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The Red, White and Eat Your Greens Party

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 11, 2008

The folks organizing (if you want to call it that) the Democratic National Convention have spent all week trying to squash a major flapdoodle involving political correctness and color that threatened to confirm every negative stereotype about how Democrats are so hilariously sensitive to the full rainbow of creation and secretly want to legislate good behavior and punish the pursuit of wallowing, self-indulgent, unhealthy happiness.

The colors white, black and brown (skin) were not implicated.

We're talking about red, yellow and "blue/purple" (vegetables).

Oh, and green. Especially green. Green food, green buying, green selling, green money, green -- absolutely everything.

This will not be another story making fun of the Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee's Lean 'N Green guidelines for caterers and restaurants feeding conventioneers Aug. 25-28.

But if you must know, for your own reasons, here they are:

"Lean: Half of the meal (or 50 percent) of the plate is made up of fruits and/or vegetables. A colorful meal -- include at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white (garnishes not included). No items are to be fried.

"Green: 70 percent or more of ingredients by pre-cooked weight are certified organic and/or grown or raised in Colorado. 70 percent or more of ingredients by pre-cooked weight are fresh (and not pre-processed)."

Mocking these standards would be wrong. Especially after the committee's strong statement posted on its Web site, entitled "Fiction Fuels Frivolous Food Fight."

As the committee's Greening Director, Parry Burnap, explained in the statement --

Wait!

Greening Director? Is that like, Dancing Instructor? Or Tanning Protector? Or Programming Selector?

What does the verb "to green" mean? Does it mean to staple plastic turf on your rowhouse stoop like in Baltimore? Does it mean to spray electric lime paint on a highway median strip? Is "to green" the opposite of "to brown," so instead of getting old and fried and wrinkled and cynical, you devolve to something young and fresh as a lettuce head?

To quote the Greening Director: "We are merely creating a voluntary option to demonstrate the connections between good nutrition and a healthy environment, to highlight the healthy and environmentally responsible character of our city, and provide voluntary choices that respond to consumer preferences for healthy, local or organic food while promoting Colorado growers."

That's a mouthful.

Note the repetition of the word "voluntary."

(Voluntary! Voluntary! Voluntary! Take that, you snarky bloggers and scribes, you browned-out purple-people-eaters. You've been laughing all week behind headlines like "Democrats Unleash Food Police" and "Food Guidelines Have Some Seeing Red. And Blue. And Purple.")

The Greening Director's team wishes to make it clear that these are guidelines, people, not rules. Fried foods are "NOT FORBIDDEN" and, "If a restaurant or caterer chooses to voluntarily serve a designated 'Lean 'N Green' meal option, that particular option would include fruits and vegetables from different color groups -- a key component of healthy eating. However, there are no 'color requirements' for every meal."

(Remember when healthy eating involved concepts like "calories," "carbohydrates," "protein," "vitamins," "minerals"? That became too much like organic chemistry. The food pyramid morphed into some kind of inexplicable rhombus. Now it's all about color. And the Good Humor Man who sells Rainbow Pops is loving it.)

Voluntary is nice, but it makes us wonder: Say two vendors are bidding for a catering gig. One proposes factory-farmed, battery-caged, deep-fried chicken, and the other proposes sustainable, grilled Pacific cod. Who wins the business?

A spokesman did not return telephone messages left yesterday. But when the Lean 'N Green guidelines were announced last month, host committee president Elbra Wedgeworth did say: "The Host Committee must balance many factors in selecting our vendors. We prefer but do not require proven experience with greening."

Enough about food. What else can we talk about?

The Web site promises "green media stories."

(Nah.)

The Dems are trying to paint the entire convention, and the entire city, green. There are "green teams" working on everything from promoting "green businesses" to doing "green event training" and "green facility operations."

There will be "carbon-free maps" (what are they going to print them on?) to help convention guests explore Denver on foot or bicycle. Don't even think about bottled water.

When all else fails, shop: The convention's "green merchandise" includes "organic" baseball caps, a "nature spun tote bag," an "organic hat/tee combo," recycled denim pencils, a BPA-free plastic water bottle and a recycled Frisbee-style disc.

(Color us jaded.)

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