going to do, and he did not like it.

And I wasn't quite sure what to do. But if I put it down, the prawn would have died anyway. It's not going to live without its shell, and somebody else would have eaten it, blah, blah, blah. So I bit into it. I bit its body off with my teeth. And the prawn just relaxed in this way that was really eerie.

And the taste of the prawn, the taste of the meat of it was extraordinary. It was sweet. It was like there was life coursing through it. It was the most alive thing I've ever eaten, obviously literally. But again, it was freaky. It was getting too close to the actual nature of consumption, which is killing a living creature with your teeth.

Ira Glass

When you bit into the prawn, did you actually bite off its head, its living head, and have its head and its eyes in your mouth?

Jonathan Gold

No, I bit off its body, and I held the head in my hands.

Ira Glass

So you held the head in one hand and the tail in the other, and you bit the center?

Jonathan Gold

Right. And I thought that I'd killed it. But in fact, when I put it down, it still had so much life in it that it grabbed a piece of salmon sashimi and wouldn't let go of it. And I don't think I ever want to do that again.

Ira Glass

Did you feel like there was something about the experience that made it more-- this word is a little cornier than I intend, but it's the only word that I can think of-- that made it more sacred, that took it out of the mundaneness of the way that we eat, which, for most of us, is eating without actually tasting, and experiencing, and thinking about what we're eating, and what on the Earth it is that we're killing to survive?

Do you think in some way that it's more acceptable to eat an animal if you are more awake to the fact that it is an animal and what's happened to it? Or do you think it really doesn't matter?

Jonathan Gold

I think it matters a great deal. One of the greatest metaphors in Western civilization is that of Christ, who gave his life so that others might live. And I don't want to be sacrilegious, and I don't want to belittle that myth in any way.

But a pig is giving its life so that we might eat. A chicken is giving its life so that we might eat. And I think the least that we can do is to think about that chicken, to think about that calf that we're eating. Not necessarily to be sad for it, but to celebrate it, to be aware of the being that it was, that it wasn't just this bit of bioengineered protein that somehow managed to find its way onto our plates.

Ira Glass

Jonathan Gold. If you're curious about his writing, there's collection of his columns called Counter Intelligence.

Act Three: Lunchtime With The King Of Ketchup

Ira Glass

Act Three, "Lunchtime with the King of Ketchup." So we end our show today with the story of a man who has a very simple mission in life, to give a little special treatment to a group of people whose contribution to society is often overlooked, the men and women of the food service industry, who, when they meet this guy, tend to give him a little special treatment in return.

This story, as you'll be able to tell when you hear it, was first broadcast long before the pandemic. Jonathan Goldstein-- whose name I know is very similar to the guy in Act Two, but that means nothing-- tells the tale.

Jonathan Goldstein

Howard Chackowicz and I have been friends since we're kids. And so I can say with great authority that almost every day for the past 10 years, Howard Chackowicz has either dined out or ordered in at least one of his meals.

Sometimes, when Howard isn't sure what he's in the mood for, he'll lift an empty hand up to his mouth and pretend that he's eating. He stares straight ahead, trying to figure out if he likes the taste of the imaginary food he's shoving into his mouth. Sometimes, his hand is holding a hamburger. Sometimes, a fork wrapped in spaghetti. And other times, he is double-fisting either end of an invisible pork rib.

Howard's always loved restaurants. He was raised in a Jewish Eastern-European household, where the very idea of a restaurant was a ridiculous piece of decadence, something for Cossacks and cocaine addicts who enjoyed flushing their money down the toilet. Restaurants had a transgressive allure. And as soon as Howard was old enough, he started sneaking away to them after school or sometimes on weekends while the whole family was still asleep.

In fact, Howard was the very first person I've ever dined out with alone, without any family. We were 12 years old, and we ate at Atomics Pizzeria, a place just down the street from us. It was owned by a crotchety old Greek man named Costa, who served ridiculously large portions of food.

