Within this liberal bubble, it is simply conventional wisdom that conservatives not only don’t care about those less fortunate but that we will even promote human suffering if it means higher profit margins and more cash in our pockets.True. You'll hear this wisdom tossed off happily, without thinking, by any number of people in any number of situations. I think they like to think of it as speaking truth to power.
From 1946 to 1960 at least thirteen cookbooks intended for men appeared in the United States, including Brick Gordon's 1947 The Groom Boils and Stews, Fletcher Pratt and Robeson Bailey's A Man and His Meals also published in 1947, Glenn Quilty's 1954 Food for Men, and Robert Loeb's Wolf in Chef's Clothing, first published in 1950 .... Morrison Wood collected recipes from his travels in a 1949 cookbook entitled With a Jug of Wine.Thirteen frankly masculine cookbooks in fourteen years of American publishing does not seem an oppressive number. Anyway, our Mr. Wood went on to write two more books, More Recipes with a Jug of Wine (1961) and Through Europe with a Jug of Wine (1962). This is the source we will use today.
After some time in Paris we motored through France down to the Riviera. The weather in France (and all over the northern hemisphere, according to the newspapers) was cold and stormy, so we rented a lovely apartment in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, right on the Mediterranean. We remained there three months, making many trips to the interior of Mediterranean Provence. Next we set out for Italy, and quite thoroughly covered that wonderful country ....We're glad they did. And we don't mean to sound faintly derisive. The handful of readers who take the trouble nowadays to get an account at Amazon so that they can write unheralded cookbook reviews all rave about Morrison Wood. "Best cookbook I own, and I own 400," etc. This is significant because Woods' recipes are, -- not especially fussy, nor especially unfussy -- not especially quick or especially time-consuming -- not especially unusual or especially plain. What they are is somehow grown-up: they seem to breathe an experience of good food of all sorts and of many places. Naturally. The book is the result of travel. Whether you make the almost-street-food Mozzarella in Carrozza (fried cheese sandwiches) as Romans do, or Pan Am airlines' Tournedos Heloise (steak with foie gras, mushrooms, truffle, and artichoke bottoms -- "a masterpiece"), you will be making some very fine things that professionals placed before paying diners a half century ago, and that a sophisticate like Mr. Woods appreciated. That says a lot.
"Then Sir Ralph and the Duke chose weapons, and the Duke died of being run through the belly."
"Corisande -- called Ree by an eccentric aunt since childhood -- felt strangely upset and sad that morning."
1 and 1/2 ounces (a jigger) light rumShake with ice in a cocktail shaker, and strain into a cocktail glass.
1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) pineapple juice
1/2 ounce (1 Tablespoon) lemon juice
dashes lemon juiceShake well with ice in a cocktail shaker, strain into a cocktail glass.
1/4 ounce (1 and 1/2 teaspoons) cream
2 ounces (a jigger plus a Tablespoon) white rum
Ingredients: Coffee, cream, eggs, sugar, butter. Bruise five ounces of freshly roasted Mocha coffee, and add it to three-quarters of a pint of boiling cream; cover the saucepan, let it simmer for twenty minutes, then pass through a bit of fine muslin. In the meantime mix the yolks of ten eggs and two whole eggs with eight ounces of castor [superfine] sugar and a glass of cream; add the coffee cream to this and pass the whole through a fine sieve into a buttered mould. Steam in a bain-marie [double boiler] for rather more than an hour, but do not let the water boil; then put the cream on ice for about an hour, and before serving turn it out on a dish and pour some cream flavoured with stick vanilla round it.Way back, when we titled this post " 'What a goofy niche!' -- and other random thoughts," we said we would start with random thoughts. Now for the goofy niche. Would you believe I had to smile in glassy-eyed perplexity when a customer said just that to me, as he marveled at a new line of wines? They are called the Pairings Collection, and come from the ancient ("depuis 1725") French company Barton & Guestier. The charming labels tell you, I think, all you need to know about what foods might pair nicely with these five new wines. You might, for instance, try this below, to accompany lobster and shrimp.
From that inexhaustible gold mine, Found in mom's basement. 1958. It's not a hat, it's wallpaper.
Thinking about organic wine (in chapters)
What DDT could do, safely, to mosquitoes in tropical Africa, other pesticides do to fungi and nematodes in California's wine country. Safely -- perfectly safely? I don't know. But notice this. No high Namibian or Gabonese official will ever be able to ban 1,3-Dichloropropene for our fields and vineyards as EPA director William Ruckleshaus was able to ban DDT on behalf of all Africa and indeed all the world. Go green as an individual if you like, but as a society we'll take our own risks.
