Help, I’m Steppin’ Into The Twilight Zone

SPOILER ALERT:  If you are following the “Twilight” series exclusively via the films (or haven’t finished the books), you may not want to read this post, as it (sort of) gives away the end.  And you might be really, really disappointed.

Gretchen, our Fearless Spin Cycle Leader, is an actress in Los Angeles and as such has decreed our spins this week should be about movies, in honor of the upcoming Academy Awards.  There was a time, as an avid movie-goer, that I could intelligently discuss many of the nominated films, but these days we tend to wait for movies we really want to see to come out on DVD; we wait for the rest to go to Netflix instant play.  (All Hail the Big Screen TV!)

There will be no intelligent discussions in this post.

First, let me just admit say that yes, I have read all four Twilight books.  In my defense, it was mostly for two reasons:  to see if the actual writing would improve (it didn’t) and out of morbid curiosity – could the plot line possibly get any more absurd?  (It could.)  The fact that I was amazed at the message these books were sending to their intended audience – adolescent girls – was just an unpleasant surprise.  I’ve also seen the first two films, and to say they lived down to my expectations in a spectacular fashion is something of an understatement.

It was this very plot line that became the subject of a conversation Saturday morning between me and Beloved, as we drove to one of the semi-monthly farmer’s markets available at this time of year.  Don’t ask me how it came up, but we found ourselves discussing the peculiar notion some people of an intensely religious persuasion have that the Harry Potter novels are some sort of plot to turn The Upstanding Christian Youth Of Our Country into black-arts-practicing-Wiccans  (yes, we have odd discussions).  At some point, Beloved said something about the Twilight series being equally reviled, to which I replied:

“Actually, no – it’s been praised by a great many people for it’s strong ‘abstinence before marriage’ and anti-abortion messages.”

Looking appropriately perplexed, Beloved asked, “Abstinence?  Abortion?  What?  Before or after he sucks her blood?”

“Well, he never sucks her blood,” I reply.  “He never sucks anyone’s blood – he’s a vegetarian.”

“How the hell can a vampire be a vegetarian?!?”

“He only sucks the blood of animals, not humans.”

“And that makes him a vegetarian.”

“Hey – I don’t make the news, I only report it.”

“This is for ethical reasons?”

“Yup.”

“Just animals.”

“Yup.”

“Like the cat next door?”

“Oh, no,” I say.  “They hunt dangerous animals – like cougars and grizzly bears – in an attempt to assuage their more bestial nature.” (Note:  don’t ask me how PETA has missed out on this, because I couldn’t tell you.)

“Okay…so if he never sucks her blood, how does it all end?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

“Yes, I do.”

“NO, you don’t.  Trust me on this.”

“C’mon – don’t leave me hanging; tell me.”

“Read the damn books yourself, then!”

“I’d rather not.”

“Then watch the movies; they’re reasonably faithful to the books.”

“I don’t want to waste my time.”

“Well, I don’t want to waste my time telling you about them!”

“You’ve got me intrigued – I won’t leave you alone until you tell me.”

“You’re going to be sorry you insisted.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Oooookaaaaay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Let me think about how to put this, because it’s just THAT stupid.”

Beloved laughs.

“Yeah, you’re laughing now…So, he pressures her into marrying him because he’s ‘old fashioned’ and won’t have sex until he’s married and then he knocks her up – ”

“Wait – he’s a vampire and he can have sex and get someone pregnant?”

“Don’t interrupt.  Anyway, the baby is killing her and she won’t let them give her an abortion and then the baby breaks her spine and he injects his ‘venom’ into her while performing a c-section on her with his teeth and the werewolf guy becomes fixated on the baby and someone tells the vampire mafia that they’ve made a child into a vampire which is against the rules and the vampire mafia comes after them so the ‘good guy’ vampires recruit a whole bunch of other vampires from all over the world to help them battle the vampire mafia but when the vampire mafia shows up there’s no battle and everyone lives happily ever after.”

“…you’re right, I wish I hadn’t asked.”

“I told you so.”

