Monday, January 7, 2008

Fuck it

Note: I wrote most of this post before Christmas so there are statements in here that may not be relevant in some ways. But the emotions that made me make those statements? They are just as strong. And I decided to go on and post this after almost a month of letting it marinate because now I think I understand the root of it all. At least for me emotionally.

I've spent weeks trying to think of how I could say this all without sounding bitchy. It's just not possible. So I'll live with the fallout.

Being snobby? I know it well. My problem? When others project a whole other level of being snobby. This self-imposed feeling of being superior. When I have seen this in the past, it has been the case of someone from the paler nation versus a person of color. Here's a hint. No matter what egalitarian argument you throw out, you will lose. At least in our minds. And if you're on a dark street in "out" neighborhood, do not be surprised when you are mugged or get your ass kicked. I know that you are all about the gentrification and stuff but at some point, you have to get real.

Yes, this probably goes back to my feeling of a lack of acceptance during school. I know that I was sophomore class president, but I also ran unopposed. If I had had competition, I probably would have lost. Probably why I root for the underdog.

And this brings me to the topic of food once more. I will admit that I try to buy organic most of the time. But local? Yeah, that's fine as long as my favorites are grown locally.

What brought this to mind? Why, the holiday season of course. It's not the holidays for me unless there is an appearance of cranberries in some form. And of course I like to mix them with a number of other ingredients. Most produce at Berkeley Bowl is prominently marked with its country of origin. Fresh ginger? No American sources. Didn't mean that I passed it up.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I like foods of other countries and often one cannot find all of the ingredients locally. Local tastes? (And I'm sory but at this point when I think of local taste, I think "Caucasian." And then I think, "How utterly boring.") They're OK. But I love the spices of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Indian subcontinent. Many of these flavors are not local. Some are if you have a garden, but I no longer do.

And when I think of this whole "eating local" thing, I know that I did for several years. I spent most of my summers through age 15 on my grandfather's farm. The majority of the food that we ate was grown on the farm. And so I started thinking that this whole "eating local" thing was merely a mirror of what I had experienced as a child. And I must say, I am sorry that you did not have that experience. The experience of grinding corn for feed for the hogs, the experience of picking whatever vegetables were necessary for dinner. How many of you who proclaim a love of local foods have experienced that? Do you have the memory permanently etched in your mind of being in car at age 8 while your father is driving and noticing a hog being bled? (And yes, I still eat pork.) Bottom line. Get off of your high horse, folks. Because, at least to me, some of you come off as rather condescending. (That's why you're at the bottom of my list of folks who can join me in VIP at a club. And maybe it doesn't matter to you, but that's how I rank folks. Who can join me in the VIP. Because if I'm in a club, I will probably be in the VIP.) But what life has taught me is that the melanin-challenged will create "movements" that mirror the life of the rest of us. And then are shocked when we don't jump on their pretentious bandwagon.

Bottom line is that I do try to eat local. It's just that the tastes that appeal to me most are not local. I guess that it is easy to say one should eat local if your palate was merely formed by local tastes. But mine wasn't. I am the child of Southern transplants. I know the joys of adding Old Bay Season to seafood and why one adds okra but not gumbo file to gumbo -- at least when okra is in season. I also know that there is almost nothing better than a BBQ sandwich. Depending upon where in the South you are, this could be chopped or pulled. The location also tells how much vinegar there is in the mix. Bottom line is that coleslaw and hot sauce are always accepted as options on a BBQ sandwich. And sometimes I look at the food y'all have prepared and ask myself, "Where is the flavor?" Funny. When my good friend, La Nicoya, encounters folks of the paler nation, she will turn to me and say, "You know what? They ain't got no flava." Hmmmm. I wonder. Of course, this does not seem to apply to folks with hyphenated labels. Jewish-American? Italian-American? Turkish-American? Mexican-American? Chinese-American? Well, you get the point. These folks usually have flava. In their personalities and their food.

So you say to yourself that I seem to be in agreement with most of these blog writers. Therefore, why am i writing this post? Because when I read their posts, there doesn't seem to be much option there. And that pisses the hell out of me. It seems elitist. And yeah, racist. (And by the way, there is a difference between being "prejudiced" and "racist." Racism connotes political power. Therefore, only the dominant group can be called racist. However, all people have prejudices.)

I know that my second statement is probably the most disturbing to so called liberals. Guess what? I don't give a fuck that you're disturbed. You should be. When you go to your farmers' markets, how many people of color do you see there? I want you to compare this number to the whites/European-Americans that you see there. Do the math and figure out the percentage.

I have seen arguments that say that it is the responsibility of the middle class to set the tone. Which middle class is what I ask. I bet you never thought that there was a difference between the desires of the middle class groups of the various ethnic/cultural groups.

And then there is the sudden popularity in offal. Sure it may have been popular but in other parts of the world for years. But here in the U.S.? It is the meat of those who don't have much. And suddenly I was reminded of catfish. Growing up, catfish was about the only fish I ate except on special occasions. Why? Because it was relatively inexpensive. Then some chef in New Orleans started blackening it and it became trendy. And you know what? The price went up. Enough that those at the lower end of the income scale could not afford it with the regularity that they had previously. So now I worry that the same will happen to offal.

And yes, I grew up middle class but not everyone in my family did. Like my mother. And after my parents divorced, it took more than one paycheck for my mother to make the house payment each month. So meals were rather frugal those first few years. And that's why I wonder about catfish. It was about the only kind of fish we could afford back then. And there were a lot of nights back then when we had "breakfast" for dinner -- cheese omelets and toast.

Then there's the things that my parents -- who grew up in the segregated South -- told me when I was growing up. My parents knew that the history texts during that time were rather lacking so they went to places like Marcus Books to supplement my education. In the South, offal is a part of the Black diet as a result of slavery. When the slaves did get meat, it was the castoffs -- the offal. And so it is now a huge part of my heritage. And the thought of my people no longer being able to afford something because once more the dominant society has chosen to appropriate it, pisses the hell out of me.

But the nail in the coffin for me? Menu for Hope. I applaud that people want to help others. I understand that it involves food bloggers from around the world. But you know what? There are people in the United States who do not get enough to eat every day. And that's what really pisses me off about so-called liberals. They are quick to jump on the bandwagon to help the rest of the world. But here? Screw those people of color here. Like I said, I applaud your effort, but I will continue to give my dollars locally. Like maybe to the folks who are still trying to recover from Katrina.

And I do realize that at least one food blogger that I know is involved in Menu for Hope regularly participates in activities for people locally. I applaud this blogger for his/her efforts. I was tempted to bid on this blogger's package for that very reason. My sheer respect for him/her. Because I know at least for this one person it isn't a feeling noblesse oblige but of genuine caring for others.

If I was like Conspiracy Guy, I'd say that this it all a part of the man's master plan. Make sure they don't know what diversity is and they'll never ask for it. Or maybe it is more of the continuing attempt to erase ethnicity and culture. Yeah, it will be great when we can all stand around singing "Kumbaya" and holding hands and crap, but do we all have to be the same? Because when I look at the foods that y'all are preparing, while I like the looks of most, there is very little that takes me back to my grandmother's or even my mother's kitchen.

And so now for the why of it all as I have come to understand it. What is it that makes me lose hope in the world? Not the politicians because politicians will always be just that. Instead it's the moments like these. The ones that make me think, "These people live in the same world that I do?" And then I think, "Well duh. No they don't." And more often than not, I think to myself, "Can folks have their heads that far up their asses?" Because there are days in which I feel like I have had the dominant culture shoved down my throat endlessly and they only way that they have any clue about my viewpoint is when I ranted and raved. And it gets really frustrating. Because isn't there a point in which one should no longer have to do it?

Comments? Bring it on.

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