It turns out the Southern Nevada Health District was standing there with a padlock after all. As reported late yesterday, the SNHD shuttered the restaurant last Friday after more than thirty people became ill after eating there.
KSNV-TV News 3 added details to the story, stating over thirty-six (yes, that’s 3-6, three dozen) became sick and ten had to be hospitalized.
The veritable cherry on top of the microbe sundae was provided by Yahoo! News, that labeled Firefly both “trendy” (when? 2004?) and the racker up of hundreds of rave reviews on Yelp. The article went on to say that John Simmons, Firefly’s owner, was “horrified” that his bastion of bacteria had made people sick — conveniently ignoring the fact that the same place was closed less than two years ago by the Health Department for numerous hygiene-related violations.*
All of which led ELV to think to himself: “Self, don’t ever be swayed by the haters and doubters again. When you said you smelled the stench of p.r. spin (when the owners were weakly claiming they “voluntarily” closed the place), you called it a crock and that’s what it was.”
(ELV hates being right all the time, but he hopes you’re getting used to it by now.)
But then he got to thinking. And no, it didn’t hurt.
What he got to thinking about was how sociological and economic forces conspire to help the Fireflies of the world succeed — dens of eating iniquity that thrive by promising more than they deliver, and (successfully) hoodwinking their customers into being happy at getting less than they paid for.
As Michael Pollan says, it all starts with an addiction — in this case America’s addiction to cheap protein**. We have been weaned away from home cooking over the past thirty years by delivery systems for fat, salt and protein, and people (especially people of limited means) find it easier to feed themselves with industrialized food rather than actually seeking out and paying for fresh, wholesome ingredients.
We all know this syndrome has led to America being the fattest nation on earth, but it’s also led to the proliferation of the fast-casual, fake food franchises of the Applebee’s stripe. But Applebee’s are about as cool as orthopedic shoes. So, where is the person of some means to go when they or their bank account has outgrown ordering from a counter? You can’t very well have a bachelor or bachelorette party at Chili’s, can you?
…where no-brow customers who would never think of eating at Julian Serrano or Jaleo happily delude themselves into believing they are keeping up with the latest restaurant bandwagon, when actually they are being seduced by cheap prices, conned by the herd and poisoned by the food.
It’s really no different than the label whores who buy knock-off purses or the sorry blokes who shovel all-you-can-eat, $19.95 sushi down their gullets — pretending they are keeping up with the restaurant Joneses and eating healthy, when, in fact, they are ruining our environment. Thus has seeking the veneer of good taste, without having to pay for it, replaced the real thing.
It is a short step from feeling you are entitled to a $50 Chanel handbag to gorging on cheap sushi to patronizing a “trendy” tapas restaurant that had you from the word “tapas” (and its $4.5o (stale) tomato bread). But pandering to the dumbest common denominator is Firefly’s stock in trade, and for ten years they’ve appealed to a demographic who love the idea of tapas and feel like they are with it by hanging out in a spot that makes them feel better about themselves — even as it’s peddling an inferior product.
In other words, we don’t hate Firefly for being a shitty restaurant, we hate it for being a fraud. It tastes of cutting corners, true, but what it reeks of is catering to fools who don’t know any better.
We hope those otherwise fine-but-foolishly-afflicted folks are finely feeling fitter (and famished!), and hope they will finally find feasting on future fresher fare fraught with frolicsome fulfillment.
In the meantime, we are truly sorry for their loss….of precious bodily fluids.***
* The cause, of course was bacteria, either in the food or in the restaurant (or both). Ultimately though, it is not a failure of food or sanitation that owner John Simmons should be “horrified” by; what he should be horrified by is his craven quest for profits and the failure of management.
** But with some changes of policy we could make industrial food be priced a little more honestly, with less hidden subsidy, and we could at the same time make alternatives to it more affordable. In the end, though, I think that if we all begin paying the real, fair price of food, it’s still going to be a problem for a lot of people, because it’s going to be more than they’re paying now. And that means that we’re going to have to address the larger question of peoples’ wages, which have been falling in this country since the seventies. Now, one of the reasons that people put up with it was because food prices were also falling—and the price of some other things too. In other words, cheap food has, in effect, subsidized falling wages in this country. Now we’re dependent on cheap food. People simply can’t survive without the kind of food they can get at Walmart. That’s why, once again, food is not just about food. – Michael Pollan
*** ELV has literally felt their pain, on three separate occasions. It is the closest thing to death we can think of.