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Showing posts from August, 2011

Back to Basics: Dry Summers, Figs, and a Chunk of Cheese

What do we know about simplicity? Figs from our tree. Figs. The taste of summer, the taste of home; my immigrant home. Our backyard tree is heavy with fruit. In the mornings I go out to pick what is ripe; figs for breakfast, a treat straight from the tree; flesh and seeds, refreshing and sweet, grainy resistance and softness at the same time. Figs, the color of their skin, purple with blotches of green or white stripes where they have cracked. The reds and browns inside bring up memories: a summer spent in Normandy, France, with my parents, my brother, and my maternal grandmother. Life was about food in its basic, original form, about mussels and figs and cheese; it was about the ocean and its tides, gigantic but predictable, and about history. We visited Bayeux to see  the tapestry which tells the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings;  we spent a day or a half at  Arromanches,  saw a documentary on D-Day and the landing of the allied forces on the b

Talking of Consequences: The Chicken Bailout and Your Kid

If I had a chicken farm... Wild hen or rooster on Kauai. So your kid goes out with a basket ball and breaks the neighbor's window. You groan but you pay for the replacement of the window; you also let your child know that it will be responsible for the cost if it breaks another window. Next week your child goes out with its ball and - more broken glass. You do what? Bail him or her out again? The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is going to buy 40 million Dollars worth of chicken from the poultry industry and donate the birds to federal food assistance programs. It's the bail out of the chicken farmers  because they are having a hard year. The price of chicken food and the production of chickens have increased while consumption of chickens and thus their market price have dropped. Sounds like a horrible situation, farmers squeezed from both sides, the classical double whammy. Alas, this is not he first time we are bailing out the chicken industry. According to CNN, t

Ban on Plastic Bags Bugs L.A. County

Paper or plastic? Bag from South Africa. My friend recently came back from a trip to South Africa and brought me a reusable grocery bag. It is from Woolworths, one of the largest retail chains in South Africa; it is made by a community project and serves as a symbol of the company's commitment to sustainability and social development. I will think of this whenever I use my new bag. Thank you, dear friend! The Woolworths bag is not my first reusable bag. I carry two baggies which fold up into packs smaller than a deck of cards in my purse and a bunch of bigger ones in the trunk of my car. To me this feels like an easy way of making a difference environmentally. Others seem to have a harder time. When the county of Los Angeles recently introduced a ban on plastic bags for its unincorporated areas the new ordinance was met with resistance. Shops bemoan that paper is more expensive than plastic. They charge customers ten cents for every paper bag. Shoppers complain about the t

Bakersfield: Earthquake, Highs, Nice Sense of Humor

Romantic getaway? Poster in a thrift store in Bakersfield. Want to spend a weekend for two in California? Your options are many. You probably know them: Yosemite, Napa, La Jolla, San Francisco, Big Sur, Mendocino... My husband and I, for a romantic getaway in July, picked - Bakersfield. What? my friends asked, Bakersfield? Did the hotel have a pool? (It did not.) For those of you who are not from California, Bakersfield is a hot place. In July which is the warmest month highs average 96.9 °F (36.06 °C). Then again, Bakersfield is not what you'd call a hot spot. The apparently once beautiful historical town center was almost entirely destroyed in an earthquake in 1952 (actually an aftershock to a shaker a month earlier); bland looking buildings replaced the ruined heritage (though some are rather colorful); malls and marts went up on the outskirts and drained the inner city of life (a fate Bakersfield shares with many cities in the U.S.). According to the  Wik

Words of 1939: "Our National Debt Is Something Shocking"

"A foul disease called social prejudice." Mud wagon used in Stagecoach. In 1939 director John Ford squeezed seven people into a stagecoach and gave them a rough ride across the desert. The group encountered Apaches; had to deal with the premature labor of a traveling woman; needed to figure out how to cross the river after Lee's Ferry had been burned down. Sounds hard enough. But what makes matters really bad - and the movie a classic - are the group of seven, their personalities and biographies, and "a foul disease called social prejudice" (words of Josiah Boone, an alcoholic doctor). The seven are: a prostitute, a dishonest banker, a pregnant cavalry officer's wife, a Confederate gambler, a whiskey salesman, the doctor, and a fugitive outlaw. Tensions between these characters run high from the beginning but as life goes - or is it just Hollywood? - they are softened towards the end. Stagecoach* is one of my favorite movies. On a recent trip to