Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Appreciation Day

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Today's show: "Food Appreciation Day" is dedicated to Kirsten who is healing fast in "EFF-ELL-AY."

Also on today's show:  
1) Local News
2) Other News
3) Local Loco
4) Food Appreciation Day
5) Lit Minit : Joseph Larmor. An excerpt from his preface to Henri Poincare's 1952 book, "Science and Hypothesis."


1) Local News


(read your local paper for your local news)

2) Oops! We didn't get to Other News!

       Other News

       War, chaos, misery, destruction...

3) Oops! We didn't get to Local Loco, either

     Read your local paper. And sing a little, too. Write a Letter to the Editor, or to one of the advertisers. Thank them for a good ad or voice your concern about a dangerous product or service. Step out of line a little. Work now or pay a LOT more later, when some Murdoch clone owns all the local press. See Meet Joe Black for more.

4) Food Appreciation Hour

I had a big epiphany this week at the grocery store. I might have been in Mexico. Wait. To paraphrase Enigo Montoya : "...No, there is too much. Let me summarize. No. Let me get to the beginning..."

I spent some time in Southern Mexico a while ago. The life there was quite different. When I returned I stepped inside a supermarket and passed out.

What had been normal to me was too much. The lights, the row upon row of high-stacked shelves. The colors, the choices, the endless uncertainty and need to pick and choose and decide on so many things at once was withering. I wavered outside the Albertson's produce section, paused, turned, and stumbled out the door to the parking lot.

There I gave myself a big harsh "WTF ? So now I can't buy food at the market?" 

Then I did cut myself some slack and realized that even on my short eleven day hiatus from Los Angeles, I had changed. I -- at first offended and repelled by them -- had acclimated to the markets in Mexico and was not adapting too well to what had been familiar for so long. My first morning in Cocoyagua (Chaipas, Mexico near the Guatemala border) my fellow students had a market trip planned and came to my room to retrieve me. I gathered my little money and what I thought I needed and followed them to a cluster of tables outside. I was at the back of the pack of twelve and I attempted to edge around them. What were they doing here? If we don't catch a cab -- a BUNCH of cabs, we won't make it to the market. Dim awareness begins breaking into my impatient flagging and I hear a voice to my right: "! Try the cheese!" And a lump of white is shoved at me on a leaf. My first Mexican WTF. It was llike some African gesture on National Geographic. "Here, eat these bugs. They are really good for you."

"No Thanks!" I chirp with my best US Arrogant brogue hate-smile.

"Try it! It's really good!"

And it all hits me at once. My group is milling around looking for purchases. We are not GOING to the market. We are HERE. This is the market. This little collection of nine battered card tables and now I see people seated and standing at most of them. All of them have food-ish items on them. Like you see in a film about refugee camps. One "vendor" is speaking in quick quiet Spanish with Jan, my professor and tour leader. They exchange money and in exchange for pesos, Jan is given something (grain?) wrapped in a reused Orowheat Wheat Berry bread bag. Shit! Even UNICEF has their own packaging. WTF? Is this some kind of a test? This is, after all, my teacher in front of me. I raise my shields and go into stealth mode. Potentially hostile territory. Certainly unfamiliar. I range about.

Another table is surrounded by coffee smells, and I see beans in bags. Not American bread bags, but woven brightly colored baskets much bigger, pillow-size, and full of freshly roasted locally grown coffee. And it moves a little in me: HOLY SHIT! This is the source! Last week I paid $3 for a cup of Guatemalan coffee in Venice. I am standing five miles from Guatemala right now!! This is the shit!!

And for a week I took it in. I ate the cheese, even if there was no shrink-wrap in sight; no bar-coded proprietary ingredients list; no serving suggestions, no recommended daily allowance based on my body type. Just food. Fresh, because it would spoil in a day or two without refrigeration. Local because you can only carry so much, so far. Natural because nobody here can afford pesticides. Here if you have a pile of bricks, you are doing pretty well. Nobody has any money. But the land is rich. You can grow three stalks of corn from one kernel. This place makes Hawaii look sterile. I think if I stuck my laptop in the soil it might produce little progeny. The earth is fertile, but the life is hard, mostly because of the government. The land gives. The pests take. Some of each crop. Not too much. There is a lot to sell. The client shoppers know how to pick good products and they don't expect perfection. A little bruise does not make the whole mango bad. 

I feel a tap at my elbow, and a two foot tall woman smiles and says, "Cafe?" to my "Yes, yes!...uh, Si!, Si!" and I am led away from the table of beans to her kitchen, heavily trafficked, a few feet away. Wonder pushes away disorientation and lack of vocabulary. A chair is offered. I sit in a humble kitchen and accept a chipped cup half full of fresh brew. Canned milk and white sugar are offered. Trading two pesos for grace, I sit and sip and begin to see. 

Later, in America at Albertson's, the memory still strong in me, I can not believe how much "Too Much Food" we have, and how we squander.

Back to this week in California. My list for today's shopping, for example  I see this list: 1) Dish soap, 2) Mayonnaise, 3) Pickles, 4) Turkey, 5) Yogurt, 6) Cereal, 7) Oatmeal, 8) Cream of Wheat, 9) Prunes, 10) Granola, 11) Fruits and Vegetables, 12) Toilet Paper, 13) Kleenex.

I saw none of this available in Southern Mexico other than an incredible abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with the best corn, sugar and coffee, to say nothing about inedible freshly roasted cacao. I guess with some work I could take local corn and try to improvise the various grain items. And there must be a wheat source here, too. Though I saw no evidence of it on my visit. I wouldn't be surprised if much of this is available with a little more searching. Cocoyagua is a border town, and many Guatemalans do travel miles to make purchases. But it was not like here. No twelve competing brands of nose tissue, all in perfect, brand new boxes. No 100 yard long refrigerator cases. No 35 kinds of ice cream. No everything. 

You know what I mean, right? No EVERYTHING.  We have EVERYTHING, and we live like we will never run out. We have EVERYTHING here. Everything that is available on earth can be bought here. And we live in the middle of this ocean of abundance without usually considering how weird and expensive and impossible it is that we have all this for a few dollars. And how it can end just like it began. Quietly, mysteriously, while we are occupied with something else.

5) Lit Minit :Joseph Larmor. An excerpt from his preface to Henri Poincare's 1952 book, "Science and Hypothesis."

   Two weeks in a row for Joseph, and I may read it next week, too.  I chose this because it is about ten steps up the learning ladder than I normally like to read. It jumped off the shelf at me in Berkeley and I share it with you here. He is writing about the magic of learning and the depth of human capacity for it. I ran out of time and had to try to read the whole thing in 45 seconds. Sorry. Grab a copy @ your local library or online and have a look yourself. Or read it here. Another one of the beautiful things about famous stuff more than fifty years old. No copyright stuff!

TYSM for reading and "listening." I hope you had fun. Now, GBTW! 

-- DD

But, if you DO have time right now, you can get more fun here by following these links:

"Science and Hypothesis." was read with great love and respect but without any authorization or permission from the author, their heirs or publishers. 

Also used, but without permission, the intro music is "Wheels," by CAKE off of their album "Pressure Chief."

Notes and links from BTR show "Food Appreciation Day" 7/8/11 HWH w DD

All material licensed by Creative Commons. If you want to use it, ask!

Now, get back to work, dammit!

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