Sunday, June 15, 2008

Land and People and Chez Panisse

People stop by LoveSettlement from all around the world. Of the last hundred visitors (as of writing, 6/8/08) most are, of course, from the lower 48. But there’s a significant cluster in Europe. Britain mostly. One from Germany, one from Italy. Of the rest of the great world: Two Argentinians stopped by. One Malaysian, two Australians, and a New Zealander. It would be nice if they were all faithful LuvSet readers, but even if all they did was swing by and fail to find what brought them here it’s still kinda cool that somebody in Argentina or Malaysia could drive past the LuvSet cornershop for a glance at the lettering on the sign.

I would like to spend more time at blogs based outside the U.S. In my pile of reading I try to make sure I’ve got some literature in translation. But I don’t comfortably read any language other than English so that does limit things somewhat. I do get in my ruts and find myself in the same old places, almost all of them U.S.-based.

I originally came across Rami Zurayk’s Land and People blog because he writes in Beirut, Lebanon, which, as we know, can sometimes be hazardous. (Even more so than Oakland, I suppose.) I think there was some fighting going on at the time I captured the link, and the Zurayk family were sheltering from arms fire. Things seem to have quieted down.

Zurayk mainly writes about food politics. In today’s post he gives a tongue-in-cheek version of the argument that improvements for poor people are to blame for, well, the problems in the world: “Too many hard-working Chinese and Indians … think they should be able to eat pizza, meat and coffee and aspire to a reservation at Chez Panisse. They get blamed for raising global prices so much that poor Africans and Asians can't afford porridge and rice.”

I’ve seen that formula given for why we have global warming, extinctions, environmental degradation of all kinds … It’s the dangerous aspirations of Third World people.

The philosophy of Chez Panisse (hey, Chez Panisse is right around the corner from my house!) might be right up Rami Zurayk’s alley, actually. From the Chez Panisse website: “A good kitchen respects its sources, chooses ingredients that are sound, seasonal, local when possible, and appropriate to the event. … Chez Panisse gathers its material from known and trusted purveyors, known to be committed themselves to sound and sustainable practices … We seek farmers who know their seeds and soil, ranchers who care about the food their livestock eats, winemakers who know what their grapes have known, fish merchants who are concerned about the health of the seas.”

Rami Zurayk characterizes American food giving as, "Let them eat subsidized American corn shipped over in American ships." Sounds like the opposite of the Chez Panisse ideal.

Of course, Chez Panisse is darn expensive. But delicious. And, you know, if you’re going to lay out a wad on dinner at least you won’t be fucking up the planet.

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