But, but…it’s organic!

Michael Pollan was on “Fresh Air” yesterday, and as usual, I was left nodding my head in agreement with everything he said, while simultaneously mistrusting all of it with every fiber of my being.

Yes, our agriculture policy needs a huge overhaul. Yes, we should pursue policies that encourage more food to be grown locally. Yes, the world is not well-served by huge feedlots and monocrop farming. Sure, the White House should have a Victory Garden to set an example for the rest of the country and donate the leftovers to local food banks. Yes, let’s consider the rising cost and toxic fallout of fossil fuels when we consider how government will play its role in the marketplace. Yes, yes, yes.

And yet.

There seem to be a dozen places in Pollan’s stump speech, at least, in which “and then a miracle happens” seems to hover over the narrative. I soon learned that it was linked to the parts where Pollan says, “I’m not a policy maker, but…,” another way of waving one’s hand dismissively while saying, “details, details.” I didn’t hear every single minute, so maybe he addressed this at some point, but the biggest stumbling block to agricultural policy, Pollan-style, is the loss of an essential skill in this country: Cooking. Of course I cook, and you cook, but all you have to do is look at the explosion of “convenience” and other heat-n-serve, half-baked and other food in the grocery these days to know that an awful lot of people don’t. And I don’t know how we make our way away from high-fructose corn syrup and toward unprocessed-and-organic without that skill.

If I’ve told this story before, forgive me, but I always think about it when I think of the loss of cooking skills: My newspaper once sponsored a cooking demonstration, for which I served as the speaker’s Vanna White. At one point we made cupcakes in foil muffin cups arranged on a cookie sheet. She filled the first three and I did the rest. All of hers came out perfect and mine spread out like pan pizzas. She pointed out I overfilled the cups by just a tad, and that tad was enough to buckle their sides. “This is stupid,” I said. “Why don’t we just put the cups in muffin tins, the way you’re supposed to?” Alas, not possible. Reynolds Aluminum, one sponsor of the show, wanted the cups demonstrated freestanding on cookie sheets, because they were aimed at home cooks who owned a pizza pan, but not a muffin tin. Sometime in the last 25 years or so, a muffin tin became as exotic as a brioche mold or a tart pan.

I could tell more stories. A couple years ago I did a business-mag story on the explosion of specialty groceries in Detroit, whose biggest growth area is in pre-marinated chicken, pre-assembled casseroles and other just-add-heat entrees. “My wife doesn’t cook, so we live on this stuff,” said one owner. (P.S. His wife is a stay-at-home mother, which suggests she’s also a real underachiever.) “No one I know cooks anymore.”

“I cook,” I said.

“You do?” he said. “Well, you’re in the minority.”

And I’m a college-educated, middle-class person. We’re not even talking about the poor, whose nutritional status is even more perilous. At least the grocer’s wife is getting decent ingredients; the poor kids are living on Red Zone Mountain Dew and pork rinds.

I suppose Pollan would point out that cooking is easy, that a delicious meal can be assembled from a box of spaghetti, some olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Of course these skills can be taught. But good luck teaching them in a world where muffin tins are specialty kitchen equipment.

I also break out in hives when Pollan says that “food should be expensive,” as though it’s not expensive enough now, pretty much admitting that he’s advocating a Whole Foods-ification of the marketplace. There’s a winning position, pal. Ride that pony all the way to Washington, whydontcha?

So, bloggage:

Obama goes off to hold his dying grandmother’s hand, and you know someone’s gonna have a problem with that. Roy has the rundown.

When we were taking breaks from making our zombie movie, of course a few of us dared speak of the Holy Grail — making a real movie, and how it might be done well on a very small budget. Then I stumbled across a trailer for this movie, which appears to be a big stinkin’ p.o.s. shot in SEVENTY MILLIMETER, entirely financed by corporate America. Has anyone seen this? And how can I get Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, American Airlines and MasterCard to finance my movie?

Off to the gym, folks. I neglected it all last week, so it’s time to pay the piper.

Posted at 9:49 am in Movies, Popculch |

89 responses to “But, but…it’s organic!”

  1. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

    I always joke that I was in college before I realized that boiled potatoes didn’t come with brown scorch marks all over. My mother mastered baked macaroni and cheese (Velveeta, natch) and that was about it. It wasn’t so much that she lacked the ability or time, as that she lacked the interest. She always sewed for us, another long-lost skill, and was room mother and band booster and 4-H leader, but cooking just didn’t capture her attention.

    Does anyone else remember Maid-Rites? They were considered quite the gourmet meal in my natal state of Iowa. Prepare to be stunned by the recipe: take hamburger and fry it while breaking it up. Serve on a bun. Ta-da! What innovation! If you went to someone’s house and they served you Maid-Rites, you were an honored guest.

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  2. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I used to cook way more than I do now. I used to know how to de-bone a chicken breast. These days I just stock up when boneless/skinless are on sale.

    We made a big life style change 11 years ago, when my honey became the stay at home. He cooks week night dinners, we cook together on weekends. After his first several weeks of being the week night cook I had to have a little chat with him about meals that could be prepared without using a frying pan.

    Julie, I am quite sure that maid-rites are an only in Iowa thing. And why do I think there is some connection with Roseanne and Tom Arnold?

    Why make a maid-rite when a few additions makes it a great sloppy joe? Add a can of tomato soup, a shot of mustard. 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a shot of worcestershire. Is that so hard?

