Will Swine Flu Fears Affect New York’s Banh Mi Boom?

Yesterday, amid fears of a global pandemic, I checked out the new East Village rendition of Baoguette — yet another entry in New York’s out-of-nowhere (but understandable) banh mi hysteria. But while normally I’d order their signature sandwich — a baguette stuffed with pork terrine, pate, and pulled pork, among other things — fears of sore throat, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly death overcame me. So I ordered the BBQ chicken. If swine flu paranoia is already stopping one New Yorker from porking out on a traditional banh mi, how long before the entire Saigon Sub industry feels the side effects of a possible pandemic?

The banh mi’s sudden surge in popularity is no doubt intertwined with the decline of the American economy. Paying $3.75 for a fulfilling (and filling) lunch is a great way to not spend, say, $12. But now that countries like Russia and China are banning on all pork imports from this side of the hemisphere, should we also be boycotting, despite our new found need for stingyness? President Obama said today that the virus is “no cause for alarm,” even as the number of cases in the U.S. jumped from 20 in the article to 40 on CNN.com’s ticker.

But so far there has been no evidence at all that the virus can be contracted from eating (or kissing) a pig. The World Health Organization confirmed it, adding that the virus is killed in a cooking temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit — far lower than the amount of heat it requires to slow-roast a sweet, succulent pig. In fact, the virus’ name is misleading, given that the virus also contains genetic material from birds and humans. Ultimately, my BBQ-ordering incident at Baoguette can be attributed to some good ol’ fashioned paranoia. Bottom line: Pork is safe to eat, and I think I’ll rectify my error (not that it wasn’t delicious) by ordering a traditional banh mi from Baoguette today. Now if they could just do something about their service.

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