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The Jacksons

“It’s like living in Narnia!” Brady Jackson stomped the snow off of his boots in the entry of the Jackson’s house, and then reached out to help his wife, Amanda, out of her coat. “This winter is just endless!”

“It’s worse than Narnia,” said Andrew from his seat at the dining room table. “It may have been always winter in Narnia, but at least they never had to worry about Christmas.”

“So says the Grinch,” said Rose who was at the kitchen counter pouring coffee for the newcomers.

Brady and Amanda joined Andrew at the table, seating themselves across from Jennifer who was already in her usual place. Andrew folded up his newspaper and laid it down next to his coffee cup.

“So, what’s in the news Pops?” said Brady.

Andrew shrugged. “Not much,” he said. “The Catholics are playing pick-a-pope, and Ikea in Winnipeg is expecting an influx of European shoppers. That’s about it.”

Brady raised an eyebrow. “Europeans are coming to shop at Ikea in Winnipeg? Why would they do that?”

“Meatballs,” said Andrew. “Can’t get ’em at Ikea in Europe now, and everybody knows that’s the real reason people go to Ikea.”

“Why can’t they get meatballs in Europe?” asked Amanda. “I thought meatballs were a staple of the European diet. Like rice in Asia. Or like trans fats in the U.S.”

“So they are,” said Andrew. “Or at least so they were, until somebody discovered that the all-beef Swedish meatballs they serve at Ikea aren’t necessarily all beef.”

Amanda looked confused. “So what’s the big deal?” she said. “So there’s a little pork or chicken in your meatball. Who cares?”

“Who said anything about pork or chicken?” said Andrew. “Everybody loves pork and chicken, even Europeans. As it turns out though, they have a serious thing about horses.”

“Horses?” said Amanda.

“Indeed,” said Andrew. “They found horsemeat in the Swedish meatballs.”

Amanda looked appalled.

“And this was a surprise to whom?” said Brady. “They’re meatballs, for Pete’s sake. Mass produced, probably in some factory in China. If I’m going to eat those things, I don’t even WANT to know what’s in them.”

“They’re made in Romania actually,” said Andrew. “Or Bulgaria, or one of those places.”

“I thought there were lots of places in Europe where horsemeat was a popular dish,” said Rose, setting a couple of steaming cups in front of Brady and Amanda and then seating herself at the foot of the table.

“Not really,” said Andrew. “In France maybe. But for Ikea it’s not really about the horsemeat anymore.

The question is, if there’s horsemeat in the meatballs and nobody knows about it, then what else might be in there that nobody knows about?”

“Exactly,” said Brady. “It’s about quality control. If there’s horsemeat in Ikea’s meatballs, then what might be in their wooden furniture?”

“Certainly not wood,” said Rose.

“Well, that goes without saying,” said Brady.

Jennifer looked up from the book she had been reading. “The real problem,” she said, “is people don’t want to know too much about the food they eat. Especially meat. They don’t want to have to think about it, that’s all. They’re perfectly fine eating horsemeat as long as they think that it’s beef.”

There was a pause while the others thought about that.

“So what you’re saying,” said Brady, “is that the problem isn’t that there’s horsemeat in the meatballs, it’s that people know there’s horsemeat in the meatballs.”

“Well duh,” said Jennifer. “Who knows how long the horsemeat’s been in there? And obviously it was never a problem till somebody found out.”

There was another pause.

“So what is your point exactly?” said Brady.

Jennifer shrugged. “No point,” she said. “I’m just saying. People don’t want to think about where meat comes from. They want to think about cows as those quiet, gentle animals that get to eat as much of their favourite food as they want, plus they get to chew it twice and digest it like four times… I mean who wouldn’t want to have the life of a cow? But when they have a filet mignon on their plate people prefer not to be reminded that they are in fact ‘having the life’ of a cow. If you get what I mean. The real reason people are upset about finding horsemeat in the meatballs is that it reminds them that meatballs are made of meat.”

“How do you forget that meatballs are made of meat?” said Brady. “I mean, that’s why they’re called meatballs, for Pete’s sake.”

“People can forget anything in the interests of enjoying a meal,” said Jennifer.

“Except the fact that they don’t like horsemeat, apparently,” said Rose.

“I guess,” said Jennifer. “Anything except for that.”

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