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  3. Yvette said on October 21, 2008 at 10:24 am

    My father did the cooking, and my mother actually tried to beat him home so she could cook every now then. My father ruled the kitchen and didn’t want anyone messing up his kitchen. Still, my sister and I managed to learn how to cook. I like to, but when I get home around 7, it’s hard to muster enough energy and interest to cook.

    Sometimes I make several meals on Sunday. That’s always the goal, anyway. Many times it’s rotisserie chicken, sandwiches or hamburger patties. On the good days, like Sunday, there’s pot roast with dressing and collard greens! That was courtesy of sis.

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  4. Bill said on October 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Maid Rite is a midwestern loose meat sandwich chain:

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  5. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Sloppy joes were considered too exotic and spicy, just like American cheese was.

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  6. Hooiser said on October 21, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Connie, Maid Rites are BIG in Illinois

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  7. coozledad said on October 21, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I’ve got a cooking question. Over the summer, when I wasn’t baking much, we had a fifty pound sack of flour become infested with mealbugs. I have a sifter, but the mesh is too large, and it only grinds the insect parts into the flour. This makes them easier to disguise with a dash of ground pepper, when we’re having guests, but anyone without severe macular degeneration is ultimately going to notice the pepper has wings.
    What is the recommended screen size for sieving “vegetarian flour” 1/64? 1/32?

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  8. Linda said on October 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Connie: Maybe you’re thinking Rosanne and Tom because in her series, she and Dan open a loose meat sandwich shop.

    Where I come from, we do sloppy joes with ketchup, a little mustard, onion, and worchester. I — and all my siblings–learned cooking because we were latchkey kids whose parents expected a hot meal on the table when they came home, so Mom showed us how to cook.

    Nancy, you will be bummed to read a story in the Washington Post awhile back about the dumbing down of cookbooks–apparently, the same people who don’t own muffin pans don’t know what braise or blanche mean, so they avoid those big words. Read it and weep:

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  9. caliban said on October 21, 2008 at 10:48 am

    There will always be an England:


    If Brits can learn to turn out palatable food after all these centuries since Runnymede or whatever, so can Americans. Alton Brown is the Renaissance Man for a Department of Food.

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  10. John D. said on October 21, 2008 at 11:01 am

    You’re right Nancy. Cooking is a lost art. I live in perhaps the crunchiest town in America (Bozeman) yet in my neighborhood you can get run over by the pizza delivery cars at 6:00 p.m. Of course I live in the part of town where a stay at home yuppie mother has a first child and hires an au pair and a cleaning service the next day. I’ve often wondered what these mothers do during the day. Maybe they just drink and watch the “Price is right.” Beats me.

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  11. brian stouder said on October 21, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Money quote from Linda’s excellent link:

    At a conference last December, Stephen W. Sanger, chairman and chief executive of General Mills Inc., noted the sad state of culinary affairs and described the kind of e-mails and calls the company gets asking for cooking advice: the person who didn’t have any eggs for baking and asked if a peach would do instead, for example; and the man who railed about the fire that resulted when he thought he was following instructions to grease the bottom of the pan — the outside of the pan.

    See – this ain’t just about cookin’. Have you looked at all the guards and warnings and notices on a new lawn mower, lately?

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  12. caliban said on October 21, 2008 at 11:14 am

    By some editorial oversight, this feature omits the classic “The Cemetery Precincts”:


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  13. Jeff Borden said on October 21, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I’m a complete klutz in the kitchen but keep trying. My wife is the kind of person who can make a tasty meal out of just about anything.

    We probably eat home-cooked meals six nights per week, but admittedly, they often are filled out with things like frozen mashed potatoes or vegetables. Even my sainted mother, who made some of the best mashed taters ever, eventually went to the store-bought kind because she tired of the mess of making the real thing.

    I assume the use of frozen and/or packaged foods in a meal disqualifies us from being considered (a) healthy eaters and (b) green.

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  14. nancy said on October 21, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Some years back, the LATimes ask-the-cook column featured a letter from someone who said she had a recipe she wanted to try, calling for “leftover chicken.” What is this leftover chicken, the writer asked, and where could she find it?

    Here’s what I don’t get: When my mother was in charge of our kitchen, there were maybe one or two cooking shows on TV — the daytime happy-homemaker stuff and Julia Child. Now there’s a whole food channel, and everybody can name at least half a dozen celebrity cooks. So where do we get off not knowing what “sauté” means? How can a nation make Martha Stewart a zillionaire and still not know how to fold egg whites?

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  15. del said on October 21, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Michael Pollan’s eloquent but there’s a certain smugness to his expertise. He’s speaking a different language so it’s hard to measure his views.
    Linda, the dumbing down of cookbooks doesn’t bother me so much — I rely on the internet for most recipes and can get as detailed information as I want (though yesterday I fumbled through The Joy of Cooking, grimy pages and all).

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  16. Jenflex said on October 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    I hope it was the OLD version of Joie de Cooking…the new one has been dumbed down past all recognition. Besides having good background, calorie info, and oh, yeah, recipes, Joy appeals to the latent survivalist in me: it’s good to know there’s a resource (offline) I can use if I ever want to cook a squirrel or other “varmint.”

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  17. brian stouder said on October 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    everybody can name at least half a dozen celebrity cooks

    Well, I ain’t a handyman, either, but watching home improvement shows used to be mildly interesting to me – in much the same way as watching how they do various surgical procedures.

    For example, they show a guy reroofing his own house, down to the plywood. Or a happy couple, ripping out their bathtub and installing a new one, along with a new water heater, and extensive renovations to the whole bathroom. Or, an energetic woman swinging a sledge hammer at a wall in her living room, in order to create ‘open space’.

