Milk has not always been the object of attack by nutritionists and animal activists. Hundreds of years before vegans were condemning dairy products as unhealthful industrialized commodities, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 18th-century French philosopher and arguably the first ecologist and environmentalist, was praising the nutritious and psychological properties of milk and its ability to reconnect people with nature. Throughout his writings, from Émile, or On Education to his Confessions, dairy is depicted not only as a building block of humanity but also as a vegetal fruit-like figure within his idealized bucolic literary scenes.
It’s not by mere chance that Rousseau starts off his masterpiece on the “art of education,” Émile, or On Education, with a tribute to breast milk and maternity (still a modern concept in the 18th century). He explains the profound impact of breastfeeding on infants, affirming that it intensifies the mother–child bond, and therefore the overall harmony of the family which he views as a fundamental unit of civilization.
When I look at birds, I'm more interested in what they do--how they fly, where they nest, whether they pick things off the ground to eat or nibble berries on a tree--than I am in their specific names. My father, an avid birdwatcher and twitcher, despairs. "You're not assiduous in your birdwatching," he laments, after asking me whether the bird I just saw (which no one else saw because they were turned a different way) had a black eye band and a white rump.
02 December 2010
Amtrak Surfliner from Los Angeles to Goleta, CA
I have survived the Thanksgiving carbohydrate overdose, followed by the airline’s flight cancellation due to (inperceptable) weather conditions and the subsequent overnight at Syracuse Airport’s Holiday Inn Express, as well as the perk of making the most of it by indulging in Dinosaur BBQ, a 40-some-odd smokehouse and watering hole. The pulled pork at Dinosaur was actually recommended to me by Culture’s own David Newhoff, a man whose taste in food I would trust in even the worst of times. Believe me, being stranded in Syracuse qualified as such, but the AMAZING pulled pork at Dinosaur was definitely a big reward for my not having throttled the rude and flat-affective staff at the Hancock Airport (except you, Denise, Ms. Fabulous at US Airways!)
Light is seeping fast out of the shortening days, spectacular days are so short, overcast days have twilight at noon. This is the time of year my father died, making the dark days darker. Little birds fleet over the cold landscape, escaping the hungry eyes of the buzzards who wait on the telegraph poles. The deer get more and more inventive about how to get into my vegetable garden (what about a now 7 foot high electrified fence with a proximity alarm don’t they understand - it feels like we are training them to steeplechase).
Originally published in culture's winter 2010 issue
One of the UK’s biggest newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, recently ran a short column titled, “Blessed Are the British Cheesemakers.” Having tasted many cheeses from Britain, I was prepared to cheer the essay based on the title alone. My goodwill quickly deflated, however, once I read the first paragraph. The writer—award-winning journalist and editor Clive Aslet—started his homage to British cheesemakers by first trampling on American ones, claiming, “I couldn’t live in the [United States] because of the cheese. America seems unable to cope with this most glorious of foods, both a staple which fills the sandwich and a luxury that enchants the epicure.”
Ask anyone who will admit to knowing me: I'm an enthusiastic omnivore. But I'm also an enthusiastic host, with a lot of vegetarians on my roster. This has necessitated some off-the-cuff veggie cooking in the past, especially around ThanksG., when I'm apt to drag various castaways over to my folks' place for dinner. Mom and Dad seem to enjoy the company, but it falls to me to feed the meatless masses.
This has proven to be pretty easy, actually; the holiday is a good excuse to go over the top with rich and savory flavors, especially if you're looking for a main dish to replace turkey*. Pies work really well for this purpose.
Something big happened in 2010. It's the original kitchen table issue; the food that goes on that table. At homes and in restaurants everywhere, meals with mysterious origins are being replaced by food that has a direct to the dirt it came from pedigree. Economic handwringing, the prospect of the US population's girth expanding beyond our landmass, even give-it-a-name-so-we-can-call-it-a-fad punditry failed to put a dent in the steady drumbeat of demand for good food. Cheese, of course, is the essence of good food. No fuss, no frills, just food at its best.