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Bat-cuisineCHICAGO – Local restaurateur Harvey Lin is on a mission to revitalize and elevate “bat and other wildlife” dishes which have “gotten a terrible rap” in recent years.  “It’s been a hard sell to get patrons to branch out from local staples,” Lin said.  “Particularly in light of COVID-19.  It’s given bats, pangolins and other exotic wildlife a terrible reputation.  I want to show that these meats are just as delicious as ever, even more so.”

Lin’s restaurant “Bat-cuisine,” on the corner of Michigan and W. Wacker Drive downtown, recently re-opened after numerous lawsuits (it was once called “Batfood” and was sued by Warner Brothers), health-code violation shutdowns, and citizen protests with a “mission” to bring “exotic cuisine… out of the Asian wet-market and… into Chicagoland homes.” 

“There are few pleasures in life better than a medium-rare bat smothered with a bear paw and pangolin scale sauce,” the recently retooled menu reads, underneath a picture of the dish titled ‘Monthly Special.’

However, despite numerous coupon promotions and a blitz of television commercials, it’s still a struggle to get patrons in the door.  “At this point, I’m not sure what else I can do,” said Lin.

For some, however, the restaurant is a rare “taste of home,” particularly for recent immigrants, whose continued loyalty has allowed Lin to “keep the lights on” over the last two tumultuous years.  “There is nothing like it in the whole of Chicago,” said regular Mary Li as she ate the “Monthly Special” with a glass of warm tea.  “Delicious,” she added, holding up a piece of dripping bear claw and rare bat flesh.

When asked about the potential health effects of his cuisine, Lin was unwavering.  “We get this a lot and it’s simply a non-issue,” said Lin.  “Have we gotten sick, yes, everyone gets sick once in a while, but there’s no reason to blame the food.  The fact is that this is a common practice for millions of people who love it, and there’s very much to love.  We simply want to bring this love here, to our new home, and share it with as many people as we can.”

At this point our interview was brought to an abrupt halt as public health officials burst into the restaurant and ordered an immediate shut-down.  Outside, Harvey Lin pointed to the yellow tape now surrounding his establishment and noted this was “just more harassment” of the type he’s endured for years, while EMTs rushed past with patron Mary Li, who gave us both a hearty “thumbs-up” before being loaded into a nearby ambulance.

As a postscript, it should be noted that Mary Li is currently recovering from an “as of yet unidentified zoonotic disease,” and is expected to make a full recovery.  Owner Harvey Lin, meanwhile, has started a third on-line campaign to raise enough money to pay the recent fines and legal costs, and ultimately reopen ‘Bat-cusine’ again.  He is currently at 23% of his goal.

IRREVERENT Restaurant Critic-at-large Norm StandardIRREVERENT Restaurant Critic-at-large Norm Standard is the author of several award-nominated cookbooks, including “The Stuff Nobody Should Eat” (2017) and “Bitchy Chefs, Good Food” (2019).  He currently hosts the “Food-o-rama” podcast with James Beard-nominated co-host Chef Frieda Muss.




Photo: Ambulance by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

Hasbro recently announced at an investor’s meeting they were going to slightly deemphasize the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” in their popular line of vegetable toys, releasing both versions under a unified “Potato Head” branding.  Under ordinary circumstances I have to believe this wouldn’t even have been mentioned in anything other than obscure trade zines like “Strategic Corporate Branding Quarterly” or “Inside Marketing: The Zine.”  Industry folks would’ve read it and said, “Humph, look at that,” and immediately went on with their day trying to foist erection pills and absurdly titled heart medicines with more potentially lethal side-effects than benefits to a COVID-weary American public.

But these are no ordinary times.  RIckles just guffawed from the grave.

potatoheadHaving 24 hours of “news” to fill for a still largely captive audience means you have to substantially lower the bar on what you’re willing to categorize as “news,” and thus an erstwhile obscure branding decision – perhaps designed as an ever-so-slight nod to LGBTQ sensitivity – was instead thrust into Silly Manufactured Controversy territory.  In short, media folks were looking for stuff to write about.