    Will I ever, ever (ever!) do any of that? No. I’m maxed-out at replacing plastic pipe fittings beneath the kitchen sink, which I have done – but only grudgingly (I hate jobs where, once you begin, you cannot change your mind and stop)

    Cooking shows show millions of people like me what is possible. If some of us try it an succeed, marvelous! And if many of us try it and fail – what’s new?

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  18. Catherine said on October 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    In defense of Whole Foods: If I avoid the prepared food case & the exotic seaweed chips that are $1.39 for a small bag of 12! chips! and stick with the basics, the bill is not that different from the regular grocery store. Plus, it tends to be more organic, more local, and frankly, yummier. I know when I buy meat there that we’re going to enjoy it and finish it, because it’s fresh and delicious. Yes, I really should go to my local farmer’s market on Saturday morning, but sometimes the time is more valuable to me than the fresh/local/small business good feelings.

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  19. Catherine said on October 21, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Our neighbors planted their entire parkway with vegetables. (Is it called a parkway everywhere? I mean that strip of earth between the sidewalk and the curb) They live on a corner, so not much of a backyard, and here’s the perfect sunny spot for their victory garden. Corn stalks, reaching to the sky, and beautiful green and purple what? cabbages? plus peppers and tomatoes. I should find out what their harvest has been like, given the homeless people and the nearby high school.

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  20. del said on October 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Jen, I think my Joy of Cooking is a tweener — ‘tween mom’s and today’s. Can tell it’s a little older when it goes all French on me. OT — favored Spin Doctors’ lyric: “You cook so well, all nice and French . . . you do your . . . brain surgery too, mama . . . with a monkey wrench.” Joys of Cooking, Joys of marriage.
    Catherine, here in Michigan your parkway would be called an easement, I believe.

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  21. beb said on October 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Some times I think high schools should require all students to take one semister of Home Ec and one of Shop, not that most high schools have home ec or shop rooms anymore. Basic survival skills for when mom or dad aren’t around.

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  22. nancy said on October 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Strip between the sidewalk and street: “Park strip,” except in Cleveland, which has its own unique term — “tree lawn.”

    High schools used to require home ec and shop. When did they stop? And why? (Shop I can see dropping, or at least replacing with something like Tools 101, in which everyone would learn how to hang a picture and replace a light switch. But everyone should take home ec. And Financial Literacy.)

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  23. Jolene said on October 21, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Not to disrupt this topic, which I love, but I want to let you all know about this great blog item by Ta-Nehisi Coates, prompted by Obama suspending his campaign to visit his grandmother. Really wonderful, I thought.

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  24. Jolene said on October 21, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Back on topic, growing up on the farm, I learned how to can vegetables. Well, sort of, my mother was always in charge (and she quit messing w/ all that long before they moved off the farm). But, anyway, when I was in graduate school, I made dill pickles w/ a friend. She was amazed that humans could do such a thing w/o the aid of a factory.

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  25. LAMary said on October 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    The Whole Foods on Arroyo, Catherine? I have not ventured into that place. What is it, three floors? I’ll stick to my Trader Joes/Costco/Target/Hollywood Farmers Market rounds.

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  26. Deborah said on October 21, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    So many great points in this post and comments. Where to start?
    Julie Robinson,
    I laughed so hard at your boiled potato black spots description, I remember those so well too. My mom used tupperware containers as serving vessels on the dining room table and they all had a melted corner from getting to close to the burners during the preparations. She cooked every meal that I can remember while reading novels.
    I read Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma while I was vacationing in New Mexico last week. And you guessed it I cooked every meal while reading at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the meals I cooked, not so much.

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  27. brian stouder said on October 21, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Jolene – that was a great blog post, and a marvelous photo of grandpa and grandma (and indeed, the senator from Illinois does get his looks from grandpa!)

    On the main subject, way back when I went to school, they DID require at least one semester of home ec and one of wood shop.

    Honestly (no joke) – that was where I first realized that one doesn’t cook everything at ‘Full Blast’; really cooking meant turning the flame down

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  28. Catherine said on October 21, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Mary, there is a smaller WF in E. Pasadena. The one on Arroyo is quite amazing and more of a field trip/life experience/foodie extravaganza than a grocery store. I like to take visitors from Europe there to prove that there is actually decent food in America. But I rarely *shop* there. You are fortunate to live close to the Hwd FM!

    Not to offend any Clevelander/-ians, but “tree lawn?” Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    Nancy, your question about HS home ec is right on. Or how about middle school? Great article in my local paper recently about the last semester of a retiring home ec teacher at Washington MS in Pasadena. She’s taught 2 generations of (generally speaking) disadvantaged kids how to make their own healthy, home-made, affordable meals. But the district has decided, in their wisdom, to re-prioritize — probably to algebra — and there’s to be no more home ec in MS.

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  29. Joe K said on October 21, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    There was a Maid rite in Greenville Ohio we used to stop at on the way home from Rugby games in southern Ohio. It wasn’t a franchise, just a hole in the wall bar with a drive up window. If you ordered six and six, you got six sandwiches and six cold Blatz’s beers. The drive up window(mind you in a bar) had several hundred pieces of gum stuck around it. Some kind of weird tradition.
    Joe K

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  30. Rana said on October 21, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Now there’s a whole food channel, and everybody can name at least half a dozen celebrity cooks. So where do we get off not knowing what “sauté” means? How can a nation make Martha Stewart a zillionaire and still not know how to fold egg whites?