Beyond Organic and Why Joel Salatin Is Our Hero

I’ve been working on cleaning up the photos of Patty being, well, butchered (now, now – it’s not as bad as you think) (TONS more photos than I thought), working on my poor cookbook and dealing with a mild cold, so Beloved – who is reading (and really, really enjoying) The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – has come to my rescue with what is, so far, one of his favorite passages in the book…and a question at the end.

~~~~~~

This text is a direct quote from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  The only setup you need is to know that Polyface Farm in Swopes, Va is a sustainable heritage farm and George Naylor operates an industrialized mono-crop corn field in Iowa that, as Pollan said is “floating on a sinking sea of petroleum.”  Michael delivers up a great dish of Joel.

Hard to believe, but Joel Salatin and George Naylor are, if regarded from a great enough distance, engaged in much the same pursuit: growing grasses to feed the cattle, chickens, and pigs that feed us. Compared to Salatin, however, Naylor participates in an infinitely more complex industrial system, involving not only corn (and soybeans), but fossil fuels, petrochemicals, heavy machinery, CAFOs, and an elaborate international system of distribution to move all these elements around: the energy from the Persian Gulf, the corn to the CAFOs, the animals to slaughter, and their meat finally to a Wal-Mart or McDonald’s near you. Consider as a whole this system comprises a great machine, transforming inputs of seed and fossil energy into outputs of carbohydrate and protein. And, as with any machine this one generates streams of waste: the nitrogen and pesticides running off the corn fields; the manure pooling in the feedlot lagoons; the heat and exhaust produced by all the machines within the machine – the tractors and trucks and combines.

Polyface Farm stands about as far from this industrialized sort of agriculture as it is possible to get without leaving the planet. Joel’s farm stands as a kind of alternative reality to George’s: Every term governing a conventional 500-acre corn-and-bean operation in Churdan, Iowa, finds its mirror opposite here on these 550 acres in Swope, Virginia.

To wit:

Naylor Farm Polyface Farm
Industrial Pastoral
Annual species Perennial species
Monoculture Polyculture
Fossil energy Solar Energy
Global market Local market
Specialized Diversified
Mechanical Biological
Imported fertility Local fertility
Myriad inputs Chicken feed

 

For half a century now, which is to say for as long as industrial agriculture has held sway in America, the principal alternative to its methods and general approach has gone by the name “organic,” a word chosen (by J. I. Rodale, the founding editor of Organic Gardening and Farming magazine) to imply that nature rather than the machine should supply the proper model for agriculture. Before my journey through the organic food industry I would have thought that virtually any organic farm would belong on the Polyface side of this ledger. But it turns out that this is not necessarily the case. There are now “industrial organic” farms that belong firmly on the left-hand side. Then there is this further paradox: Polyface Farm is technically not an organic farm, though by any standard it is more “sustainable” than virtually any organic farm. Its example forces you to think a lot harder about what these words – sustainable, organic, natural – really mean.

As it happened, the reason I found my way to Polyface Farm in the first place had everything to do with Joel Salatin’s unusually strict construction of the word sustainable. As part of my research into the organic food chain, I kept hearing about this organic farmer in Virginia who had no use for the federal government’s new organic standards. I also kept hearing about the exceptional food he was producing. So I gave him a call, hoping to get some salty quotes about the organic industry and perhaps get him to ship me a pastured chicken or steak.

The salty quotes I got. Speaking in a rapid-fire delivery that sounded like a cross between Bill Clinton and a hopped-up TV evangelist, Salatin delivered a scathing indictment of the “organic empire.” I struggled to keep up with a spirited diatribe that bounced from the “Western conquistador mentality” and the “clash of paradigms” to the “innate distinctive desires of a chicken” and the impossibility of taking a “decidedly Eastern, connected, holistic product, and selling it through a decidedly Western, disconnected, reductionist Wall Streetified marketing system.”

“You know what the best kind of organic certification would be? Make an unannounced visit to a farm and take a good long look at the farmer’s bookshelf. Because what you’re feeding your emotions and thoughts is what this is really all about. The way I produce a chicken is an extension of my worldview. You can learn more about that by seeing what’s sitting on my bookshelf than having me fill out a whole bunch of forms.”

I asked him what was on his bookshelf. J. I. Rodale. Sir Albert Howard. Aldo Leopold. Wes Jackson. Wendell Berry. Louis Bromfield. The classic texts of organic agriculture and American agrarianism.

“We never called ourselves organic—we call ourselves ‘beyond organic.’ Why dumb down to a lesser level than we are? If I said I was organic, people would fuss at me for getting feed corn from a neighbor who might be using atrazine. Well, I would much rather use my money to keep my neighborhood productive and healthy than export my dollars five hundred miles away to get ‘pure product’ that’s really coated in diesel fuel. There are a whole lot more variables in making the right decision than does the chicken feed have chemicals or not. Like what sort of habitat is going to allow that chicken to express its physiological distinctiveness? A ten-thousand-bird shed that stinks to high heaven or a new paddock of fresh green grass every day? Now which chicken shall we call ‘organic’? I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the government, because now they own the word.