The second plausibility problem with organic food, the whole "health of the planet" thing, is also a problem which fantasy solves. Organicism's Herculean style in the fields, necessary to give us the clean, unbuggy produce we think is normal, actually seems to be worse for our Fragile Home than what is grimly called "monoculture." Both people who admire the practice and those who don't agree: the organic farmer must actually stake out more land and use more fertilizers, water, and labor, exemplified in hand weeding and mulching, for example, than conventional farmers do. The organic farm, pre-industrial for a purpose, has got to spread itself out so that the carrot, D. carota var. sativa, has a chance for a remotely worthwhile yield in the face of all those rules governing "companion plantings" and not harming hungry pests. This is why organic produce is nobly expensive.
To be fair, there are a few scientific papers and research studies advising that organic farming is not that much more inefficient than conventional farming; but this seems to be the best that can be said of it, and the statement still leaves unanswered questions. A year and a half ago the website Hodgeslab, maintained by a biochemist and Ph.D candidate at Berkeley, cited two studies on the matter, a Science article from 2002 and a Cornell University study from 2005. The one averred that organic farming is "80% as efficient" in terms of yield per acre, the other that yields of the two types are "identical" and that energy and water use is actually reduced, and soil quality improved, under an organic regimen. ("This has implications for global warming" -- yes, perhaps, especially if we consider how much energy the organic farm's ballooned labor force will use to get to work, and how much water they'll drink at work, and shower with after work.) Interestingly, the most encouraging of the two reports nevertheless admits that a Gaia-friendly husbandry is useless for cash crops. "Cultural practices" and the need for intensive labor mean the willfully pre-industrial farm is never going to feed post-industrial demographics. It is also not a promising choice for crops plagued by more pests than the studied cereals are: among which, first on the list is grapes.
Whom to believe? Perhaps looking at the organic farm from another angle would help give us useful information. An article about forestry at National Atlas tells us that, of the "nearly" one billion acres of forests covering America when Europeans arrived, we as a nation have cleared, mostly for agriculture, a whopping -- 300 million acres. That two-thirds of what was forest remains so, or has been returned to second growth, while our all too well-fed population has exploded like a 3 liter box of organic wine would seem to prove, absent scholarly studies, what efficiency really looks like. Something to think about, the next time you enjoy an afternoon in a suburban forest preserve. Why is the terrain so flat? Why are there bricks laid out seemingly to no purpose here and there in the dirt trails, and why are there weird, neglected cement structures half buried among the trees? Maybe it was an onion or spinach farm, as our own local woods were, and is no longer needed as such.
I don't doubt that an individual organic farm produces good food. I don't doubt your backyard garden does the same, without your spreading chemicals on it. "Organic farmers do what you would do," Hodgeslab tells us. They start vegetables from seed in greenhouses for example, and grow them until they are strong enough to be planted out, and to out-muscle weeds on their own. Yes, this is what we would do but are no longer obliged to do, because modern industrial farming has freed us all from the need literally to sustain ourselves. We are freed to do other things with life -- itself a type of efficiency -- and we accept what economists call the trade-off of having to wash fruits and vegetables which, granted, may carry a trace of an herbicide or pesticide whose terrors environmentalists have tended to lie about anyway.
The carrot remains the same, and the crux of the matter, the agenda, remains make-believe. Fantasy and, frankly, buzz words can quell doubts about health-of-the-planet issues just as they can about personal safety and pesticide issues. The words always sound so wholesome, so inarguable. The entire environmentalist project is proudly summed up in the simple, good word green. Or consider "sustainable farming" and "reducing carbon footprints." Think it over. The first is a tautology, surely. Mankind learned how to farm some ten thousand years ago. In what sense is it not sustainable? The only people for whom it might not be sustainable would be organic farmers, who hobble themselves with an acting-out of risky, pre-modern practices that American agriculture especially triumphed over, quite some time ago.
And as for the second, well. To take that seriously, you first must swallow hard, shut your eyes, and forget all you've learned lately -- since the publication of organic farming university studies in 2005, certainly -- about scientist-activists like Michael Mann and Phil Jones, ensconced in universities, throwing out inconvenient data negating that joy of their lives and that point of their careers and fame, "global warming." If it seems preposterous that good-souled greens would ever lie about matters so serious, allow me to remind you of the passions of Mr. Ruckleshaus.
Where does wine come into this? (You might think we had forgotten the exploding Brand X organic boxed wine with which we began our story. Not at all.) If organic wine makes the customer happy and gives an added fillip to sales for a while, fine. I simply think it's important to recognize make-believe where we see it, because make-believe is not in all ways harmless. We are dealing here not merely with food and drink and consumer buying patterns, but with a social movement that gives sheltered Westerners an intoxicating new sense of spiritual discipline -- beware, Africa -- but also doesn't take questions well and has long had cruel friends in awfully high places. And that has an unpleasing, and little noticed, attachment to violence.
I was on the phone with a wholesale wine salesman. "Do you have any more of Brand X on the shelves?" he asked. "Because we're having a problem with it exploding."
