The Universal Notebook: Heluva good excuse to be a conservative

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Here on the Beem ranch, we all enjoy a good dip. Cream cheese and chives go a long way toward satisfying this sinful craving, but for sheer unctuous indulgence, nothing quite measures up to a good clam dip.

Recently, however, I discovered that I may be a clam-dip conservative.

Every month or so since time immemorial (remember, I have a lousy memory), I have picked up a tub of Heluva Good New England Clam Dip at the supermarket. In recent weeks, I haven’t been able to find the clam dip amidst the French onion, bacon horseradish, buttermilk ranch and garlic Parmesan. So the other day I asked the store manager what was up.

“They’ve stopped making it,” the manager informed me. “Too many government regulations or something.”

My favorite chip dip had been regulated out of existence. I didn’t vote for Obama in order to be forced to eat naked potato chips.

Being a man of action, I fired off an e-mail to Heluva Good Cheese in Sodus, N.Y., a little town about the size of Yarmouth on the shores of Lake Ontario.

What happened to my clam dip?

“Due to the recent challenges created to meet the Seafood protocol of the FDA we had to discontinue the manufacturing of the Heluva Good New England Clam Dip,” came the swift and certain reply.

Food and Drug Administration? Recent challenges? Seafood protocol? Could it be that British Petroleum was responsible for killing New England clam dip along with half the shorebirds on the Gulf Coast? But, hey, weren’t the clams in Heluva Good New England Clam Dip harvested in New England waters (still unsullied, as far as I know, by the Deepwater Horizon disaster)?

“This did not have to do with the issue in the Gulf,” a consumer relations representative assured me, “the clams did come from the northeast.”

Subsequent queries about exactly what FDA regulations Heluva Good found too onerous to comply with may have tipped the company off that I wasn’t just a frustrated customer. In any event, I didn’t get any more answers.

I’m accustomed to the fact that things we used to buy regularly keep disappearing from supermarket shelves. It started years ago with old-fashion corned beef (the crumbly pressed loaf from Argentina). Then, for awhile, Weetabix disappeared. Now I can’t find Miguel’s Blue Corn Chips. (For the Sisters Fresh All-Natural Salsa. The clam dip is for the Kettle-Cooked Cape Cod Robust Russet Potato Chips.) I had chalked it up to having unpopular tastes, but the sudden demise of New England clam dip makes we wonder whether a vast FDA conspiracy to control the food supply might not have been behind these disappearances all along.

I’m beginning to understand what my conservative confreres mean about limiting the power of government. On the one hand, I expect the state to shut down clam flats when red tide blooms. But I’m not sure I need the federal government protecting me from my snacks.

Forget gun control, health insurance, bank bailouts, and childhood obesity. We’re talking clam dip here. This unwarranted government intrusion strikes pretty close to home.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.