We'd get a plate of fries the size of a dead Shetland pony. But right alongside of it, Costa would place one measly packet of ketchup. When we asked for more, he looked at us like we had just asked for more blood from his mother's still beating heart. Whereas I learned to ration, eating 400 to 500 French fries with a bottle-cap-sized dollop, Howard learned how to talk to Costa, how to win him over, how to make him see that giving us more ketchup was just the right thing to do.

Along the way, Howard learned how to say in Greek, thank you, kind sir, bless you for the ketchup, as well as the excellent [SPEAKING GREEK] ketchup sauce-- here's many years to your ketchup.

Ever since way back then, Howard has had a very special rapport with the men and women of the food service industry. And he has worked very hard over the years to cultivate this relationship.

Howard Chackowicz

This is my neighborhood here. I've been to every single restaurant in this neighborhood several times, so I feel like I can call in on every restaurant.

Jonathan Goldstein

A couple of weeks ago, Howard took me on a walking tour of the best places to eat in his neighborhood. I've walked into bakeries with Howard where the young girls and old men alike who work there have dropped their doughnut tongs to cry out with joy, Howard! I've watched him get moved to the front of the line outside restaurants in Chinatown.

When he's relating to a waiter or a deliveryman, all that Howard sees is one person giving another person food. He talks to them as though they are friends-- brothers, even. His servers are able to sense his purity of vision, and they bestow on him, in every exchange, some little bit of special treatment.

Howard Chackowicz

Well, let me just show you a ghost here. On the corner there is a place called-- I'm not sure what that is. That used to be called Le Defi, which is The Challenge. And that was a really great place. And then they closed and they moved right across the street. And they had $1.99 spaghetti meal. I would go there every day, and I brought a lot of friends. But I got so-- it got to the point where, when I came in, I was actually able to serve myself.

That's how close we got. We'd go in. They'd greet me, and they wouldn't even get up. I would go, and I would pour myself coffee. And I would actually serve other people coffee. I would say, more coffee, sir? At first, it was a novelty. But then they got very used to it and they actually liked it. The other funny thing is, too, one time, they actually made me-- let me make toast and stuff there, so make some of my food. That's actually a true story.

Jonathan Goldstein

In fact, Howard is such a beloved figure in the neighborhood that whenever our friend, Tucker, goes into get takeout from Sarah's, a local Middle Eastern restaurant, he'll tell whoever is serving him that, in fact, the food was not for him, but that he was picking it up for Howard. This earned him portions that were almost twice as large as what he'd normally get. Howard, he is the best man, his server would say, as he piled food onto his plate. You are so lucky to have a friend like Howard. Indeed, he was.

But the funny thing is is that Howard is so doted upon when he eats in restaurants that sometimes, it makes it difficult for him to just sit back and enjoy his meal. He feels he has to balance things out, and so he dotes right back. Because of that, it could be hard to carry on a conversation with him. His eyes will nervously scan the restaurant for any way he could be of help to the waiting staff. Howard's ears can detect the muted clink of cutlery falling to the carpet from clear across the room. And when he does, he'll do a kind of concerned gym-coach trot over to the mishandled piece of silverware and pluck it up off the floor.

So as much as Howard loves restaurants, when he really wants to relax, he'll get home delivery. And since it was nearing lunchtime, rather than step into one of the many restaurants we were passing, Howard ushered us back in the direction of his house to dial out for our grub. At his place, he pulled open his top kitchen drawer, and I saw the many choices that lay before us.

Jonathan Goldstein

There's about 400 menus in that drawer.

Howard Chackowicz

I wouldn't say it's 400. I'd love to count it.

Jonathan Goldstein

Just give me an idea.

Howard Chackowicz

I'd say if this handful is about 10-- 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70--

Jonathan Goldstein

As much as restaurant owners and waiters love Howard, it's delivery men who really, really love him. Who among us even knows our delivery man's name? Howard knows their names and the names of their wives and children. When they come to his door, he invites them in and offers them water. And in return, they'll actually call Howard later on to see if his meal was to his liking, that it was warm enough, that there was enough ketchup.

