"Almost Pizza"

I saw this on SNL last week and today on takepart.com, which gave its analysis of the parody.  So, how far are we willing to process our food and still call it food?

A Ban on Some Seafood Has Fishermen Fuming

"A decision by Whole Foods to stop selling any seafood it does not consider sustainable strikes New England fishermen as just one more barrier to their livelihood."

An interesting take on sustainability; I had never considered the fishermen involved.  Although I think their argument is a bit short sided and misdirected at the ‘corporate,’ the ban isn’t really fair to the fishermen who are simply trying to make a living.  But what do you do?  Over fish or find a new career? It’s obviously hard to act eco-friendly when it threatens your livelihood.

The Subversive Charm of Day Drinking

Drinking in the day is an occasion unto itself, to be enjoyed on its own congenial terms.

I’m not condoning alcoholism, but I do enjoy the occasional day drink (post 21 years, of course).  Although I’ve grown up in a home that is very familiar with the joy and varieties of alcohol, day drinking was rarely considered.  It wasn’t until one fine day last spring; I was walking through the city with a friend and he said, let’s grab a beer.  We walked into the pub, ordered, and sat outside watching the cars drive by.  It wasn’t anything magnificent or extraordinary, but it was nice and relaxing. I couldn’t comprehend why we don’t  enjoy this pastime more often.

And then I thought about our cultural differences.  In the U.S. we have a hard time telling ourselves that we deserve a break.  For my family it’s our “protestant work ethic” which keeps us constantly moving.  Alcohol, on the other hand, is the substance that makes us stop what we’re doing, or what we could be doing.  

Even now when I’m enjoying a beverage or watching the television, there is a warring discourse going on inside my mind. One voice, which sounds remarkably like my mother, is saying “what are you doing? you’re not done with your homework, and why aren’t you researching that essay that’s due soon? Have you been applying for jobs?”  While the other voice meekly says, “But… but… can’t I just sit here a little longer?”

That’s why Rosie Schaap rightfully named her article “The Subversive Charm of Day Drinking.”  It’s because we think we’re not supposed to enjoy this; because if you’re drinking before 5p.m. you’re obviously an alcoholic, and if you’re drinking at all it means that you’re morals are questionable.  If, heaven forbid, you’re not doing anything then you’re lazy. 

But now I will raise my glass with Schaap. Sometimes you can afford to have a drink before five, and at those times I promise I won’t question your morals, I might even join you because, like I’ve stated before, sometimes we just deserve it.

We should think about food like the French… or should we?

When I began reading Barry Glassner’sThe Gospel of Food, I quickly developed a questioning lens.  Although I do agree with many of his claims, like how we should enjoy food, how “nonundelows” aren’t necessarily helpful, or how a food can be deadly one day and a superfood the next; I was confused when he said that the French generally have a healthy attitude towards food. For example, when quoting a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, “the French view food as pleasure… words they associate with chocolate cake…’celebration’… asked about heavy cream, the French selected ‘whipped’; Americans chose ‘unhealthy’” (Glassner 3).

Now I’m not claiming to have a vast knowledge of French culture, and I’m not even claiming to know many French people; but from what I do know, Glassner may be overgeneralizing this data.  First of all he states that 1,281 people were interviewed in various countries, but does he mean overall or in each country?  Either way, 1,281 is not a large representative example.  Also, were these people male? Female? Upper class? Lower class? Urban? Rural? How old were they? What were their weights? Religious beliefs? Dietary restrictions?

Later in the chapter Glassner questions and almost discredits other statistical data, so should I not question this?

Now back to my original point: the French and their “healthy” attitude of food.  About a year ago I had a lengthy conversation about food and body size with two French girls.  In this conversation I was explicitly told of how females in France, especially Paris, are expected to be around a size 2.  I’ll repeat this in case you didn’t read it correctly: A SIZE 2!!!! One of these girls would only eat half a cucumber for a meal… what’s so bad about the whole cucumber? I don’t know. One was also reminiscing about when you could see her collar bones and how much she loved that.  It was “sexy.”  The other was claiming that you will never get a boyfriend if you’re not skinny.  Men simply won’t be attracted to you, especially Parisian men.  How does any of this sound healthy?

