Mike Dunbar

Forget the game, it’s our connection to Super Bowl food that’s fascinating

Worried that we don’t have a rooting interest in the Super Bowl? You haven’t read Jeremy Bagott’s book, “Guaconomics: Dipping a Chip into America’s Besieged Party Bowl.”

The real game, at least for our Valley, is being played out on all those Super Bowl party platters.

Bagott is a frequent contributor to our Opinion pages, addressing topics from “liar loans” to massage parlors to recycling rackets. His special talent is looking at things we see every day then telling us the inside story.

Like those party platters. Most of the goodies come from our Valley, at least for now.

Bagott writes about Cuties, and the gas that turns them orange. He tells us why “Sunions” grown in California won’t make you cry. And, as the title implies, Bagott spends a lot of time with “alligator pears” (avocados) and the garlic that gives guacamole its punch. Did you know humans touch every bulb at least once?

That gets expensive, which leads Bagott to focus on California’s rising minimum wage and some unintended consequences. Modesto’s Paul Wenger explains that higher wages will push more farmers into crops that can be harvested with machines. Other crops will be abandoned because of expensive regulations, meaning more farm workers will be out of work or won’t be able to afford the rent.

In a chapter titled “Wheys and Means,” Bagott talks to Brian Fiscalini, whose family has been making cheese in Modesto for four generations. But dairy farming peaked in California a decade ago, and rules are making it harder to stay profitable.

We also get the scoop on wings, Doritos and, of course, almonds – which he doesn’t demonize. But Bagott explains why reliance on a single crop will eventually hurt growers and our communities.

Bagott looked at his subject with a reporter’s eye for detail and impacts and a columnist’s desire to draw conclusions: “Essentially, it’s an indictment of the Western farm states and how the state governments of California, Oregon and Washington are hurting farmers as they increasingly bow to their voter-rich urban cores,” he wrote in an email.

Bagott’s book is no polemic; it’s about us, which is why most of us will find it fascinating. Which can’t be said about most Super Bowls.

GOT AN EMAIL from a reader fed up with California – highest debt, highest unemployment, income tax, corporate tax and most regulations. And all those welfare recipients and homeless people? I see many such letters. Most are are plain wrong. Consider:

Eight states have higher per capita debt, says the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

California has the highest income tax, but when you consider all taxes – property, local, sales taxes, etc. – our tax bite is only the nation’s fourth highest.

Regulations? Sure, they’re aggravating. But Money magazine says we’re not in the top 10 when it comes to setting rules for people and businesses.

Welfare? We’re not in the top 10 in that category either, reports Fox Business Network. Unemployment, 13 states have higher rates of jobless residents.

There are a couple of lists my irate email correspondent didn’t mention.

California is the 12th healthiest state in the America. And when you rank the states were residents are happiest, California is No. 5 – better than 45 others.

Oh, and when you ask Americans their favorite state? California is ranked No. 1.

Mike Dunbar is editor of the Opinions pages.

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