Howard Chackowicz

--190, 200-- this is very embarrassing-- 210, 220, 230, about 250 menus in here. There are some doubles, for sure, or even like multiple copies, but only restaurants I order from all the time.

Jonathan Goldstein

We decide to order from Howard's favorite restaurant, a souvlaki place called The Greek Village.

Howard Chackowicz

I'm going to take a number 10, the two-gyro pizza. And I think that's it Thanks. Have a nice day. Bye.

Jonathan Goldstein

While we wait for the food, Howard waves me over and opens his kitchen cupboard to reveal physical proof of his good standing with the service industry.

Howard Chackowicz

Here we go. These are all bags of ketchup, salt, soy sauce.

Jonathan Goldstein

And this is all from takeout.

Howard Chackowicz

Yeah.

Jonathan Goldstein

And these are big bags full of nothing but ketchup.

Howard Chackowicz

There's some soy sauce.

Jonathan Goldstein

So gone are the days where you had to wheedle out a single packet out of Costa's hands for your French fries.

Howard Chackowicz

It's true that I have so much now, I have so many packets here. But no matter how many packets I amass, it'll never catch up to what I missed as a child, ketchup.

[KNOCKING]

Jonathan Goldstein

Then, with vaudeville timing, our delivery arrives.

Howard Chackowicz

Hey, Shamir.

Jonathan Goldstein

Howard greets the delivery man like an old friend he hasn't seen in quite some time.

Howard Chackowicz

Thanks so much, man.

Shamir

He's your friend. He's a beautiful man. He's such a nice man, I'm telling you.

Howard Chackowicz

I didn't get you in trouble, though.

Shamir

He's the best customer in Montreal I have.

[LAUGHTER]

Each time I come, he gave me apple. He give me a juice. He give me everything.

[LAUGHTER]

Jonathan Goldstein

When I order in, like most people, I figure these guys want out of my house as badly as a bird that's accidentally flown in down the chimney. And I assist them in their passage, usually having the exact change with a tip all ready for them at the door. But at Howard's house, delivery men stay a long time. They seem to want to.

Howard Chackowicz

Shamir, can if I offer you something?

Shamir

No, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Howard Chackowicz

Hey, so Marvin's not working there anymore?

Shamir

No, because I think he find somewhere else a job.

Howard Chackowicz

Oh, OK. OK. I see everything is different. Actually, I felt so bad when I called, because when I ask, I say, Shamir, you know. They're like, well, we don't know who you're going to get.

Shamir

Oh, you don't have to feel bad.

Howard Chackowicz

I know, but I don't want to get you in trouble.

Ira Glass

After about 10 minutes of this, I just want to eat. I find myself eyeing the bag of souvlaki lying on the floor like a campground bear. I realize then that I'm just not made of the same stuff as Howard, and I never will be.

When we finally sit down to eat, I can't even get Howard to admit that he's doing anything so special with guys like Shamir. We go back and forth on this.

Jonathan Goldstein

Yeah, because most people won't go to the extent that you do, which is why you have guys that work the telephone coming by your house to meet you. That probably doesn't happen that often.

Howard Chackowicz

Well, I really believe I don't really do anything. I'm nice to them.

Jonathan Goldstein

But just empirically, you have to see at this point that you're getting responded to differently than most people, so there must be something different, no?

Howard Chackowicz

If someone's going to come to my door more than a few times, and they know my face, and we're saying, how are you, I'm going to start treating that person like a human being. And most people, I think, are probably rude to them. Most people that I know give deliveryman a buck. And I think that they do a hard-- they have a harder job than a waiter or a waitress because here's a guy who takes your food, gets into a car, risks his life, goes into traffic--

Jonathan Goldstein

Hang on a second? Risks his life?

Howard Chackowicz

Oh he's driving a car, you know?

