Fast Food, Slow Food

April 29, 2010

It’s like the title to a Dr. Seuss book:

Fast food, slow food

Green food, white food

Food in the car

Food with a star

Some food comes in packaging

Some food comes from gardening!

Food in the morning and food at night

Food in your tummy and –

Okay, I need to stop. This is getting out of hand.

The other day I ended up getting friended or fanned on Facebook to someone who wrote a book on “slow food.”

Sure, I’m a fan of slow food…

…just like I’m a fan of margaritas on a veranda overlooking the azure Mediteranean waters that lick the heels of my personally owned island…

…just like I’m a fan of sleeping through the night without getting woken by a kid… just like I’m a fan of not wiping other people’s bottoms… just like I’m a fan of getting a massage from my own personal trainer who visits my house on a daily basis…

That is, I’m a “fan” of a lot of things that just aren’t part of my reality right now. It’s something I find happens to me a lot, as a person of limited means: I can be a fan of expressionist paintings or of Spanish tiled roofs, or of really nice clothes, but I can’t afford them, so no one viewing my life externally would know these things about me – so:

  • Iis being a fan of something you can’t have just fantasy?
  • Is it something you can realistically claim if it’s only an idea, not an action?
  • Can you love something (or somebody) in thought only?
  • Isn’t true love – or fandom – the physical expression, the bodily commitment, the concrete evidence, that you show?
  • Am I starting to sound like the beginning of an episode of “Sex and the City” – sans the sex, sans the city, sans the shoes?

[In the background, we hear the rising volume of Eliza Doolittle singing, “Words Words Words, I’m so sick of words… Don’t talk of stars twinkling above, if you’re in love – Show me!”]

I definitely answer “yes,” to all of these, though on Facebook, I can see my “friends” seeing I’m a fan of “slow food” and thinking that this means I eat it.

I do not. Not really.

I mean, I believe in a world where all the food is organic and local and fresh and humane to both animals and workers – I believe that would be best. But putting my money where my mouth is – and my time – and my energy – is still a vague happy bubble of an idea.

I’m mostly okay with this. I have to be. I’m a “single, working mother”- I have two kids and sometimes, we run out of milk for cereal or syrup for frozen waffles – very fast food – so then we go to even faster food, the donut shop around the corner.

But – you are what you eat. So: Do I get to believe it, even, if I don’t actually do it?

We’re just talking about food here, but what about other things? Certainly no one is forgiving high-falutin slave owners for believing that all people should be free and equal, but not actually letting any of their own slaves go…

And even cycling back to food and the planet: It’s pretty hip to be “green” and eco-friendly right now – but wearing the badge without doing the action is basically a lack of integrity – it’s making your values as superficial as a fashion statement.

The thing is, it’s easy to wag our fingers at dead slaveowners 200 years later, and it’s easy to shake our heads at people who don’t recycle – it’s easy to question the gap between thought and action in other people – not so much oneself.

Let’s face it: For most of us, when it comes to living with integrity, we’re pretty forgiving of ourselves. We give ourselves an A for Effort and stay “realistic” about the rest of it. I mean, that’s what I tell myself: “Let’s be realistic; I’m a single working mother on limited income – I have to be realistic – I can’t afford everything organic; I don’t have time to cook slow meals; yadda yadda.”

I’m sure owning slaves seemed pretty “realistic” back in the day.

“Realistic” is a euphemism, I think, for “convenient.”

The real question I have to ask myself is, Do I really, truly believe in slow food?

Because if I’m not willing to give up making my eating decisions based on convenience, then maybe I don’t really think it’s the great idea I’m saying I do.

Maybe I’m just saying “it sounds good” – but I’m not really touting it as a core belief.

One thing I do know that I believe at the core is that, if you truly love something, are passionate about something, believe in something, there’s a way to do it/find it/ express it/ whatever – you will find a way. You can find a way.

For example, if I really believed in very nice clothes, I would probably save my money for spare, but planned purchases of said nice clothes and then spend more effort taking care of them. I may not have a whole wardrobe at my fingertips, but I could have a few items.

I obviously really don’t believe in nice clothes. And this is true: I’m not a person who pays attention to fabrics, materials, labels, and yes, sometimes even the size. I like to dress up but I’m not at all a clothes person. I don’t really care.

And the food thing? Maybe I don’t really care.

On the slow food website, they say they exist to:

counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Oh dear. I think this might be describing me.

What I do value? Getting time with my kids. I noticed this when last week we prepared an intensive soup that required over an hour to prepare and hectic shifts of grating and chopping and slicing, and while the result was awesome, it was not something I care to do every night. I hate to do it, but I’m one of those people whose interest in food is dwindling.

I think what I CAN safely say about slow food: I am a huge fan of other people cooking and preparing it for me; I am a huge fan of other people doing it; and I definitely believe it’s the way for people to go.

But maybe not me, not now.

Accepting this to be true may not be pretty, but it’s better than the pretense of pretty, which is ugly.

This is clearly a useful exercise in self-knowledge, for helping  one discern what is truly a core belief and what’s just a faddish notion or idea – take a minute and go through it yourself. What do you believe in – in idea only? And is that because you’re lacking integrity – or because you don’t really value what you thought you did?


Toxic Crying it Out

April 26, 2010

Interesting news: Crying it out may hurt baby’s brains

Dr Penelope Leach says recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries.

