Friday, May 26, 2006

the case of the communist cheesecake

"What are you, a communist?"

When I was in the third grade, my best friend's mom asked me this in mock horror in her flat, nasal, upstate NY accent. She asked me this when I told her that I did not like cheesecake.

Now, lots of third graders do not like cheesecake.

And it was a sort of coincidence that I knew what communists were; when I organized my toys into a complicated "from each according to his skills, to each according to his needs" utopian society, my parents explained that what I had planned was a simple sort of communism.

This event predated my mother's explanation of The Long Winter food and socialism moment, familiar to many of my readers.

Now, Jennifer's mom was a hard-working old school democrat, she was just being funny, not participating in some strange red scare. My parents for whatever reason, didn't think it was funny at all. And so this little encounter has stuck in my head for many, many years.

***

Some of you also know that I am addicted to ancipation. So, in very eager anticipation of my first ever organic farm box which arrives next week, I give you a round up of our collective food anxieties! Or maybe this post was inspired by news of Pittsburgh's new, eagerly anticipated, but not by me, Trader Joes.

Or maybe it was this article on "Big Organic" in the May 15 New Yorker, which was not awful.

I think it was not awful because it was actually a book review of: Organic, Inc by Samuel Fromartz, Agrarian Dreams by Julie Guthman and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The review also mentions Virgil, Rodale, Wendell Berry, Durkheim and "the English agronimist Sir Albert Howard." That is to say, it's thorough, informed, historical and interesting. And he uses the phrase "late-capitalist business as usual" !!

Even better is this article, by Kathy Newman, published in the local City Paper on the opening of the first Whole Foods in Pittsburgh - read through the opening hoo-ha and the end of the article emphasizes the labor loophole of Whole Foods retail. Because, after all, I actually care a lot more about the people I live, work and shop with than I do about a gigantic shed full of twenty thousand genetically identical chickens.

***

I know you care too.

EL is feeling the the dilemma, with links . . .

mzn has offered a link to the NYT Pollan review, . Though the problem of the chicken that tastes like nothing is probably quite relevant. Note, I think my comment about the delightful chicken kabob refers to a kosher chicken . . .

In a more contrarian mood, it seems mzn has named fresh-local-organic fans, "floster" but I couldn't find the original post,

Square Circuit Cares

And cares enough to read and teach Fast Food Nation, which I think is a great idea.

Lindy sings the praises of her farm box, enough to make me sign up.

And, ever resourceful, The Chocolate Lady reached a peak with her Vegetarian Passover Guide, but then she always seems to be shopping the markets and eating wisely.

***

Frankly, if there is anyone reading this blog who doesn't care at all where their food comes from, or who is paid what to get it where, let me know. Like that one "professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, [who] puts it, 'I hate Giant Eagle. I came here from California and I never thought about grocery shopping until I had to shop at Giant Eagle' " in the CityPaper article. Boldly defying, in so many, many ways, the stereotype of the academic socially-conscious foodie! Cringe. I kind of think the author must have had it in for that source . . .

*** tuesday updates:

mzn has provided the link to his original flosters critique. and I really like the argument; that's sort of the joke I was trying to make with the cheesecake intro. Sometimes, for better or for worse, a cheesecake is just a cheesecake and not a political act. I'd add that I know plenty of folks who believe (hope? wish?) that food shopping is a meaningful political act, not just a satisfying personal one. And that drives me crazy.

mzn on Flosters

Oddly enough, this all started with an op-ed in the NYT from Julie Powell, of the book and blog Julie and Julia. Which Madame Librarian has been recommending that I read.

Julie Powell in the NYT

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3 Comments:

Blogger the chocolate lady said...

Oh heavens, many comments, but I will start with one:
When I was in culinary school, I told The Robber Bridegroom, then my co-vivant, that we took turns and one week I would be going in early to light the ovens and make the tea.
"Make tea?" he shouted with some alarm, "What is this? Some kind of cult?"

1:17 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Tea is for cultists. I love that.

Speaking of tea and politics, chocolate lady, what WAS so interesting about the czar's tea? I enjoyed the song, but now we're drinking the tea, as iced tea, and I think it works well for that purpose . . .

9:38 AM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

Heh. I had to search for the original post to remind myself about this one. I quoted a story by Mordkhe Tsanin in which a local schoolteacher briefly has the great honor and terrible responsibility of keeping a portrait of the czar in his house for the duration of a festival. He can't hang the picture himself but doesn't want to let his wife help.

"You turkey," she yells, "You're afraid to let me touch the czar? You're afraid I'm going to knead him into the noodle dough?"

Well, in Yiddish, it's very funny.

The juxtaposition of the Czar and Jewish food reminded me of the song, and the tea box just seemed to go with everything.

12:45 PM  

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