Jonathan Goldstein

Howard's worked all kinds of food service jobs himself-- as a waiter, a busboy, a short-order cook. And he says that as a result, he absolutely loathes the feeling of being served. There's something that just feels embarrassing and unnatural about it.

But it even goes further than that. In his interactions with the service industry, he's looking for a particular feeling, a kind of cozy moment where he can palpably sense that the waiter has forgotten that he is a waiter and that they are both simply relating as human beings. And then once he knows this, once he knows they're both getting along and everyone's happy, he can move on. He isn't looking for anything else from them. His motives are pure that way.

But these kinds of special moments don't come without strings attached. And sometimes, Howard gets into trouble. Earlier in the day, during our walking tour, there was one place we didn't stop into, a little convenience store around the corner. Howard became uncharacteristically somber and quiet as we walked by the storefront window.

The owners, a Greek woman in her 60s named Voula and her older sister, used to be pretty friendly with him. Sometimes, Voula wouldn't charge him the tax on his chocolate bar. And on occasion, she'd have him sit behind the counter with her on a plastic milk crate. It wasn't much, but it was still more than what the other customers got. And it made Howard feel special. But then, at a certain point, things started to get more intense.

Howard Chackowicz

There had been several holdups there, by knifepoint, gunpoint. And I felt really bad for them. I'd see them really shook up. And they're kind of tough ladies, but they're alone. And I told them, I said, if you ever need anything, if there's any trouble or something, I'm just around the corner. You give me a call. And I really meant it like in case of emergency or just that there'd be someone they can call, some kind of community, some type of effort at community. But she started-- she would call every day.

Jonathan Goldstein

She would call him for all kinds of reasons, to have him come by and fix things or to run errands for her. And he would try his best to be accommodating. She'd even call him just to chat.

Even though all of this was more than Howard could shoulder, he was reluctant to put an end to it. It was only after the calls got later into the night, at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, that Howard's friends started insisting he tell her that enough was enough. And against his better judgment, he did so. Howard wonders if it was right to give her his number in the first place.

Howard Chackowicz

I made that offer assuming that it would be understood that there's a cutoff point. But to another person, that offer is a real, genuine offer. If I need help, I'm going to call you, and she did. And maybe she's the one that's right.

So it's ironic that being nice to someone actually had the adverse effect, the opposite effect, and it ended up being a disaster. And now, two people are not even friendly with each other.

Jonathan Goldstein

There have been other disasters for Howard, disasters where he was the one who went a little too far. Like there's the time he became so consumed with helping this neighborhood Chinese restaurant that, without being asked, he took it upon himself to draw up pamphlets for the place. The owner accepted Howard's flyers, but never circulated them. Later, the owner picked a screaming fight with Howard over an order, and Howard never went back.

And then there was the time he brought in beautiful framed photos of Lebanon to his favorite Lebanese restaurant so they could be reminded of home. But the photos were never hung up, nor were they ever referred to again.

But for Howard, those things don't matter, and I know that he'd probably even do them all again. There are so many other moments that make his good intentions feel repaid in full. Some of his favorites are when deliverymen he knows pass him by in their cars as he's walking down the street. It shocks him out of his reverie when they honk their horns in a quick, affectionate burst. For a brief moment, it feels like a reassuring slap on the back. Howard thinks to himself that they're the best, and it fills him with so much gratitude that if he had a pear or a peach in his coat pocket, he would wave them over and give it to them.

Ira Glass

Jonathan Goldstein is the host of the podcast Heavyweight, which just finished its fifth season. I heartily recommend it. Great stories. You can hear it on Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Credits

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Noor Gill, with mixing help from Stowe Nelson, Beth Blake, and Matt Tierney. Special thanks today to the restaurant Aurora in Brooklyn, who let us use the kitchen for our calamari taste test in Act One.

Our website, thisamericanlife.org, where you can hear over 700 episodes of our program for absolutely free.

This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, after a hard day at the radio station, as he heads home, he always turns and declares to all of us on his way out the door--

Ron Meeks

Man, I'm gonna eat me some bung tonight. That's just the way it is.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.