Dinner and a Rant

First, dinner.

Confession: I was so hungry, I moved straight from grill to table. This means no time for pictures. I assure you, the asparagus was green, chicken glazed and grilled, the corn – crisp and juicy.

Today felt so much like summer that we relaxed into a summer evening schedule (even though it’s a school night). We each went our summer evening ways: I ran, Colby hit baseballs then ran, and Matt worked on the property. While Colby ran, I sat on a rock nursing a beer and talking with Matt. Supper was super easy and ready in 20 minutes start to finish.

Sesame Chicken with grilled vegetables

1 lb thin chicken breast, tamari, dark sesame oil, tin foil

seasonal veg (2 servings veg to each 1 serving of meant) – we had corn and asparagus

dessert – every day is special enough for dessert

Directions: place chicken breast (if breasts are thick – believe me, mine are not – pound or slice them so that all pieces are approximately the same size) in a 9 x 12 pan with 2-3 good tablespoons of tamari. Swish around then add appx 1 tablespoon of sesame oil (the darker the better). Let sit while grill heats.

Put water on to boil. Shuck and wash corn. Cook until just tender, but still crisp.

Prep asparagus or other veg. For asparagus, wash, snap ends, and arrange in grill pan or in tin foil, lightly spray with olive oil and salt and pepper liberally.

This is about time to take the corn off. It should be almost done, but not quite. Take the pot off the heat and push it back on the stove. Let it sit and finish cooking while you work on the grill.

Place a large sheet of prepped (cooking spray) tin foil on the grill. Place chicken and asparagus on the foil. Drink a beer. Swat flies. Read two paragraphs in a book that may or may not piss you off.

Colby picking end-of-the-season carrots.
Colby picking end-of-the-season carrots.

Now, the rant.

I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’ve been so excited to read this. I started seeds and we’ve planted and there are tender green shoots coming up everywhere. I totally wanted to spend my afternoons looking at my garden and reading this book. But while I was cooking, I read this:

I am not sure how so many Americans came to believe only our wealthy are capable of honoring a food aesthetic. . . Cooking good food is mostly a matter of having the palate and the skill . . . The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local – food culture is not price, but attitude (31).

What the fuck.

How many Americans know what “food aesthetic” even means?

For someone who seems to be railing against the perception of money as the gateway to food culture, that is an elitist and offensive collection of statements. And stupid.  And I’m only 31 pages in. I want to ask Kingsolver a few questions:

Do you know how expensive and time consuming it is to plant and raise a garden? Have you ever received food stamps? Was your first trip to a farmer’s market subsidized by WIC vouchers? Mine was. Have you ever had to create a meal for your family using dried or canned beans, canned tomatoes that you know are steeped in hormone disrupting chemicals? Generic, non-organic grains and cheese that did not come from organic milk? I have. That non-organic, processed and preserved meal was the staple of my young adult life (which also coincided with my parenting life). It contained complete proteins (I looked it up in Diet for a Small Planet), two servings of vegetables and complex carbohydrates. I am an American, I am a mother. And I’m really pissed off.

I value every fucking tomato that comes out of my garden because I know the investment. I know who started the seeds, be it me or my closest nursery. I water the plants. I talk to them. We weed and get bug bitten and apply compost. When we eat that tomato, I am proud. But when I have to buy a cheap tomato at the store because it is a year when I don’t have the time or money to grow my own, I will not feel guilty. Barbara – take a recipe for beans and rice and vegetables. Do the price comparison between fresh vegetables and frozen, organic rice and generic (at my local grocery it is at least a full dollar). Calculate the comparative TIME investment for dried beans vs. canned.

I feel like I’ve made it – in life- because I actually have the luxury of planting and tending a garden. TIME to prepare a careful meal for my family? A luxury that I have not always had. Enough money to buy the hormone-free chicken and local beef? You wanna bet that’s a luxury AND a sacrifice.

Sigh. I get it, I do. I want to know my farmer. I want to know where my food comes from. I want the best for my family and for me. I love Kingsolver’s fiction and I admire her passion, but she is missing the point.

When we eliminate time and money from the equation and make this a problem of culture (“palate and skill”, “attitude”), we are making a grave mistake. This is the culinary version of the bootstraps fallacy. Know what many working parents (and single working poor) don’t have? Time and money. Unchallenged, arguments like this are more harmful than a factory farmed tomato. They undermine our efforts at equality, tolerance, and human citizenship.

As angry as I am, and I’m angry because this argument cuts to the core of all I value, I will continue to read. I respect Kingsolver’s skill and passion, and I hope I find a glimpse beyond her 100 acre backyard and carefully crafted factoids.

I’m going to eat an Oreo.


3 thoughts on “Dinner and a Rant”

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. Everyone wants to eat healthy but many people don’t have the time or money to invest in getting it. I wish good food was more widely available and easy to get. It can be really hard for me to eat healthy here in the arctic because we rarely even have fresh produce at the store. Practically everything I eat comes frozen or from a can, and that’s not because I want it to be that way, it’s just the constraints of where I live. You’re really lucky to have fresh produce from a garden. My mom plants one every year and the food that comes out of it tastes 100% better than anything we buy at a store. An Oreo sounds really good right now.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Janet. I am so grateful to finally be able to have a garden. Not only do you need the space, but the time and money! I just wish we could have the food conversation with a little more peace and goodwill and a little less presumption and elitism.

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