Friday, May 10, 2013

Slow Food

First let me say that I have a lot of sympathy with the Slow Food movement.  I make a weekly menu - and I print it out! It includes each day's weather forecast and scheduled activities.  Plus relevant clip art.  This week's menu depicts a runner because Ellie will be in the Girls on the Run 5K downtown on Saturday and a carnival because it's time for the girls' annual school PTO blast.  I buy organic when I can (when I can afford it, when I can find it, when I have time for it) and I shop around the outside of the grocery store before venturing into those processed food aisles.

But I read Emily Matchar's Salon article, "Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig" with great interest this week.  And while attempting to write a comment about it on a friend's Facebook page, I inadvertently wrote an essay.  So I decided to post it here, instead.

I'm a fan of much of what I know about Pollan's work, except where he falls into the occasional trap of romanticizing the past.  I was really disappointed to read what he said about, "genuine wisdom that some American feminists thoughtlessly trampled in their rush to get women out of the kitchen."

I find the whole feminism connection mystifying.  Have you checked out any 1950's cookbooks?  Long before women went to work in droves (middle class women, as working class women frequently lacked the opportunity to stay home) Food, Inc. existed.  Post-WWII American society embraced processed foods and the assumed superiority of modern food technologies.  I absolutely don't get all this discussion of the 1970's as the critical problem point when people were eating their Swanson's TV dinners in 1950's living rooms.  (Pollan discusses this in Cooked, yet still comes back to feminism.)

Pollan dismissed “The Feminine Mystique” as “the book that taught millions of American women to regard housework, cooking included, as drudgery, indeed as a form of oppression.”  It wasn't a book that taught that; it was the NECESSITY of the daily cooking.  The difference between a passion/hobby and a chore. 

I think the workforce/time argument is a bit of a red herring. A big difference between the 19th and 21st centuries, for the majority of Americans (not just the top 1%) is leisure time and the idea that we can/should get to choose the way we spend our time outside of work hours.  Herein lies the rub with Slow Food.  Pollan's work is full of the language of virtue when discussing slow food cooking (and dissing of cake mixes, etc.).  This is far from unique to Pollan, FWIW, and is endemic in foodie and slow food cultures.

One of my favorite bits from that Salon article: "The term “foodie” was originally invented to describe people who really enjoy eating and cooking, which suggests that others do not. Yet today everyone is meant to have a deep and abiding appreciation for and fascination with pure, wholesome, delicious, seasonal, regional food. The expectation that cooking should be fulfilling for everyone is insidious, especially for women. I happen to adore cooking and eating, and nothing is more fun for me than sharing a home-cooked bowl of pasta puttanesca and a loaf of crusty bread with friends. Yet, I know for a fact that others would much rather go kayaking or read magazines or write poems or play World of Warcraft or teach their dog sign language."

As for me, I enjoy doing a little of all of that.  I really enjoy cooking.  Sometimes.  But not everyday and not three times a day, everyday.  I prepare most meals by necessity rather than passion.  And I eat out when I can.  What I wish is that there were healthier "convenience food" options and that most restaurant meals were both healthier and fresher.  (It's hard to know what's prepared on-site vs. processed elsewhere and packed full of preservatives, for example.)

And I wish we could separate out the "health" bits from the heavy "virtue" language.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gangnam Style

I am not out of touch with popular culture because I am old and sad.  I am out of touch with popular culture by choice.  More on that in a moment.  But in the meantime . . .

I chaperoned Ada's Kindergarten field trip to Purina Farms today.  Past the exhibits, petting zoo, tunnel maze, and cow milking demonstration, they put on a demonstration where energetic dogs do trick jumps for frisbees and race through agility courses.  A few minutes before the show started, they blasted some music to pump up the crowd.  And, boy, did it work!  All but about 3 of the kids from Ada's class jumped up and went to the top of the stands to do a line dance.  I was sort of familiar with the song - like I've heard it at malls or whatever - but I didn't know what it was until, suddenly, "Oppan Gangnam Style!"

"Oh, wow," Ada's teacher said.  "That's like my entire class."

"What are you teaching them?!" answered one of the other kindergarten teachers on the trip.

"Not that!"

Oh, so *that's* what that song is!  I've heard of "Gangnam Style," of course, but I didn't know the song, or the dance, or what Gangnam Style means.  Tonight, I suggested to Paul that we might not be fully human, or at least not exist in this century, if we don't know who PSY is and what the craze is all about.  So we set out to educate ourselves with the music video, then some related internet research.  While we were at it, I checked out "So Call Me Maybe" and "If you liked it you shoulda put a ring on it." (Apparently, the latter is from a Beyonce song from when Ada was a year old. Oops.)  So now I'm at least tangentially aware of some of the things in the zeitgeist. 

But I'm still not showing my kids that PSY video.  And I'm a little horrified that so many other little kids are intimately familiar with it.  If Ada gets curious about "Gangnam Style," I'll find a video of some kids doing the dance and let her watch it until we learn the moves.  It's a catchy tune and a funny dance.  But the actual PSY music video?  No thanks.

One of the parodies Paul found was a My Little Pony version of the song.  Ada loves My Little Pony and all things horse.  This video ends with one of the female Ponies presenting her backside to the singing Pony for mounting.  Pretty much exactly as the hot chicks in the real video do.

You know, I just haven't yet found the right moment to sit my girls down and have The Talk with them.  Not the sex talk or the bodies-change-as-we-grow-up talk, they get the basic gist of all that. I mean The Talk wherein I break the news to them that, as girls, their bodies are commodities and their value is weighed by how they look and how fuckable they are.  That talk.  Because that value system is clearly implicit in the "Gangnam Style" music video, and it's no shock to me that - while everyone watches the video - it's particularly popular with 13-17 year-old-boys.