I’m not claiming that my two person statistical study is superior to the 1,281 person study, but I’m wondering if the latter is a bit outdated.  Our western ideas, whether we like it or not, are permeating Europe and judging from the expansion of McDonald’s, I’d say our food attitudes are east bound as well.  Therefore, the idea of dieting isn’t just a U.S. idea anymore.  The “nonundelows” are finding their way into European supermarkets.  To French women chocolate cake is “guilt,” cream is “unhealthy,” and as far as I could tell, these women constantly worry about food.

I know my friend is an extreme example, but still, claiming all of the French to have healthy attitudes towards food is also a bit extreme Mr. Glassner.

In Manhattan Pizza War, Price of Slice Keeps Dropping

In Midtown Manhattan, rival businesses have been cutting prices so low that the only people who seem to be profiting are their customers.

It’s interesting that pride sometimes takes precedence over livelihood.  The owners make it very clear that they will give away free pizza before they stop fighting.  But in this case, the pizza isn’t just pizza; it represents dignity and perseverance. 

But what this article is missing is the most obvious question: which pizza tastes better?  Or are they so similar that the money is the only thing that matters?  Either way, as a customer I don’t see myself complaining about a 75 cent slice. 

Chartwells’ Food Expo

This past Tuesday Chartwells invited several different food vendors to Nazareth.  Finger Lakes Coffee, Hormel, Syracuse Food, Pepsi, Malt ‘o’ Meal, and several other vendors attended, all showcasing their best foods.  As the average “starving” college student, I was ecstatic; FREE FOOD!!!! Luckily I brought my backpack and stocked up. 

But what puzzled me was how everything offered at the expo was so processed; energy drinks, sweet cereals, breaded chicken and fish, packaged smoothies, etc.  One of the primary concerns of the college student is avoiding gaining weight, so why did these companies offer foods that were bad for us?  If we think of the basic healthy foods as whole and natural, only the Syracuse Food stand actually had fruits and vegetables.  But even this company didn’t offer foods that were nutritious; among the fresh tomatoes, apples, and oranges, there were bags of shredded iceburg lettuce, shredded and baby carrots, industrial chopped onions. 

And not everything at this stand was free to the student body.  The larger fruits, like coconuts, pineapples, and papayas, were “reserved” for either the staff of the Shults Center, or until the very end of the expo. Finding this unfair, I waited until the manager of the stand was preoccupied, grabbed a pineapple, and ran like a mad woman out of the Forum yelling “WE NEED TO LEAVE” to Anna. 

What also puzzled me was the reaction of the Chartwells workers when I showed them the produce the Syracuse Food stand was “giving away.”  The overall purpose of the expo was to showcase the different products that Chartwells offers Nazareth.  Obviously it’s all for show, but when the workers saw the tomatoes Anna and I had they flipped out.  “We never get tomatoes like these!”  They laughed, basically saying that if we think Chartwells actually provides us with high quality tomatoes then we’re delusional. 

So why the front?  It’s good PR work, giving away free food on a college campus, but the Naz students are more aware than Chartwells gives us credit for.  Many of the conversations occurring around me were of speculation and criticism.  They understood that this expo wasn’t an accurate representation of the dining hall at all.  So what did we do? We just kept eating, and in my case, left with a pineapple.

Have a hankering for a cheese sandwich? Have a spare $172?
Check out the most expensive cheese sandwich!

Have a hankering for a cheese sandwich? Have a spare $172?

Check out the most expensive cheese sandwich!

Beans, Beans, the Pretentious Fruit…

My morning routine: I wake up, don’t open my eyes, feel my way to the kitchen, and start the coffee maker.  I have always loved coffee since I can remember; the bitter, rich flavors have always enticed me, and there’s nothing like opening the coffee canister and smelling the strong aroma wafting out of it.  Unfortunately the caffeine does absolutely nothing for me; I can drink a Red Bull and go to sleep five minutes later, so maybe it’s a placebo affect, but there’s nothing like starting your day with a cup-o-joe.

But coffee is much more than mere stimulant; especially since the advent of Starbucks, coffee also communicates class.  My observations tell me that the smaller and darker your coffee is, the more “classy” you are.  Personally I can’t drink coffee without some sugar, but for a coffee connoisseur this is blasphemy!  Although the majority of Americans order their coffee with some cream and suger, it’s still considered classier to drink the ultimate caffeinated beverage: espresso. 

