12 December 2010
Still in California.
Tonight I “dined” at a cheesy (not the kind we usually discuss here) little kitsch spot that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. I say innocent because no one could ever possibly, in all earnest, display the item I am about to describe to you, without having only recently emerged from a cultureless exile, like a cliché town where Kraft Singles microwaved on top of freezer-section pie is considered normal.
I have been yard-saling all day, a giant step in the ascension of the inner gypsy's takeover. "Priced to sell... everything must go." Sadly, I am surrendering my beloved fondue set, but the possibility of my coming back from Italy and other European sites, after three months, without something very special to replace it with is slim to none. Ok, none.
The fondue set sparked a really fun memory of a cheese fetish gone awry, a New Years' Day celebration with 14 guests and no recipe... no resource for shopping... and no idea how to handle the ill-conceived fondue for 14. Since my life has become about packing, storing, moving, hauling, tossing, and Craigslisting, there has been little time for cheese. After the yard sale today, allison and I bolted for Pizza Shack for a mozzarella fix. That's how desperate I'm getting. But again, the payoff is Tuscany, a mere four weeks from this moment.
In my travels up and down stairs and around tables at the restaurant, I get lots of questions about our cheese list. I’m often surprised by the cheeses people steer towards, and by which cheeses never get ordered. I can’t seem to unearth predictable patterns, and perhaps that’s due to the wide range of knowledge levels out there. The one standby rule, which is my favorite, is that EVERYONE likes ALL of our cheeses once they take a bite. Never have I had to make the terrifying, rejected-food-walk back to the kitchen with a cheese plate.
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).