Oh, the "Gangnam Style" video is not that bad.  It's probably tame, really, compared to other music videos.  But that's exactly why I've opted out of so much of popular culture, and why I'm very careful about how much and what sorts my girls are exposed to.  As much as I can be, anyway.

Some time in the late 1990's or early 2000's, I got depressed at how so much of the music I really, really enjoyed was blatantly, sometimes violently, misogynistic.  And, finally, I'd had enough.  I moved NPR to my first preset, and, eventually, my only local preset radio station.  (My other presets are mostly NPR stations in various places I visit regularly.)  I'm not up on every trend, but I don't think I'm missing anything important.  And I know I'm much happier.  I think my children are better off, too, listening to music and consuming media I find to be kid-appropriate.  They'll push back soon, I know.  But for now, we're all content. 

P.S. While Ada's classmates were dancing, she happily sat on my lap and watched (the cement stands were cold today!).  When the next song started, she wanted to go dance with them.  She had a wonderful time.  Then all the kids sat back down to watch the dogs, and that was the end of it.  Ada wasn't curious about the song or dance that got all the kids moving.  To her, the kids were just dancing and having fun.  She joined in when she felt like it.  A couple of years ago, I overheard Ellie discussing Justin Bieber with 1st grade classmates.  They were debating whether or not he was likable.  She had an opinion and fit right into the conversation, though I'm relatively certain she has no idea who Bieber is.  That seemed irrelevant to the conversation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 in Facebook Status Updates - January

In other words, where I was while I was neglecting this space and my daily discipline of writing my thoughts in way that attempts to make some sense out them rather than just jotting them down as isolated incidents.
I posted a funny link about "If Famous Writers Had Written Twilight" and a review of Beowulf on the Beach. I commented on Target using a child model with Down syndrome.  And, apparently, I was working a lot: Pandora, how did I ever work (freelance editorial gigs) in the middle of the night without you? It's all '90's-style alternative blasting in here! (Lit, Green Day, The Offspring, Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, etc.) Happy.

Lunch conversation with my 4-1/2 year old: Mommy, what if I had a dream and inside the dream I had another dream, and inside the dream-within-a-dream I had another dream? 
  • She actually said "dream within a dream." I asked her how she thought of this mind-blowing idea, and she said, "It's just in my brain." Philosophy for preschoolers. 
  • My dad: And then again we might all be parts of her dream, and when she wakes up where will that leave us.
  • Dad, I'll pass along your suggestion in the morning. She'll either love it, or never sleep again. Time will tell!
  • She settled on ten levels of dreams and she found the idea that the rest of us could be figments of her dream that would disappear upon awakening hilarious. Not disturbing or terrifying, hilarious. (Of course she's also excited to go off to college. I guess she's just about ready. Once she learns to read.)  

I just rubbed my eyes very thoroughly. Took off my glasses and everything. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes ago I made a nice, spicy salsa. Alas. Poor eyes.
  • My dad: The club is large but the dues only need be paid once.
  • Me: Dad, on a related note, I am REALLY enjoying the new knife you got me for Christmas! We've had tons of fresh veg, salsa, salads, etc.
  • Me in 2013: Dad told me to bring my knife home every time I came up, and he'd get it sharpened.  It could really use a good sharpening now.  Boo.
I've got the ingredients for monkey bread ready and I know where all the snow suits are. Snow day? Bring it. (I've been waiting for winter for 2 months and I think it's finally here!)
  • Later: We did not get that snow day.  Or any other snow day!  
I reviewed Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I did not enjoy.  And you probably know this if you're on GoodReads. Aren't you on GoodReads?

Don't Carpe Diem! 
My response: I hear this every day at least once. I do try to live in the moments, and I do love what I do and I do feel very fortunate. But sometimes I'm also pretty tired. (Like now, when I can't go to sleep because I'm waiting for the baby to go to sleep and he might not evereverever go to sleep until he moves out into his own dorm room so that he can sleep through his noon Chemistry class.) I try not to feel judged by these comments, but I do occasionally wish that instead of an admonishment to do something more (enjoy every moment, even the stinky ones!) a housekeeper who loves scrubbing floors and swapping out size 4 clothes for size 5 clothes would show up.

"Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows does have one trick up its sleeve that makes it a worthy companion to its predecessor: the upgrading of the homo-erotic subtext to clear-as-day text." From Simon Miraudo at Quickflix. Also, really fun movie. :)

Next is an embarrassing video of me hosting a science/cooking birthday party for Ada (5). No need to revisit that!

I am making homemade salsa with ghost chili (Bhut Jolokia). I am concerned. I will be wearing gloves.  That's a mistake I don't need to make twice! (Or at least not twice this month...)
  • Result: I only used one pepper in the bowl of salsa (two tomatoes or one can of petite diced tomatoes, dried spices/seasonings/peppers, plus the ghost pepper). The pepper had a strongly smoky, chipotle-like taste and was hotter than when I usually add 3 jalapenos or serranos to the same amount of tomato. Not too bad, though. Not my favorite flavor (I prefer a "brighter" taste) but not painfully hot to eat, either. Paul Boal really liked it.
We went to the library and picked up 3 books and a CD. We got home and I can't find the books anywhere. This could be a metaphor for the chaos of my life. Or they could have fallen out of the stroller in the library parking lot.
  • My dad: Are you sure you went to the library?
  • Finding: We left the books at the library.

 A year later I'm thinking:
  • Hey, wow, I miss my dad.
  • I also miss having my Ada with me all day. But she's loving full day kindergarten!
  • Teddy is an awesome sleeper now. In fact, I almost forgot that he ever wasn't!
  • And I'm still working on the perfect salsa recipe.  
 Here's to writing more regularly in 2013.  Back soon.