“Me and the folks who buy my food are like the Indians—we just want to opt out. That’s all the Indians ever wanted—to keep their tepees, to give their kids herbs instead of patent medicines and leeches. They didn’t care if there was a Washington, D.C., or a Custer or a USDA; just leave us alone. But the Western mind can’t bear an opt-out option. We’re going to have to refight the Battle of Little Bighorn to preserve the right to opt out, on your grandchildren and mine will have no choice but to eat amalgamated, irradiated, genetically prostituted, bar-coded, adulterated fecal spam from the centralized processing conglomerate.” [emphasis mine]

Whew…”

Whew is right! Which side of the ledger do you eat from?

 

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

 

A Question

Darling Daughter flies in from Las Vegas on December 20 and leaves December 28, and Oldest Son flies in from Dallas on the 24th and leaves the 29th.  My next two weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy (much like yours, I imagine).  I’ve wondered how to handle blogging – should I try to keep to my regular schedule, blog less often or just take a break until the New Year? – when it occurred to me to ask for guest posts.  I’ve already got one (it will be up early next week), and hopefully will have six all together before it’s said and done.  If I get one from everyone I asked, it should be pretty interesting.  🙂

This busy end of the year has me thinking about next year – 2011?  Really? – and things I have to do, the things I need to do, and the things I want to do.  While it goes without saying that the things we have to do and need to do are important, we sometimes forget that things we want to do are also important.

I want to write a cookbook.

It’s been pointed out to me that I have more than enough recipes on this blog to put together a cookbook, but I don’t want to just print them up, bind them with our little binding machine here at the office and announce here “Hey, I’ve put all my recipes together in a book – you can have one for $10!”  For one thing, my cooking has evolved somewhat since I began this blog nearly 3 years ago (yea, gods) and I’m not interested in putting together a book with recipes I would no longer eat.  I also don’t want to unnecessarily limit my audience; if I’m going to do this, I want it to be full of recipes that anyone would want to cook and eat, even if there are very few, if any, that contain grains or refined sugar.

So my question is, is there anyone out there that would actually be interested in buying a cookbook I wrote?  And if so, what would you like to see in it?

Monsters, Eeek

Monsters, Inc.When Beloved’s out of town, our schedules don’t change much.  I don’t cook as much or as elaborately.  The Young One needs a little more prodding to do his chores.  I work longer hours.  The dog whines for attention a little bit more.  The house is quieter.  But, for the most part, things ramble on as usual.

Except at night.

I’ll be the first person to admit that I have trouble sleeping when Beloved’s not home.  I have trouble settling down and have trouble staying asleep; I also tend to get up earlier in the mornings.  Beloved calls it “empty bed syndrome” and claims he suffers from it on the nights insomnia (and his snoring) send me to the sofa in the living room.  And it could very well be what it is…at least partly.

It also could be that I’m afraid of the dark.

I know it’s silly; I know it’s irrational.  Especially when you consider that whatever monster under my bed would probably eat me whether I was alone in my bedroom or not. But the dark doesn’t bother me when Beloved is home, even on the rare occasion I go to bed before him.  I just have an overactive imagination – possibilities have always intrigued me, often far more than reality does.  And my imagination tells me that my husband will keep all the icky monsters away.

Either that, or the man just doesn’t give me enough time to worry about whatever might be living under our bed.

I don’t think much about my fear of the dark until I find myself alone in it; then it kicks into overdrive and every scary movie I’ve seen and scary book I’ve ever read begins traipsing its way through my brain.  It’s times like that when I wish I’d never watched movies like The Ring.  ‘Cause that little girl crawling out of the television at the end of the film?

She is out to get me.

I don’t think Beloved was aware of my fear of the dark until recently when I mentioned that I make sure the closet door is firmly closed and the bathroom light is left on at night when he’s out of town.  I mentioned this with some trepidation, because the man is RABID about lights left on all night, but he was more amused than anything.

Really??” he asked.  His imagination is somewhat different from mine – he’s perfectly fine with the possibility of cosmic strings and magnetic monopoles, but pubescent young women chucking film directors out of windows and down long flights of stairs?  Pshaw, he says.  I, on the other hand, was tempted to cancel my account with Verizon after reading Stephen King’s Cell.

Ah, well.  I’ve lived 46 years without being eaten by a monster, or even threatened by one, and I’m sure I never will be.

Let’s just keep that bathroom light on and ignore the smell of garlic, shall we?

Read It and Weep

BooksThis week’s Spin Cycle is “Favorite Books” and since I’ve written about this subject before and am yet again (still?) overwhelmed at work, I have decided to repost this.  Written nearly a year ago, the first half of the post is still relevant.  The second half?  Well, let’s just say that I read the saga I mentioned, and was singularly unimpressed. In fact, the books in question alternately amused, disgusted and pissed me off.  Would I recommend them?  Not for their intended audience, no.