Right-wing news went nuts, drawing a direct line between this toy branding decision and a “Democrat-led House of Representatives is taking up a vote on the Equality Act” according to Kylee Zempel in The Federalist, and prompting Fox News to mention a toy’s minor rebranding effort almost 40 times.  Apparently even a bald vegetarian icon can warrant Right-Wing Wrath in the post-T****ian newscycle, freshly emptied of his endless supply of self-promoting shenanigans.  I’m not typing his name anymore.  Not for ideological reasons just because I’m sick of it.

Why?  Asinine political overlays aside, do conservatives put so much more faith in minor rebranding efforts of toy manufacturers than their own abilities to parent their children that this is a tangible threat?  Aren’t they going to instill their values into their next generation regardless of whatever Hasbro branding gurus decide?

Of course they are, which is why this is more artificial silliness than a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon’s Facebook page.

Advocates on the Left spectrum also dove in, for similar reasons and because they could, reaching into botanical metaphors, like Alex Knapp at Forbes: “the science of potato reproduction, [is] far more complicated than male and female. And the toy company’s impulse towards a gender-neutral toy isn’t just more inclusive, it’s closer to the actual science of potatoes.”

The science of potatoes and the Equality Act?  All they did is take “Mr” or “Mrs” off the TOP OF THE BOX, it’s still there at the bottom.  It’s not science.  It’s not politics.  It’s no vast conspiracy or politically motivated ploy by Democratic sympathizers.  You’ve just got column inches and “breaking news” segments to fill and it’s silly. 

If your kids are learning about gender identity from the top of a toy box, parent better.

Photo: Hasbro

They say timing is everything.  The day after I wrote Coup d’Doh, making fun of all the ham-fisted attempts to overturn the election through wild lies and dozens of asinine court battles, the mob of “very special” insurrectionists breached the Capitol after a raucous Trump rally when he encouraged the crowd to “take back their country.”  At least five people were killed.  They used American flags to beat down police.  They used riot shields and fire extinguishers to smash through windows.  They erected some scaffolds on the Capitol lawns and went searching for Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi.  They were “loved” by our current president who watched it all on T.V.

Destroying your country's capitol is "patriotic"?In the aftermath, the House voted to impeach Trump a second time.  None of this bothered senate Republicans who, once again, acquitted him, letting him get away without repercussions while simultaneously deriding Democrats as “bitterly partisan.”  George Orwell is smiling from his grave.

Do and say whatever you want while simultaneously deflecting attention away from your horrible behavior by screaming that someone else is doing exactly what you’re doing.  A lie in full view, don’t bother hiding it, just scream the loudest.  This is the level of bullshit we’ve come to folks: we’ve arrived at our horrible destination.   The post-Trump era is giving a lot of Republicans a lot more room to show off what they’ve learned by grinding what’s left of the country’s tattered democracy into a thick fluid of fascist populism.

This is traditionally the time to start the “a pox on both your houses” argument, where I show that Democrats are equally guilty of the same Orwellian doublespeak.  Believe me I tried.  But don’t worry: once it’s firmly established that just lying loudly is a vote winner, because voters either don’t care or aren’t really paying attention to anything but volume and repetition, others will pick up the newspeak rhetoric all on their own.  It’s a helluva lot easier than having principles you have to defend or an actual position on anything.  Why bother?

The most terrifying realization here is that this proclivity was lying dormant here all the time.  Bullshit and Orwellian tactics weren’t invented by the former president, and 74 million people from the Republican base didn’t just wake up one day ready to accept a steaming heap of conspicuously obvious lies.  They were ready all along.

At this point the question isn’t can we put this B.S. genie back in the bottle.  The question is whether it’s worth it.

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