If this happens over long periods and repeatedly, it can be “toxic” to their brains…

Apparently there’s research on both sides – this is not big news. But I have to say, any report that backs up my instinctual inability to let my baby scream himself to sleep makes me feel better… I’ve always felt like I was a failure at being tough…

The Greatest Love of All: A Rant

April 25, 2010

It’s one of those things that you might be grateful for, while at the same time finding it burdensome. Your heart gets widened, but more pain can come in, looking for shelter…

When you become a parent, suddenly every news story could be a news story about your child. You become more compassionate for strangers, knowing that every person is someone’s son or daughter; and thus every news story is that much harder to bear.

When you have a child, you get insight into the importance of every single individual human life. It is a blessing, and a curse. (What blessing does not carry with it an embryonic curse? What curse does not curve over the bud of a blessing?)

The recent story of the UVA graduate student cyclist killed on a street I drive all the time near downtown Charlottesville by a city worker is one of those stories that just sets my nerves on edge (my nerves just get ready to hurl themselves over the precipice of my anxiety sometimes). Not only do I find myself empathetically heartbroken for the parents of this young boy, but I’m aching for the truck driver, too. Neither side of the coin offers a desired surface.

These kinds of stories are almost worse to me than the ones about children my kids’ ages who get strangled on blinds or soccer nets, drown in bathtubs or ponds, suffer sudden killer flu or get abducted. At least in these cases, I can try to exert a certain amount of control; I can watch them, can’t I, ALL THE TIME. I can never let them eat a hot dog, I can spray them down with antibacterial scrub, I can leash them to my body at all hours, I can choose curtains, I can never let them play sports.

But after age 18? I’m doomed. All my efforts to comfort myself by exerting control, managing risk moment to moment – no more. The kid steps out of the house and onto the street. She goes to a concert. She goes to bars. He gets behind the wheel of a truck. He goes for a swim. WITHOUT ME.

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of sorrowful, grieving parents in the news lately. I’m also still stunned to have learned recently that the U.S. rates at the bottom among developed nations on a UNESCO scale rating how much countries care about their young. Not to get all commie on this issue, but I partly wonder if one of the reasons kids don’t get treated better here is that they don’t earn money – and while they are a booming consumer demographic, they matter in bulk, as buyers – not as individuals, as human beings. Kind of like the rest of us. Our culture’s consumeristic values governs us, more than our politicians do, or any sort of cultural wisdom.

One example?: If we cared about the safety and well-being of our young, our policies for supporting the parents of those young would be robust, and not dependant on income level. We would ensure that all children received excellent care, had the support and love of supported parents, received healthcare and food and therapy as needed.

Why? Because we doom children – and adults- to the level of care they receive based on their socioeconomic status – it’s a caste system, folks!

  • Not just teachers, but social workers, social services, people who work with kids, don’t get the level of pay and support they need
  • Working parents do not get the support they need to take care of their kids as needed
  • Daycares are often gross; childcare hard to find, and expensive
  • Supplies for kids are expensive
  • Good food, healthcare, are for the pleasure of the rich, not the poor

I guess these things wouldn’t stop that poor guy from getting run over by the truck, or prevent childhood mishaps and adolescent accidents. But there are plenty of suicides, plenty of bullying, plenty of instances of kids making poor choices because they don’t know there’s better ones, they have no one looking out for them, not really – and the sense that we as a society value them or value life in general is vague and beleaguered.

I believe the children are our future, Whitney Houston sang. It’s a stupid lyric, because there’s no belief about it- the children are indeed the future of our society, our world – and how we treat them as children will play out in how they act as adults.

My point? There’s a lot of suffering we can’t avoid or prevent for our children, for ourselves. But there IS a lot we CAN do. And it’s not about being liberal or conservative. It’s about the fact that we live in this world together, the haves and the have-nots. You’re not really giving kids much of a chance or many choices to let them wallow in poverty and neglect when they are little. If we truly believe in the innate rights and goodness of every being, then we need to ensure that every child receives the same amount of care… as a society, as a whole.

I think it is easy to take the pinch of a painful news story and flinch and become overprotective of our own kids. I would hope we can practice empathy and seek to protect and work for the welfare of ALL children. Come on! Show them all the beauty they possess inside!

Hey Sisters

April 25, 2010

Hey Working Moms out there, I was struck by something the other day. Saw a sign for some auto body shop, “Simpson Bros.”

I was thinking how much I hate the abbreviation “bros.” (it just seems ugly) and I wondered, all of a sudden, what’s the abbreviation for “sisters”?

Then I realized: Ain’t no such thing as a business put together and maintained by sisters.

Which then made me lapse into some nostalgia for the 1990s, and the show Sisters, and for Designing Women, and Murphy Brown, and Northern Exposure, and Ellen, and Roseanne, and other liberal TV shows that made such an impression on me as a teenager.

But back to the business idea: Let’s get some matriarchy going, folks. Some businesses called “Such and such Sisters, Co.” I know it’s a little retro – most new hipster businesses these days seem to be about first-names – to be on a first-name basis, I guess – but how cool would it be, to have a sister-run establishment – or even a “Marshall & Daughters”??

70 cents to the dollar people.

No fat lady is singing yet.

New Health Care Bill – Nursing Help for Moms?

April 7, 2010

I heard an ad for a talk show on NPR that I didn’t get to listen to saying that one of the provisions in the new healthcare bill is for employers to provide nursing mothers with a place and time to pump milk.

Really? Is this true? If so – hooray!

This issue has come up for a lot of mothers here in Charlottesville – scrambling to express in a broom closet on a break – hooking up to pumps in a car – getting derided by bosses for asking for a facility… men whose mothers obviously did not nurse them…

If you know anything about this, let me know – and let’s spread the good news!