This salesman is an ex-actor with a fine "chesty" voice and a fondness for the quick pun, so I was about to try to give him one of my best and reply, "You mean, exploding sales, or just exploding?" Har har. But I didn't get the chance. He went on to say that a few of the boxes -- we are talking about a boxed wine, I should explain, 3 liters per -- had actually made a mess in the trunk of his car and that the same thing was happening elsewhere. At the warehouse, I presume. He did not dwell on details and anyway is working strictly on commission, so tends to be in a hurry to get on to his next, paying gig.
I told him we had none left on the shelves and he was relieved. No one wants customers bringing home wine and having it explode on them. Three liters equals four bottles. That's a big mess.
The problem child in this case is not just a boxed wine but an organic boxed wine. Its packaging proclaims "No Sulfites Added." (NSA is a common acronym.) Unfortunately, it is sulfites you need to counteract the yeasts and benign bacteria that may be present and may continue to work in a wine after it is made and bottled, or boxed. What is happening, therefore, to Brand X is that fermentation is still going on among all the unsulfited life sloshing about in the box. The buildup of gases eventually reaches a critical point. The cellars of Champagne used to be notorious for startling noises and a detritus of glass shards on the floor each spring, as warm weather reached even underground, and bottles of plain chardonnay or pinot noir whose remaining yeasts had been stultified by cold reawakened, re-fermented, and set about making, well, Champagne. Originally this was not what Dom Perignon wanted his wines to do; the bubbles which we now think so delightful were considered a flaw. Little did he know he was also making organic wine. But then, he could hardly help it. He flourished around 1700, when everything was organic, pre-industrial, pre-preservative, pre-pesticide -- pre-safe -- whether anybody liked it or not.
Which brings us to the great question -- I hope we're not shocked --: organic, shmorganic?
In my opinion, yes. It's not just because of the aggravations and failures of methode-champenoise, double magnum boxed wines. It's because organic wine, like organic things in general, logically can only be make-believe. Harmless make-believe, perhaps. But really. Let's think.
It simply makes no sense that a fruit or vegetable grown "organically" is any different, as a product, from one grown conventionally. Surely species don't change, surely an apple or a carrot, or a grape, does not emerge with a totally new color or new and better properties thanks to organic farming. At the end of the day Daucus carota var. sativa, the carrot, remains D. carota var. sativa. The great thing that organic farmers do, it seems, is to avoid pesticides, on the theory that a carrot not sprayed with protective scary chemicals is better for us "and for the planet" than one so treated.
That sounds plausible. When we think of ingesting poisons, we shudder. It seems right that food should come to our table without them. (Incidentally, The Organic Garden by Christine and Michael Lavelle, Hermes House, 2003, recommends, of all things, sulphur as a natural pesticide.) But there are two problems with this nice plausibility, and they are both problems that make-believe solves.
One is that we lack our ancestors' everyday experience with buggy food. Oh, I doubt it happened all the time, but I doubt also that everything from the grocery store was as pristine as we expect now. (Little snapshots of a previous era can be very startling. Katherine Mansfield wrote a memoir called In a German Pension, in which she describes a woman shuddering in revulsion at a gentleman's kind offer to share some fresh spring cherries. "I understand," he soothed her. "Ladies often don't care for cherries. It is the little worms ...." It was 1909.) We seem to think clean, sound fruits and vegetables are normal while pesticides literally cloud the issue, just as we tend to presume healthy children are normal while vaccines are dangerous impositions on the ordained functionings of the body. Not quite. Insect life cycles and larvae are perfectly natural, as are things like diphtheria and polio, and far more serious these last.
Because we think spotless produce is normal and won't tolerate anything less, we open the door to the only task the organic farmer may be permitted to do: he must go to Herculean efforts to make sure he gives us D. carotus var. sativa, while he is yet stripped of all the easy modern tools that have long made the carrot what we want, technically. He has to give us the default carrot, you might say, which is also an emotionally magical carrot, a carrot of pre-industrial escapist fantasy.
The buyer gets the emotional satisfaction of a adhering to a religious discipline, really, along with eating good produce. It seems people will pay for and enjoy that discipline, even when the produce itself can't be organic despite the grower's best efforts: "Even for organically grown fruit and vegetables," advises the site Natural Holistic Health, "it is wise to wash because the farmer in the next field over could have been spraying pesticides that inadvertently entered the organic farmers [sic] crops." So for those who believe, it seems that even D. carotus var paradoxica, the illusion of the illusion of obedience, is what matters.
"Green" consumers (and producers) will probably want to point out now that pesticides, after all, are meant to kill life and so surely it must be better to have no contact with them than any. That sounds right. Still it leaves open the question, what are they, and where?