    I think the problem is that most of those shows encourage passive viewing – you watch the chef and are amazed by the food that results – but there’s not that much in the way of education about the actual procedures used. (Alton Brown’s a notable exception.) I also think that there are some things you just have to learn in person, such as the way scrambled eggs look when they’re done, or what a properly cooked onion smells like, or how bread dough feels when it’s been kneaded enough.

    On Home Ec and Shop – I think three things probably account for the demise of these classes. One is that there’s little funding/time for them; the schools are under pressure to focus on the test-ables, at the expense of everything else. Another thing is the gender issue – people complained (correctly) that these classes tended to be divided into Home Ec for Girls and Shop for Boys. Unfortunately, the obvious solution – having both boys and girls take both classes – seems to have been less popular than doing away with the courses altogether. I would guess a final factor would be, at least for shop, fear of parents suing the school when clumsy children accidentally burn themselves at the stove or whack their thumbs with a hammer.

    On Pollan –

    I think part of the problem is that he’s just one guy – a thoughtful, interesting guy with a good ear for his writing – and his message is, at base, about the need of ordinary folks to change their everyday habits to something less destructive. He’s ended up being the public spokesman for this… I guess you could call it a movement, but it’s not really the sort of thing that works from the top down. So if his solutions are rather vague, that’s not surprising, since he’s more identifying the problem and suggesting possible alternatives for us to choose from, than providing a road map to a specific future.

    As for the smug thing – if you want to hear smug, Alice Waters is the queen of smug. But, yeah, sometimes you wonder if the people making these arguments have a clear understanding of the ways most peoples lives work. We make bad decisions not only because we don’t know the alternatives, or because we are bad people of weak will, but also because the system makes it far easier to choose those options. There’s are reasons why most people end up eating food made with corn syrup, and it’s not primarily because they think its a good thing to have in their food. Pollan’s better than most, I think, in terms of thinking about the way we’re pushed into unhealthy, unsustainable choices – a lot of money goes into making them the easier, “cheaper” ones.

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  31. MichaelG said on October 21, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I dunno, Cooz, I think what you have maybe isn’t vegetarian flower any more.

    Just so happens Ruhlman has good takes on Pollan and on dumbing down recipes. Read about Pollan and then scroll down. http://blog.ruhlman.com/

    It seems that the big thing here is building high end food stores with big take out departments offering lots of gourmet entrees. Some fully cooked, some take home and cook.

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  32. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    But Deborah, did your mom leave the kitchen to read those novels? Mine did–her preferred reading spot was in her bedroom, the farthest room from the kitchen. I learned to cook in spite of her, with some help from big sis, grandmas, 4-H and junior high home ec. (I suppose home ec class doesn’t help the kids pass their No Child Left Behind tests.)

    If you appreciated Omnivore’s Dilemma, you might like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Her family moved to a small farm and tried to eat local for a year. They grew as much as they could themselves, even raising chickens and turkeys. The chapter about the dumb turkeys no longer knowing how to mate is a howler.

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  33. Scout said on October 21, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I just got finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal Vegetable Miracle, and it is highly recommended for anyone who takes food seriously. You can visit the website animalvegetablemiracle.com for recipes.

    The other thing I’d like to pass along is the TED.com video featuring Mark Bittman, NYT columnist, cookbook author and food writer. It is well worth the time you’ll spend watching.


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  34. Bruce Fields said on October 21, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    “I think the problem is that most of those shows encourage passive viewing – you watch the chef and are amazed by the food that results – but there’s not that much in the way of education about the actual procedures used.”

    Do they even cover basic daily cooking?

    I assumed that everyday cooking–“I just go home, I’m tired, we need dinner in half an hour, and the only thing I can find in the fridge is turnips–what do I do?”–is what’s dying, and what the cooking shows are about is cooking as a hobby.

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  35. brian stouder said on October 21, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Rachel Ray’s show is pretty good stuff; she’s geared toward ’30 minute meals’, which amounts to doing some things ahead, and slicing and dicing and using lots of ‘E V O O’, and never using measuring cups or spoons. Pretty entertaining, and more than a little encouraging

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  36. Scout said on October 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Julie, it looks like you and I were posting about Kingsolver’s marvelous book at the same time!

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  37. Dorothy said on October 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Just have to chime in here and say what a breath of fresh air all of these comments (and Nancy’s original post) were today. It’s nice to get a break from all the head butting we’re doing about the election. That being said, I really enjoyed the brief divergence about Mr. Obama’s grandparents. That was nice. And non-political, almost.

    I never really ate out at restaurants until I started dating on a regular basis. I had an occasional treat when I went shopping with my mom, but that was rather rare. In a family of 10 children, and a mom who stayed home until the youngest was 10 years old or so, we always had home cooking. I still cook a lot. It’s less expensive, and usually tastier.

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  38. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    My Mom made a homecooked dinner every night except Wednesday and a classic Sunday after church dinner as well. It went on the table as soon as Dad walked in the door at 5:30. Except we could only have garlic on Tuesdays and Saturdays – my Dad was a dentist. And Wednesday was his day off so we all ate out, at the same little restaurant for years and years. And then went to catechism class at church. Every Wednesday night for many years.

    My then brand new middle school had a combined art/shop/home ec/ set up, but the girls did home ec while the boys did shop. And I will always remember being in the room when Doug Mast almost sliced his thumb off. Not quite as bad as the time the same year that I was riding on the bus to the bowling alley for phys ed class, and the bus driver died. While driving down the street.

