"Back to the Microwave," Feature, 9/23
Invite Michael Pollan
Every time I read an article or book by Michael Pollan, I find myself wishing he'd spend a month with working families and then write about what happens when the very good ideas of the slow food movement (which I aspire to follow) come up against the realities of modern life: work, then a forty-minute commute from San Francisco, a four-year-old melting down or at minimum demanding your attention (and in our case, a husband who's rarely able to get home from work before 7). Thanks to Sierra Fulucci for writing just the article I wanted to read.
Kelly Evans Pfeifer, Berkeley
Slow Down Your Life
I was a bit disappointed by "Back to the Microwave" because although the piece ended with a nod toward slow/sustainable food, it was also a cop-out, and it skirted the main issue.
The whole point of the slow food movement is that people's lives have become too busy to allow for healthy, home-cooked, sustainable meals that the author acknowledges are so important for family and community life, as well as the planet. A core value of Slow Food is being less busy — doing less individual activities so you can have more quality of life. If you are unwilling to be less busy, of course an experiment in slow food will not work for you.
I agree that gender issues need to be a part of this discussion, because women can't take on the whole burden of feeding the family and saving the planet. Women have only taken on MORE responsibilities over time. Many of us work, cook, clean, AND care for the kids.
I don't agree that things were equally bad in the '50s or the '80s. People in this country have only grown more busy and more consumed by work and jobs over time. The "happy housewife" of the 1950s definitely had time to garden and cook fresh meals, if she had wanted to. But post-war consumer culture was exploding, and corporations were selling everything from time-saving appliances like microwaves to value-added, quick-and-easy processed foods, with the promise of "liberating" women from what was branded as so much drudgery. This marketing strategy had the added bonus of keeping women in their "place," in the home, for a bit longer. How could women complain with so much convenience in the modern kitchen? I believe the post-WWII era is where the devaluing of slow cooking in American pop culture began. After all, McDonald's was founded in 1955.
The author brings up important points about the stress level and workload, and exhaustion experienced by today's parents trying to raise a family. Many people literally cannot be less busy. That has to change.
The uncomfortable truth is that we have to change the whole way our economy is structured. Our relationship to work and jobs makes it almost impossible for many people to eat in a way that nurtures bodies/communities/Earth. People working less and/or differently will allow eating practices to change. At the same time, sustainable food IS the pathway to a sane economic system. That may sound circular, but it's not. The process of disengaging from/transforming our current economy goes hand-in-hand with eating locally produced, whole foods. There are so many people moving in this direction — shopping the farmers' market, planting some vegetables, going to community cooking classes to learn how to make healthy, quick meals. I believe it will catch on soon enough, or be forced upon us all as oil supplies dwindle and all this processing and trucking and shipping becomes unfeasible.
It is mostly a middle-class luxury to even have time to cook at all, to have money or access to healthy food, or to even have every family member home at the same time to eat together at night. This is a social justice issue with TOP priority in anti-poverty and public health campaigns.
If it's hard to make yourself cook without a microwave, imagine how hard it is to work in a factory that processes your food. Imagine how hard it is to work as a garbage collector, dragging all that plastic to the landfill. Imagine how hard it is to be a farm worker poisoned by pesticides. Imagine a long-haul trucker living on No-Doze and developing back problems while spouting exhaust, to bring stuff to the grocery store.
You don't have to cook a five-star gourmet meal. You don't have to grow everything yourself. You just need to make meals from fresh, local ingredients. If you are in a place to choose, and you forego the luxurious choice you have to eat healthy and to live your ideals, it's on you, because it really IS attainable. The question is, how much do you want it?
Bethany Lourie, Berkeley
"A Solution to Parking in Oakland?," Full Disclosure, 9/2
Parking Fines Are Green
I find it ironic that the Oakland City Council may be backing down on the extension of metered parking to 8 p.m. Here, in the environmentally friendly Bay Area, we should be a leader in progressive green policies. People are accustomed (addicted?) to cheap or free parking. That needs to change.Driving is of course convenient, and easy parking is important for neighborhood businesses. But driving has many negative impacts and "externalities," from global climate change all the way down to injured pedestrians, pollution from tires and oil, the encouragement of sprawl, etc.Slowly but steadily increasing the cost of driving may be difficult politically, but it is the right thing to do (and not just because the city needs the money).
Stephen Knight, Oakland
"An Amplified American Idiot," Theater, 9/9
Heroine on Heroin?
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