Global warming is just a ‘dash’ of hot sauce away


The office holiday party was last week, and to everyone’s pleasure, it was potluck.

Attendees were encouraged to bring their favorite dishes and, man, did they come through. There was a whole cubicle filled with hot, maincourse dishes. Another was filled with salads. Another was crammed with desserts. Lots of the food was homemade, and it was more than anyone could eat, which is saying something in a newspaper office, where people will eat the wallpaper if there aren’t any stale donuts or crushed-up potato chips around.

It was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that someone got the bright idea to put together a cookbook of the recipes and share it around after it’s collated. I got an email to that effect, asking for recipes, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass.

The last time I took part in one of those deals, I almost killed several of my co-workers and some innocent readers. I felt so bad about injuring those folks that I made a promise in print that I’d never do it again. Here’s what happened:

Back in the day, I wasn’t what you’d call a versatile chef, but I made a few dishes well, and one of those was chili. The cast-iron lining of my stomach hadn’t eroded yet, and my chili was HOT. I used lots of chili powder and spices, but I also used a combination of dried and ground peppers that a friend grew in his garden. I used jalapenos, and serranos and some Thai peppers that you had to handle with rubber gloves. I also used a dash of some incredibly radioactive hot pepper sauce I ordered from a company called Mo Hotta Mo Betta, described in the advertisement as the hottest pepper sauce allowed by law.

There were also some secret ingredients, like cane sugar and Kentucky bourbon, but the result was a true work of art, and hot enough to melt the chrome off a trailer hitch.

People loved that chili, although they complained later that a small bowl of it was enough to throw their digestive tracts out of whack for a fortnight. And once, someone got the notion that I should write it down and include it in a special advertising section of local recipes.

I obliged, and the recipe was printed in a specially designed box under the headline “Greg Bean’s Famous Chili.” But there was a small problem. Someone — I’ll always blame the only editor on the copy desk who loathed my chili — changed the part of my recipe that called for a dash of that incendiary hot pepper sauce to three tablespoons.

The calls started coming in the very day after the recipe appeared in print, and most of them went directly to my boss.

“I think we have a problem,” he said after about the third.

One woman even wrote a letter to the editor excoriating the newspaper for not testing the recipes before it printed them. “Didn’t anyone down there taste this &*$%?” she wanted to know.

It was the first time in the paper’s history that something that had appeared in a special section had to be corrected on the front page, along with my personal apology and promise that I’d never do it again.

I don’t know if that promise is legally binding, but simple morality dictates I keep my recipes to myself.

• • •

Readers in this area may be familiar with a columnist by the name of Gordon Bishop. Bishop worked for The Star-Ledger for a long time and at one point was even named Journalist of the Year by the New Jersey Press Association.

But then his politics started slipping further and further into the right-wing goofball realm, and you had to look to find his work. For a while, his column appeared in the Bayshore Courier before that publication went out of business. These days, it appears in an electronic “newspaper” called The Atlantic Highlands Herald, and other online sites to which he claims to syndicate his work. Gordon is so far right he makes Glen Beck look like the president of the ACLU, and every time a new outlandish rumor turns up on one of the right-wing blogs, you can bet Gordon will be reporting it as fact in one of his next columns.

I don’t make it a point to read him, but every once in a while someone sends me a link with a note reading something like “look what he’s up to now.”

That’s how I wound up reading his most recent screed, in which, among other untruths about our current president, he says that “Last Tuesday, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice announced that the high court will hear arguments concerning Obama’s ‘legal eligibility’ to serve as president. The lawsuit claims Obama’s dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president.”

You have to wonder how a guy who dines out on the fact that he was once this state’s journalist of the year can fail to check such basic facts.

Although claims like this are a dime a dozen in the weird, right-wing blogosphere, the fact is that this story was born as an April Fools’ Day joke in April of this year. Someone put out a story, ostensibly by The Associated Press, that claimed the Supremes were going to hear a case brought by a New Jersey man contesting Obama’s citizenship. The fake story said the suit claimed he can’t be president because he was born out of the country, even though he has a birth certificate from Hawaii and not a single case challenging him has even made it out of the lower courts.

The story was immediately picked up by bloggers and the so-called “birthers” and reported as true, although nobody apparently bothered to check with the court, or find out whether the organizations quoted even existed. They didn’t.

But still you’ve got right-wing conspiracy theorists like Gordon reporting this garbage as fact.

So here’s the truth. The U.S. Supreme Court is NOT scheduled to hear any case regarding Barack Obama’s citizenship or eligibility to serve as president.

And, Gordon, you ought to be ashamed for saying otherwise.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at