    My now 21 yr old daughter had mandatory food science somewhere in junior high. She has always been a cook, as well an Alton Brown fan. In fact her blog post for today was about last night’s dinner experiment. Basically she said if I don’t care much for peanut butter what made me think I would like it on noodles? I will never forget when she was 11 and she and the neighbor girl decided to make angel food from scratch. Used every egg in the house and it never occurred to them to save the yolks for something else. But then she was 13 when she first watched Alton Brown do it, then went into our kitchen and made pate choux.

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  39. Dexter said on October 21, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Coozie: I always wonder what those specs are in flour…I try to imagine cheery thoughts, but YOU’RE NOT HELPING !! Especially after “Bob the Mouse” left calling cards on my sink area last winter and I had to kill him, and then take shit from my friend for not using one of those “live traps” and releasing Bob to the wilds. I had used a Victor “break-a-yo-neck” trap

    Pollan sounds like the Thomas Friedman of the kitchen. It always infuriates Friedman when gasoline prices drop…he thinks gas should be $10-$12 a gallon to force a reduction in miles driven. He cares not that it’s poor folks who would suffer with those prices, unable to even make it to work with no way to pay for gas that high.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Do read the Ta-Nehisi Coates article — http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/i_hope_this_is_in_good_taste.php — Obama’s grandparents were remarkable people; i’ve enjoyed more than anything else in this election reading about the family histories of him and Palin, because they both have so much going on in their “before they were born” family histories, let alone their own accomplishments. McCain and Biden, ehh. Too familiar, i guess.

    Can’t find a link, but Harper’s had an article about The Food Network as “food porn” which, as their better articles usually do, had me thinking to start “aww, c’mon” but got to a point where i had to start nodding my head. TFN shows are about watching the cooking and imagining participation, but aren’t all that much about actually inciting you to do exactly what’s going on in the show . . . and everything works much better and looks flawless, as opposed to what happens with real world foil muffin cups and trying to roll out the pie crust.

    I have no idea which direction the metaphor was going anymore there at the end.

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Ah ha — found it, probably illegally transcribed: http://skinnygourmet.blogspot.com/2008/02/what-is-food-porn.html

    Update — duh, the link is inside the article: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2005/10/0080776

    The further analysis, with pictures, is still interesting in its own right; the author adds this, which i suppose i should replicate myself:
    “In the interest of fair warning, this article discusses everything from the pornographic gaze to the latent sensuality of food and the sexual symbolism of food presentation. If you have delicate sensibilities or offend easily I ask that you do not continue on.”

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  42. MichaelG said on October 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    When I lived in Auburn we used to have an occasional mouse in the house. It was usually a field mouse that a cat had brought in. “What the cat drug in” had meaning in those days. Anyway, I was prevailed upon to use those catch and release traps. When the mouse was in the trap, I’d take it all the way to the end of the property and let it go. There were a couple of cold, rainy days when I really had to force the little devil out of the trap. I’ll bet he beat me back to the house.

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  43. MichaelG said on October 21, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    When the Food Network started it was all about how to with lots of great shows telling folks how to cook. They’ve completely lost their way. Now it’s all one stupid “challenge” after another, one stupid gimmick after another. They seem incapable of putting on a straight, informative cooking show anymore. I still like the Iron Chef, though, and Good Eats although Alton Brown can get a wee bit full of himself.

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  44. LAMary said on October 21, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Coozledad, toss the flour out. Really. When I had pet birds we got meal moths in everything, apparently from the birdseed I was buying. I’m not a frail flower, but bugs in the breading are nasty. On the other hand, the last time I encountered a rodent in my house, I smacked it like a fly and killed it. My children have some serious respect for me, as in, “whoa, mom just smashed a mouse with her hand.” If I had thought about it much, I don’t think I would have smashed the mouse that way, but whatever. It’s no better than the ugly victor trap, and involves very serious hand washing afterwards.

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  45. nancy said on October 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I’d say ditto on pitching the flour, too. I’m reminded of the darkest hours in “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio,” when the kids are being fed literally the last scraps of food in the house, some sort of thrown-together soup, and it has bugs in it. The mother keeps insisting they’re “spices.”

    Although I give a big huzzah to anyone brave enough to swallow the questionable food, as I do it all the time. This is a conflict in our household, where the male figure has been food-poisoned (not here!) and remembers every heave all too well.

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  46. Catherine said on October 21, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I hear him about the food poisoning thing. Pot stickers and bologna have never been the same for me. The smell alone of bologna makes me want to hurl. This is why I never wore a coat in elementary school — I would have had to enter the coatroom to hang it up, and the smell was… ugh.

    Sorry if I’m taking this thread in the wrong direction!

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  47. LAMary said on October 21, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Bad sushi here. Cannot handle the stuff since that time.

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  48. LAMary said on October 21, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Michael G, are you saying you are not a fan of Throwup with Bobby Flay?

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  49. moe99 said on October 21, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    How about some Jon Stewart humor?




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  50. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Having twice lived in a house in a corn field, I am an expert at mouse killing. When the combines show up it is time to get out the mouse traps. One winter I kept score. 24 murdered mice.

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  51. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Speaking of mice: Whe our daughter Sarah was about 3, we lived in a house with lots of holes, and a railroad track not far from the back yard (Zollars near Broadway & Taylor for those of you in the Fort). So, lots of mice, which we did not dispatch with the humane traps. Naturally she was very concerned so we told her they went to heaven. Big mistake.

    During the children’s sermon our Pastor asked if any of the children knew anyone in heaven. Of course he expected to hear about grandparents. Immediately Sarah launched into a very long tale about all the mousies and how the traps sounded and it was all okay because every single one of them went to heaven and wasn’t it wonderful? He could not shut her down. Did I mention she spoke very loudly and clearly for her young age? And she was bouncing up and down in her delight? We tried to slink out but the congregation was rolling in the aisles. I don’t think we ever lived that down.

