The Monday Rant: Drop the Chutney
Chutneygate started on a travel day like every other travel day. As I walked through security at the Portland, Maine, airport, I had my boarding pass in hand, my flip-flops off, my computer in a tray, my toiletries squished into tiny vials in a tiny ziploc bag. I did not even give a thought to the blueberry chutney tucked in a paper bag among lobster- and sailboat-shape soaps.
In my culinary world, chutney is not a jam (which the Transportation Security Administration bans as a carry-on unless it is stored in a three-ounce or smaller container) or a sauce (see banned list again). It is, well, chutney-ey, which is saying, it is not jiggly or liquid but chunky and solid, like a cube of tofu, yet tastier.
But the TSA officials did not care. They spotted it during the screening and pulled my bag aside. The official with the apple cheeks and skinny frame had never heard of chutney, so I gave him a quick lesson on Indian condiments. (A similar occurrence happened at the Hartford, Conn., airport, though that time the substance was hummus.) The screener was still not convinced and reading the label, pointed out that vinegar was one of the ingredients. That was enough to send the chutney into the trash bin.
And here is my exasperation: C'mon TSA. Please look at what a mockery our security system has become. An exchange about chutney and which food group it falls under? Don't you think it is time to stand back and look at the big picture and not lose your focus by staring at the small, insignificant details, like food labels (if only the FDA were so meticulous)? I know that rules are rules, but why do we have these rules? Must we be so complacent about them? Can't we question whether a mixture of fruit, sugar and vinegar can realistically be turned into a weapon? If anything, the glass bottle seems more dangerous than the contents inside.
What I am trying to say, TSA, is that I think enough time has gone by since you first implemented the airline liquid ban that it is time to reassess, maybe reconsider that list and bring some humanity back to the travel experience. Let us have our peanut butter, jell-o and pudding back. Let's think hard about the real threats and stop wasting time and energy on depriving a girl of her blueberry chutney.
Just consider it, TSA. We can discuss it over chutney and tea, if you'd like.
Epilogue: At the airport, a wonderful shopkeeper said he could mail my chutney. It cost $5, about the price of the item, but it was totally worth it.
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