We are the 5 percent

This article discusses the declining popularity of the espresso.  Although we often drink espresso based drinks, drinking actual, basic espresso has become a thing of the past;  apparently only five percent of sales in coffee shops are for espressos. The mere title of this article “We are the 5 percent” displays the elitist-ness of drinking this beverage.  The author automatically dubs himself as a member of the five percent, while othering those of us who are non-espresso drinkers:

He made the Fisticuffs taste like lemon rind, then like lemon and honey, then he said he wanted it “softer,” and made it taste like caramel pushed to its darkest limit and doused with cream. It was a good show, a parade of flavors and textures that could convert some of those in the 95 percent.

But why the need to convert us?  Why is my Java Chip Frap or International Delight sweetened coffee inferior?  I know that I can’t be entirely judgemental because we all do this in some way or another.  I can be persnickety with real barbeque because y’all New Yorkers don’t know what real barbeque tastes like.  It all boils down to us merely wanting to show others how good something can taste. 

But in my opinion, coffee shops are a bit different, not because of the coffee snobs, but because of the atmosphere it offers/expects:

Flashback: I’m 11 and all I want for Christmas is a long sweater and a beret.  I know what I want to do with my life: become a beat poet.  I’ll be a barista and perform my moving, life-changing poetry every night.  My audience will be transformed by my words and snap applause.  I will eloquently speak about the injustices of “the man” and I will be what I’ve always wanted to be: cool.  Unfortunately when I place the beret upon my greasy hair and look through my Harry Potter glasses into the mirror, I see that I can definitely not pull this look off.

The common coffee shop offers something that many people seek: the ability to be cool.  With their funky music, comfy chairs, “exotic” drinks, modern artwork, etc., the coffee shop attracts all different types of people; when they enter the coffee shop, however, customers are transformed into the atmosphere that surrounds them: they are artists, poets, writers, etc.  The correlation between coffee and coolness remains a mystery to me, but it’s undeniable that coffee is a beverage, much like wine, that allows people to be particular about. 

This video was the inspiration for this post, I personally found it hilarious: Coffee Snobs

I know I have a talent for finding a TED talk that applies to everything, and this blog is no exception!

If you don’t have time to watch the video here’s a recap: photographer Brian Skerry shoots marine life photos.  He’s traveled all over the world documenting the glory and the horrors of the ocean.  He shows images of destroyed ecosystems, the results of bycatch, and the possibility of restoring the ocean to its natural state.  Skerry concludes the video by acknowledging that the ocean is resilient to a point, by now it’s up to us to stop harvesting it dry and protecting it in order to restore the ocean’s equilibrium. 

Curse of the Brown Thumb

Gardening/Farming/Hunting is indeed an art.  Each of these things require patience, perseverance, and knowledge.  In terms of gardening and farming, those who are especially skilled with cultivating plants are known to possess “green thumbs.”  My mother was blessed with green thumbs and I have been cursed with brown thumbs. My brown thumbs and I have learned to live with each other, I try to beat the curse but it always creeps up on me at some point.  I’ve had about six plants since arriving at Nazareth, all of which have since died or been taken by social services (aka Mom) who claimed that I was an unfit nurturer.  My brown thumbs along with my chronic forgetfulness have turned me into a certified plant killer.  But I will not surrender! Although I don’t have the time, space, or fiscal means to have my own garden, I am determined to cultivate a lush landscape one day. 

Okay, maybe I won't be this good...

According to Brummett, supermarkets have cut us off from the reality of food.  We assume that everything is easily accessible, uniform, and without consequence.  Gone are the days when food needed to be hunted, gardened, and gathered by the consumer.  But in terms of uniformity, why is it unpleasant when the same vegetable looks different from its peers?  I admit that I’m guilty of casting away a carrot or a potato that is misshapen.  But what are my reasons behind this? 

Brummett makes a good point when celebrating the uniqueness of food that is grown naturally: “A freshly pulled carrot may be wonderfully knobby compared to its supermarket brethren… an astonishing variety of sizes and shapes, of blemishes and scars, may be found on each fruit.  Each one is picked at its own moment of ripeness, not on an industrial schedule” (262). 

But it’s not that easy to just begin cultivating your own foods; I don’t know the first thing about hunting, not to mention that I would never trust myself with a gun.  And if I were to raise a cow for slaughter I know that I would end up loving it too much.  So what is the solution?  Although Brummett briefly addresses this issue (267), I believe that it should have been given more consideration.  I may not grow or kill my own foods, but the first and most important step in my opinion is “mindful” consuming (267).  By being an aware consumer, we can make informed decisions about our food choices as well as “encouraging the public to become connoisseurs” (267).