For a long time intellectual fashion has persuaded us that those clouds of pesticides are, to mix a metaphor, laid on with a trowel and that our bodies stagger under their accumulating toxicity every day. Natural Holistic Health muses that, when we get sick, who knows but what it won't be from that. "When you or your family members are diagnosed with a chronic illness doctors cant [sic] often pinpoint an exact cause. Is the cause the pesticides from your produce and processed foods? You’ll never really have the answer." Possibly not. But remember that our forebears ate organic everything all their lives, and still died, often shockingly young. (What of? I don't remember, literally. The green movement, like the anti-vaccination movement, feeds off historical amnesia.) In any case talking of illness, do let's re-introduce ourselves to just one of humanity's stern old bunkmates, malaria. The classic example of the safe, effective, tragically and hysterically banned pesticide is DDT. It helps stop malaria, or would do if it were allowed. Michael Crichton writes, in his article "Environmentalism as a religion run amok:"
I can list some facts for you. I know you have not read any of these in the newspaper, because newspapers do not report them. I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen, did not cause birds to die, and never should have been banned. The people who outlawed it knew that it was not toxic and halted its use anyway. The DDT ban has caused the loss of tens of millions of people, mostly children, whose deaths are directly attributable to a callous, technologically advanced Western society that promoted the new cause of environmentalism by pushing a fantasy about a pesticide, and thus irrevocably harmed the Third World. Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the 20th-century history of America.
From reading Crichton you must conclude it was not merely tragically and hysterically banned, but maliciously banned. Let the little brown people far away die -- God, there must be plenty of Gabonese or whatever already -- while mosquitoes in their backyards live and thrive; we want to feel good about protecting Spaceship Earth, our Fragile Home. It's because we enjoy uninfested food and can expect to live past thirty, all thanks to modern chemical miracles, that we can afford both to forget the people who still do live hideously close to nature, and yet jump through emotionally satisfying hoops to pretend we do, too.
Perhaps you don't care to trust Michael Crichton. Trust, then, the words of the man who banned the godsend chemical, EPA director(1972) William Ruckleshaus. According to an article called "100 things you need to know about DDT" at the site Junkscience.com, as an assistant attorney general he testified to DDT's "exemplary" record of safe use in the ending of malaria, explaining regretfully later to environmentalist leaders that, while in court, he had had to submit his emotions to scientific facts. (He was a member of the Environmental Defense Fund.) He banned it later because his position atop the EPA gave him the power frankly to "make policy" as he liked.
A preliminary P.S.: could the tide be turning? A new documentary on the banning of DDT, 3 Billion and Counting, premieres in Manhattan on Friday, September 17. That's tomorrow.
This recipe comes to us via an old-fashioned source, not often encountered in these high-tech days of cable TV and satellite cooking shows and a thousand food blogs, all their own feasts of unique and delicious content. It comes to us by word of mouth.
Recently a customer asked for a good chianti to use in cooking. After she had chosen, she opened up and revealed the secret of what to do about all the fresh, homegrown tomatoes with which good gardeners are overrun at this time of year. I listened, blinking in amazement at the simplicity of it, and then as soon as I could, I wrote it all down on whatever came to hand. A paper plate in the employee break room sufficed.
Unhappily, I am not one of those good gardeners blessed with too many homegrown tomatoes, nor do I know anybody who has such a store. (You might think me either laughably or tragically deprived, this being mid-September for heaven's sake. Or maybe both.) My immediate neighbors and I tend to concentrate on highly inedible geraniums and New Guinea impatiens, or in my case, goldenrod. But since you might be pomaceously luckier than me, I share the recipe. Tomato-poor, the beautiful photographs I acknowledge to come from Katie, who lives right here in the same town, cooks, gardens, takes pictures, and shares all -- sumptuously, pomaceously -- on her blog, Katie's Passion Kitchen.
Come to think of it, lush homegrown tomatoes might be better served simply by being harvested, sliced, and eaten as is, rather than soaked and herbed and dried as this recipe outlines. But perhaps you have enough to justify doing it all. Or perhaps the recipe would really shine as a sort of supporting vehicle for store-bought tomatoes, which are not much more than just acceptable, year round. Your choice.
Slice fresh tomatoes thickly, and soak them to cover 24 hours in chianti. Drain them, and reserve the wine for use in the same way again -- but only one more time, I was told.
Lay the tomato slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with herbs -- parsley, basil, and oregano. Place the baking sheet in the oven, set to the lowest temperature possible -- 175 or 200 degrees F. Bake, or rather dry, the tomatoes for 8 to 10 hours, or overnight, until they are leathery but not crisp.
Freeze them in freezer bags for storage, and use them in all kinds of ways throughout the long, gray-brown days of winter: in breads, in soups, in stews, in sauces, in omelettes, in anything.
A sampling of Katie's recent posts for you to enjoy -- and I am happy to assure you, she far outcooks me: