Archives for: June 2006
The other day I stopped into a café for coffee. I had my choice of cup sizes:
"Sooper Dooper": $1.90
When it was my turn, I said, "Tiny coffee, please."
Another woman in line asked if she could please see the "tiny" cup. I asked her, "Isn't it refreshing to see a small cup accepting reality and not demanding to be called 'Tall'?"
Last year, a study of California's public high school graduating class showed that fully 25% (!) of the students were issued diplomas SHORT OF mastery of the required material. In my day, those kids were left back. But today's teachers issue passing grades to reward merely showing up at their classes.
These MILLIONS of high school "graduates" are then free to attend so-called Universities (often Self-Esteemese for colleges, which is often Self-E'ese for High School remedial study centers). When they attain the high-esteem title "University Graduate", they can call themselves "professionals", it seems, at anything they do...I'm reminded of the Soviet Union, where plumbers and handymen were called "Engineers".
There was the story in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, applauding an inner city Oakland high school delivering a 100% graduation-rate: An outfit under the reformist policy of a nonprofit that is opening such "successful" "schools" across the country. According to this article, "Real world experiences are stressed as more important learning tools than direct instruction and testing", and "There are no final exams, no letter grades...students spend only three days a week in classrooms."
"I started liking school," said one "graduate", "because I got to learn what I wanted to learn," (leaving the "university" to teach her how to READ?).
One of the school's own first students, however, tells it like it is: "[S]he feels the school does not prepare students for traditional academic courses and standardized tests as well as the other schools do." 'Nuff said?
Maybe Starbucks' market research showed that its male customers, in particular, don't want to order anything called "Small", let alone "Tiny". Thus they can feel like tough caballeros when they order their 8 oz.-or-less cuppa "Tall" in the saddle. (Remember "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche"?)
Leave it to San Francisco, and a local company herein, to take stabs at the Big Guns... OK: That's another story. Meanwhile we have a generation to educate.
Pass the Half-&-Half.
Yesterday at Whole Foods Market, there was a vendor table for a vegetarian "meat" product that included amongst its ingredients butternut squash, portobello mushrooms and garlic. The vendor began to hawk in my direction, so I asked her about the product, and then I replied, "Like Fu" (Fu and Seitan being grain gluten "meats" I remember from my Macrobiotic days). She concurred. I smiled and said, "I eat according to my blood type, so I do better with meat itself," and I kept moving.
"Tell me", she called out with some excitement, "what IS this Blood Type thing?"
Me (backing up): Do you know your blood type?
Me: OK, then. You, too, need to eat real meat.
Vendor: Funny you should say that: I KNOW you're right.
Me: RED meat is best: Lean grass-fed beef, for instance, lamb - virtually any meat, and poultry, fish, seafood...
Vendor (enthusiastic, nodding): So true, so true! I THOUGHT so.
Me: As a woman, small portions would serve you well, but get some of this every day (starting to move away). Eat your meat!
Vendor: Wait Wait ---
Me: You have customers! I don't want to keep you from---
Vendor: No, that's ok. TELL me about this!
Me (parking my cart to the side): Tell you what: Answer their questions, and I'll wait a minute. (Meanwhile, I take out a pen and note pad, and jot down D'Adamo's name, ER4YT and LR4YT titles, and the web address)
(2 minutes later)
Vendor: OK, go on. What do I DO?
Me (handing her the note): Here. Pick up a copy of ER4YT. If they've sold out in the book department here, you can special order it.
Vendor: Or just skip down to Borders; no problem. I'll get it TODAY.
Me: Great. And if there's any delay, meanwhile think Meat, Fish, eggs; vegetables, fruits, and NO WHEAT or dairy, basically. The book'll give you the details.
Vendor: Wow! I KNEW it was the wheat!! But (whining) No cheese either?
Me: I think farmer's cheese might be ok, and goat cheese? The book'll tell you.
Vendor: I can't believe my luck that you came by! This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for.
Me: OK. (Pushing off) Take care of your customers!
Vendor: That's okay (clearing her tray); I'm outa here.
Isa, de la terre de Riesling, Silvaner, et Müller-Thurgau, du pays des wursts et brots et biers...N'as pas honte du lieu des naissances de Bach, Handel, Beethoven et Brahms, de Luther, Goethe, Schopenhauer et Nietzsche...et de toi-même!
Puis: Tu étais adoptée par La Terre Des Vins Parfaits, des parfums exquis, de la cuisine excéllente, de la mode, de la peinture, des couleurs (surtout où tu habitais...le Midi!) et (moment de silence, svp) des maquis ("Allons Enfants de la Patrie...") Quel héritage!
Et, maintenant, tu te trouves dans la terre des montagnes, et des fromages formidables (célestiel d'y avoir un allèle B!). Le vin n'est pas mal non plus: J'aimais le Dôle et le Fendant, par exemple.
Suisse: Le tout petit pays de plusieurs niveaux à explorer: L'on monte au-dessus des nuages pour trouver le soleil aveuglant sur la neige, tandis que, en bas, on se trouve dans le brouillard.
La Suisse: Terre de la liberté et de la neutralité, des horloges de précision, des banques privées, des trains, et des petits autobus-de-poste qui vont absolument partout!
Le pays où les ouvriers dans les supermarchés ressemblent aux médecins, aux manteaux blancs, mais qui ne font qu'arroser les légumes!
Où dans le monde peut-on trouver un Mets National qui s'agit d'un petit four sur la table, où chacun a sa petite poêle pour fondre une tranche de fromage, avant de la racler sur ses morceaux de pomme de terre, petits oignons, et cornichons? Que cela représente la Suisse, n'est-ce pas? L'opération chirurgicale et précise: A table!
Il y a, aussi, le Franc suisse, basé (toujours?) sur l'étendard d'or! On y trouve des chalets, avec leurs boîtes-aux-fenêtres pleines de géraniums; et la broderie des plus petites fleurs sauvages des champs alpins.
Suisse: C'est là un pays où la plupart des résidents se souviennent des grandparents des autres...Quelle phénomène (aux yeux des américains, par exemple, qui se déménagent fréquemment, et parfois franchant de longues distances).
Et l'Armée! Ses exercises, ses fausses-montagnes comblées de nourriture pour toute la population en cas d'urgence! Ses camouflages de fermes, de vaches, de chèvres; sa Force Aérienne (de laquelle les Israeliens ont appris comment ça se fait)...
Et le chocolat, tombé d'en haut.
La Suisse: Une merveille, à mon avis. Le monde est meilleur à cause d'elle. Et je n'ai pas même mentionné son histoire: Des Romains, des "barbares", des éxilés, des Réformateurs...
Moi, j'ai habité Montreux (et ses environs). J'avais mon lac, mes montagnes, ma vue sur tout (une de mes fenêtres a donné sur un bananier, dans le jardin -- SI! En Suisse!), et chaque petit paquet montre ses ingrédients et les instructions en mes trois langues de préférence (la quatrième, le Romansch, n'est pas encore une de mes études).
Alors, l'on peut soit se baigner, soit s'asseoir dans le WC, soit prendre son p'tit déj, tout en lisant les boîtes et les bouteilles, occasions de pratiquer son allemand ou italien -- c'est absolument formidable.
Et les aéroports de Génève et de Zürich, qui correspondent directement avec le train, leurs gares étant juste au-dessous. Et si tu prends le train, de Lausanne au nord, par exemple, tu peux parler en français aux autres passagers jusqu'à Bienne/Biel, où le poli est de vite commencer à t'éxprimer en deutsche, notamment si les autres -- tout à coup -- prétendent de ne plus te comprendre.
On n'est jamais trop loin de la frontière pour devoir faire ses commissions uniquement en Suisse: S'il ne te gêne pas de passer par la douane en rentrant, tu peux acheter des viandes et pharmaceutiques en France (ou Allemagne, Autriche, Italie, Liechtenstein, je suppose?) comme tu veux.
Quel superbe pays! O je remercie le Seigneur pour Sa création des Alpes, et la tradition suissaise de liberté, gardée par cette même topographie. Et pour la domicile de mon amie, Isa, AB, qui sait naviguer le cyberespace, et qui n'a pas peur de s'y mêler avec nous les Anglos.
Vas bien, amuse-toi bien, notre superbe Isa-Manuela!
There's something to be said for eating what you're served. And when you're a tourist, to some extent it's a good standard of conduct. Sometimes it'll be a matter of choosing the least of all evils: The O can "pass" on the bread, the A on the beef, etc., where possible...but it isn't always so.
Some hosts may take it as an insult if you don't "fill your plate", and, I have to say, you may miss something extraordinary. If you're not ill, think "Tier One" when you travel, understanding that you may have to expand on that, to take in a "serious Avoid", perhaps daily. Enjoy your trip and take "Deflect", I say.
Despite my B loyalty, there's a particular Palestinian chicken dish I wouldn't refuse if it were offered to me under ANY circumstances. It's a regional specialty requiring not only alot of time and experience, but...unspeakable love. It's an HONOR to be served this dish, and, once you've tasted it you may actually, as I did, weep. OK? I might select something different at a restaurant, but if someone's Palestinian mother were to serve it to me, I'd melt. In NO case would I refuse to taste it.
If I were at a Sicilian trattoria and I were told "Today we're serving the Specialty of the House: Blah Blah Marinara etc.", I'd never be so picky/gauche/B-fanatic to say: "No marinara for me, thanks." The rationale would NOT be: "Hey, I'm on vacation, so I'll feast on Avoids." It would be this: "I've CHOSEN to be the guest, this week/month, of numerous hosts. Some are more personal than others and might take offense at my rejecting their hospitality." And then, "WOW! I'm REALLY in SICILY!!!"
And, if there's a very, very special dish in a less "personal" restaurant/buffet setting, e.g., couscous or bisteeya in Morocco, bouillabaisse in Marseille, paella in Barcelona, I'd be at least willing to TASTE it on the side! Why? Just to indulge the proprietor? No. There are other reasons.
To have an Experience: You're not at some formulaic AmerItalian chain: This is The Real Thing: Wake up! Cuisine is an essential aspect of ANY culture. To be unwilling to TASTE the marinara sauce of a Sicilian host who's proud of it, whose ancestors have perfected the recipe over generations, defeats the purpose of Tourism, no? It, in effect, carries an attitude of "closedness" to new things that doesn't quite jibe with the whole notion of Leisure Travel, does it? (Is it even POSSIBLE to know a place without tasting its signature dishes?)
Maybe I'm saying that really sick people shouldn't be tourists, and that if you're ill, you should consider postponing that sojourn in Provence 'til you're better. And that if you're NOT ill, you shouldn't be the guest of anyone you've misled to believe you ARE. Think about it: "I can't eat this" "I can't eat that" (?) - or - "Wherever I go, I just order broiled salmon and rice, daily..." Is THAT the way to learn, experience? And yet another angle is: Is that the way to endear your hosts to Americans?
See, there are 3 questions most American tourists don't ask themselves:
(1) "What am I saying, what is my conduct demonstrating, to non-Americans,about 'American Tourists'?"
(2) "What am I learning about the host culture? How many personal interactions am I actually having with regular local people? How much 'inside information' am I taking away from my travel experience?"
(3) "If the above two issues are meaningless to me, why am I a tourist?"
This "We-carry-our-own-food, thank-you" attitude is really off-putting, anti-social, and actually savors (globally) of Imperialism. It says "We might set up our own versions of 'fast food' all over your cities and towns, but we sure don't stoop to eat what you mistakenly/ignorantly call 'Food'." I wonder: Do many American tourists know how to comport themselves as GUESTS? And are we sensitive to avoid giving the impression of Conquerors?
Spend some time daydreaming before you embark on that whirlwind tour. Imagine yourself being invited by locals, all over the world, to enjoy the very best that their countries have to offer. Then imagine yourself open to, and meriting, those invitations. See yourself accepting the fact that many, if not most, of those experiences involve the sharing of food. It means leaving the beaten path, choosing the road not taken, being open to surprises.
Unless, of course, your diet's pristineness is sacrosanct, in which case your parameters must remain restricted; food serves a socially separative rather than convivial role in your life, in which case: Stay home and remain "compliant". That might be the best option for the ill, whether physically or spiritually. Or: Drop down to Tier One Compliance that you're willing - on sheer whim - to ignore, if "kismet" so require. Now THAT'S an Adventure!