    Fast forward 25 years and the bouncy young lady with the big voice and lots of enthusiasm is in seminary. I think she’ll be careful not to ask such open-ended questions when she gives the Children’s sermon.

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  52. coozledad said on October 21, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    I’m queasier about eating the bugs than my wife, who has an enviable scientific stoicism. I’m just reluctant to throw it out because I’m a miser. Oh well. At least the chickens will be thrilled. They love rotten milk, too.
    We store huge amounts of food, primarily because of our location, and the comparative difficulty of buying organic locally. Most of the stuff we could get locally we grow anyway.
    This is the first time we’ve had a bag infested before we opened it.
    Don’t worry. If any of you visit, I’ll prepare a nice salad, or in winter, a soup with meticulously rinsed beans.

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  53. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 21, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Can vegetarians eat bugs? (No, really, i’m curious.)

    And Julie, i’ll bet she will be fearless about asking open-ended questions and will just learn how to work with them, and the loud clear voiced bouncers that ask them.

    Don’t eat honey? I didn’t know that — or is that just vegan?

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  54. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Jeff tmmo, vegetarians would not eat bugs by choice. And vegans won’t even eat honey.

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  55. coozledad said on October 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Strict religious vegetarians will not eat or drink fruit roll -ups or beverages that use a natural food color made from the crushed bodies of cochineal beetles. They’re used for pink grapefruit juice, among other things.
    Some nutritionists suspect that the human shift away from being insectivores accounts for premature bone loss in women. My gag reflex is way too strong to eat anything outside of a pickled agave worm.

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  56. Dexter said on October 21, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    MORE BUGS ! A friend , being nice, gave me a few cauliflowers he had grown in his garden. To show him I really liked cauliflower, , I broke off a few florets and was about to sample a big bite…when …OH NO ! I noticed nearly transparent small spiders all through the entire bunch. “Gee, Jim” , I said, “looks like these have spiders all through them ! ”
    “Sorry…there weren’t any in the head the fellas and I ate at breaktime…I don’t think, anyway…”
    I was kind enough to not let him see me dump my heads of cauliflower into the dumpster.

    We discussed Maid Rite and sloppy joe sandwiches, so for dinner I made a skillet of sloppy joes. I used to eat 4 sandwiches at least when I was a young man. Tonight I just laid-out two pieces of bread on a plate and spooned the meat on top…and the dog got 2/3 of the stuff. I just can’t eat hamburger much anymore…is that a normal sign of aging?
    It just tastes bad no matter how it’s cooked. I see those Ruby Tuesday ads with those giant burgers and I cringe.
    The dog loved it. My plate is clean. I love that dog.

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  57. Dexter said on October 21, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    There is a station on XM Radio that has a vegan program, which I listened to one night…can’t recall what number the station was…somewhere between 2 and 247, if that helps!
    I learned that vegans never drink Coca-Cola because Coke sponsors animal experimentation in laboratories.
    Manager LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Club banned all Coke products in the clubhouse years ago…LaRussa is a vegetarian and animal rights spokesman.

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  58. Dexter said on October 21, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Coozie: Years ago Mr. & Mrs. Weaver ran a Waterloo, IN restaurant called The Country Charm. It was a fine place.
    The Weavers had a novelty section by the register, a table adorned with chocolate covered ants, rattlesnake meat, choco-grasshoppers, and other long-forgotten delicacies. I worked there as a soda jerk for a while when I was 14…one of the other kids stole a can of those grasshoppers…I just could not eat one…big ol’ STOP sign came up!

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  59. alex said on October 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I’m queasier about eating the bugs than my wife, who has an enviable scientific stoicism.

    Naw, she’s just thinking of England. The stoicism is yours.

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  60. coozledad said on October 21, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I just wish that when she was thinking of England, she’d remember their great steeplechase tradition.

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  61. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Didja all see the piece on Berke Breathed on the demise of “Opus,” prefigured by the fact that the WaPo wouldn’t run this — http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2008/07/06/opus/index.html

    His comment on the fate of wood-pulp journalism is near the end of page one of the Salon interview — http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2008/10/18/opus/index.html

    He’s going out, para-penultimately, with a bang — http://www.salon.com/comics/opus/2008/10/19/opus/index.html

    (Opus, i should point out, was my best man at a certain formal occasion 23+ years ago, and i have the wedding pictures to prove it.)

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  62. Catherine said on October 21, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Julie, thank you for the mice story! I hope you plan to tell that one at her wedding or ordination (or both).

    “Strict religious vegetarians will not eat or drink fruit roll -ups or beverages that use a natural food color made from the crushed bodies of cochineal beetles.” So, can you wear things dyed with cochineal?

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  63. brian stouder said on October 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Shelby and I just got back from University of Michigan graduate Gene Robinson’s lecture at IPFW (and a fine cold night it has become, I might add!), and it was tremendous; lively, funny, incisive….and all that a political junkie could possibly want! The hall holds 1600 people, and it appeared to me to be very nearly full.

    When we got to Q & A, Eugene gave two or three greatly detailed answers to questions, before a woman down front teed up one for him, with “Is Sarah Palin prepared to be president, if circumstances left her there?”, and Robinson gave a one-word answer – “No” – followed by much laughter and applause from the crowd….followed by an angry shouted response from an idiot sitting just near the woman who asked the question (the old coot was sitting by himself on the front row, with empty seats to the left and right of him, which in hindsight is Clue One about him, since empty seats were scarce)

    The disruptive jerk went on a tear in defense of his beloved Sarah Palin, and Robinson engaged him and offered an entirely (and undeserved) polite response to the boorish man….which encouraged him! Things began to spiral when others in the crowd shouted “shut up” and “pipe down!” and so on at the old fool, until one of the ushers took the initiative to use HIS microphone to forcefully announce that he had another question – which shut down the rude old fellow, and moved the process along.

    As the event ended, Shelby saw the old guy (who was wearing a red Indiana University jacket) mount the stage, and get stopped by Chancellor Wartell his-own-self! We think the old guy was headed for Robinson…presumeably to continue his chivalrous defense of the fair maiden from Juneau…but who knows? The guy should have been arrested, once he mounted the stage, as far as I’m concerned.

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  64. basset said on October 21, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I will have you all know that the first year my rural southwestern-Indiana high school offered boys’ home ec, just after the turn of the 70s, I won the prize as outstanding student.

    try claiming that one on awards day in front of the all-school assembly. I still cook, though.

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  65. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Dexter, one should always soak home grown cauliflower and broccoli in a sink full of cold heavily salted water. The bugs will die and float to the surface.

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  66. Connie said on October 21, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Basset, I had one home ec class in eighth grade. In HS I took the test on a dare – and WON! I am the Betty Homemaker of Tomorrow from the ZHS Class of 73. Snort.

    That was one mad home ec teacher.

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  67. moe99 said on October 21, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Dexter, there was a bakery in Defiance that sold those novelties too: chocolate covered grasshoppers and deep friend ants. It was on the east side of Clinton Street downtown about a third of the way through if you were coming through from the north. I think it was named Meek’s.
    We never bought any but gaped like crazy when we went in with Mom hoping she’d buy something more than the loaf of bread they ran through the slicing machine. I always wanted Wonder Bread, which was made a couple blocks further on, but Mom had to have the bakery stuff. I understand now.

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  68. moe99 said on October 21, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    RNC has spent $150K on Palin’s wardrobe. No wonder the guys are falling all over themselves.


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  69. Catherine said on October 22, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Well, that is a bitchin red leather jacket.

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  70. Gasman said on October 22, 2008 at 12:38 am

    OK, I know this doesn’t have squat to do with organic gardening, but I’m sorry, if this doesn’t convince you that Sarah Palin is a moron, then issues don’t mean diddly to you:


    As the article states, this is at least the second time that she has made a similar statement. She was roundly criticized the first time. Does she think that the constitution has been amended since then? Anyone still want to contend that she’s bright?

    More evidence that the Republican Party is the party of ignorance, fear, and hate. Marcia Stirman, the chairwoman of the Republican Women of Otero County here in NM said the following in a letter to the Alamogordo Daily News:

    “I believe Muslims are our enemies.

    I believe there is a moderate and a socialist in this election. I agree with a two-party system, but Obama isn’t a messiah or a democrat.

    He’s a Muslim socialist.”

    Read the depth of Ms. Stirman’s ignorance and intolerance here:


    The list of Republicans making such statements across the nation is growing daily. This is the fruit yielded by the McCain/Palin campaign of intolerance and bigotry. This is why I am not a Republican.

    Today’s quote comes once again from Adlai Stevenson:

    “Our nation stands at a fork in the political road. In one direction lies a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is [McCain/Palin]land. But I say to you that it is not America.”

    Substitute “Nixon” for the bracketed bit and you have the original quote. Judging from Stevenson’s words, the Republicans are essentially unchanged from 52 years ago.

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  71. Dexter said on October 22, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Gasman, I about blew a gasket as all day , on Air America , Hardball, Countdown, Ra. Maddow…they ripped Palin on this issue. After Cheney , the LAST thing we need is a veep from the Executive Branch charging into the Legislative like a goddam bull moose in a Russian tea room!….

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  72. Dexter said on October 22, 2008 at 2:34 am

    moe99: As far as I know, only one old-fashioned small family-run bakery is left anywhere near here. It’s Archbold’s Lange Bakery, 1209 S Defiance St, at Lugbill Road. For years I made three trips a week past there on my rounds , now with gas so high I only get there once every couple of months, but I always stop for a little something sweet and a loaf of whole wheat. It should be mandatory : every town MUST have a bakery!

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  73. Dexter said on October 22, 2008 at 2:55 am

    …last one…I never knew those foil cupcake papers would or could be used , standing alone on a pizza pan! All my life I stuck ’em in a muffin pan!

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  74. Gasman said on October 22, 2008 at 2:55 am

    They did it again! Is this some kind of national contest that the Republican Party is running to see which of their officials can make the most offensive or ignorant remark? Another proud Republican defender of the constitution opens his gaping maw and stuffs in both feet:


    At what point do we all agree that this type of behavior is a deliberate tactic? And I am supposed to be persuaded to vote Republican because of sophomoric ad hominem attacks like this? Again, I will stake the record of liberalism against that of conservatism any day. As a liberal, I can love America, work, achieve, and believe in God. I can also believe in and defend the constitution.

    Because of this kind of divisiveness emanating from all levels of the Republican Party, they will not only lose the presidency, but several additional seats in the Senate and the House. They have no one to blame but themselves.

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  75. Gasman said on October 22, 2008 at 3:13 am

    I just found this gem on CNN.com:


    Apparently, Sarah the Governor has been billing Alaska for her children’s hotel rooms and flights claiming that they have been performing official state business. There she goes again, gettin’ all mavericky and reformin’ all over the place. She’s not only an idiot, she’s also a thief. I wonder how long it will be before she gets thumped by the IRS?

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  76. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 22, 2008 at 7:01 am

    “a goddam bull moose in a Russian tea room” — can i borrow that? Could be Johnny Mac’s job description after the election in the Senate.

    Remember what TR was running for as a Bull Moose in 1912, like a minimum wage, 8 hour day, elimination of child labor, a day off guaranteed each week. What would be the 2010 version of such a platform?


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  77. Jolene said on October 22, 2008 at 7:27 am

    2010 Equivalents = Single-payer universal health care, early childhood education, an aggressive approach to climate change.

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  78. basset said on October 22, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Connie, I was class of ’73 too… still remember the home-ec teacher telling us how eggs had to be at a certain temperature to “co-AGG-you-late.”

    and the prize was a charm-bracelet charm. sheeeesh. total surprise, I thought I was going to win for mechanical drawing but that one went to a basketball player who used to trace my drawings with a ball-point pen.

    which gives you some idea of the value system at that particular school.

    off the subject of 35-year-old injustices… Doonesbury is right on topic today.

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  79. basset said on October 22, 2008 at 7:33 am

    some more of TR’s 1912 platform:

    The coal and other natural resources of Alaska should be opened to development at once…

    Thus the benefit of cheap fuel will accrue to the government of the United Stated and to the people of Alaska and the Pacific Coast; the settlement of extensive agricultural lands will be hastened; the extermination of the salmon will be prevented, and the just and wise development of Alaskan resources will take the place of private extortion or monopoly.

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  80. Jim said on October 22, 2008 at 9:17 am

    I firmly believe that every high school graduate should be able to cook a meal and sew on a button — at a minimum.

    I gave up on the Food Channel several years ago when it got away from showing people HOW to cook. Cooking is not really hard, but it does take practice and some creativity. It’s a basic life skill.

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  81. Jen said on October 22, 2008 at 10:09 am

    When I was in 7th grade (1997), everyone had to take a home ec class (half sewing, half cooking) and an “industrial arts,” AKA shop, class. I sucked at both. I scraped through sewing and cooking because my poor mother had attempted to teach me how to cook and sew, and I made it through shop by getting help from a couple of guys who I had helped through computer class.

    Apparently, the sewing gene skips a generation in my family, because my grandmother and I are terrible at sewing, and my mom is wonderful. Go figure.

    My husband, on the other hand, was good at Home Ec AND Industrial Arts! He tends to cook in our house, as well as hang pictures and do minor repair work. He is Super-Husband!

    I do like to bake, however, but I think that’s mainly because I tend to LOVE the outcome! (Cookies, cake, bread, etc. Yum!)

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  82. moe99 said on October 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Jeff tmmo, I hope you are not saying that TR is the equivalent of McCain Palin because what you’ve listed thus far sounds very little like the hate and fear spewing forth from the current Republican candidates’ campaign and their surrogates. Each morning I wake up and am reminded of Dorothy Parker’s line, “What fresh hell is this?”

    But, thank goodness, there is something that can pull me out of my dark hole:

    Bassets for Obama. The video, please:


    I still have a tshirt I used to wear while walking around Greenlake that reads: Dog Being Walked Against Reagan. Maybe I’ll try to find it.

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  83. LAMary said on October 22, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Connie. High fives. I was homemaker of tomorrow 71. I didn’t take high school home ec so it really pissed off that teacher.

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  84. Dorothy said on October 22, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Julie, I was a CCD (Catholic religious education) teacher for just one year. We were doing a lesson in how everyone has a kind of talent. And I asked the kids (first graders) if they could tell me a talent their parents had. One little boy shouted “My mommy likes to dance a lot!! In bars!!” I am not quite sure how I was able to acknowledge that, but I did hold back my laughter until I was in the car on the way home.

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  85. Gasman said on October 22, 2008 at 11:23 am

    There you go again, lookin’ all backwards and historical when you know that your candidates, John the Senator and Sarah the Governor, wouldn’t do that. While you’re busy lookin’ backwards, they’re lookin’ forward. All that’s back there are a bunch of finger pointin’ socialist folks pallin’ around with terrorists and blamin’ those good hard workin’ pro-American Americans livin’ in pro-America parts of America, who are makin’ this great land of ours strong and free and a shinin’ beacon of hope to the rest of the world that knows and understands what mavericky changin’ is all about while Putin is rearin’ his head over Alaska. Can you see him?!?!?!?

    God bless America.

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  86. John said on October 22, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Bachmann told the St. Cloud Times on Tuesday that she “made a big mistake” by going on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a show she said she’d never seen before her appearance last week.

    Is she lying or just incredibly out of touch?

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  87. Gasman said on October 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    As regards to your question about Michelle Bachman: “Is she lying or just incredibly out of touch?” Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive, so I would say “both.”

    I carefully watched the “Hardball” exchange between Matthews and Bachman. Matthews was very deliberate in his line of questioning and seemed to take great care in letting Bachman paint herself into a corner. He had virtually no comment on her ridiculous neo-McCarthyist diatribe. He merely greased the wheels by getting her to expound. She wasn’t bright enough to realize that she was in trouble at the time. It wasn’t until days later that she knew that she’d stepped in her own poo. I’ll be watching that race with interest.

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  88. LAMary said on October 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve been incorporating the word, “mavericky” as much as possible into daily conversation.

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  89. Hattie said on October 22, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I’m a lousy housekeeper and can’t sew at all, but I love to cook.

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