~~~~~~

Further Proof I Am Weird

If any is needed.

I love to read.  I’ll read just about anything – books, magazines, blogs, cereal boxes, junk mail…even the Podunk Suppository, when I’m in need of a good laugh or feel a burning desire to bathe in provincial ignorance.  To say the local newspaper isn’t exactly a hotbed of unbiased, professional journalism is something of an understatement. Oh, the culture shock…

But I digress.

Mostly I read books, a passion Beloved and Darling Daughter both share.  Two walls of our family room are literally covered in books, and our next large purchase in the way of furnishings will be custom-built bookshelves.

Before I met him, Beloved read non-fiction almost exclusively.  Oh, he’d read everything Ayn Rand ever published, including her cumbersome novels,  as well as a good many of Gore Vidal’s historical novels, but that was about it.  And while I have introduced him to the likes of Stephen King and Jean Auel, non-fiction remains his chief source of reading material – because of that, we have books on such diverse subjects as economics, American History, philosophy, religion and quantum physics on our bookshelves.

I read my share of non-fiction, although it is mostly in the form of cookbooks (which are a marvelous source of information on other cultures), web development and associated software, biographies, paleoanthropology, medieval history, art and film, but to be honest, most of my reading material is pretty damn plebeian.  I don’t read “mainstream” literature very often, although I own everything ever written by Stephen King, Jean Auel and J.K. Rowling, but most of the books I own are of very specific genres, and the authors I read reflect that: Robert B. Parker, J.R.R. Tolkein, Philip Jose Farmer, Anya Seton, Kenneth Robeson, Ed McBain.  We do have a lot of the “classics” on our shelves as well, which simply means that when the kids are required to read them for school we don’t have to hunt them down (nor are they permitted to get away with Cliff Notes).  We’re also fans of Shakespeare and have several volumes devoted to his works and the analysis of them.

Not that I’m claiming weirdness because I read – I’m well aware that I’m not alone in my love of books; it’s more a matter of what I read, which is sometimes pretty damn obscure…even if I am poised to read all of Stephenie Meyer’s teenage vampire novels (hey, you can’t pass up what’s being hailed as the “next Harry Potter”). (*Note – yeah, you can.*)

One of the reasons I’m only poised to read Twilight and it’s sequels is because of Beverly Lewis.  The covers of her books claim she is a NY Times bestselling author, but I’d never heard of her until I moved to Ohio.  Basically, she writes fiction (I suppose you could call them “romances”) about the Amish.  I’ve seen her books on countless shelves in stores down in Amish country, where they are prominently displayed; in Podunk, she’s been relegated to the tiny “Christian fiction” section of Borders.  Her books are a wealth of information about the Amish, who are absolutely fascinating…at least as far as I’m concerned.  She also writes very well, and really knows how to tell a story.  So much so, she has me – the least religious of people – picking up each new book in the Abram’s Daughters series, exclaiming things like, “Oh, I hope that bitch of a sister of hers gets what’s coming to her in this book!”

Probably not exactly in keeping with the steadfastly held Amish beliefs of forgiveness and pacifism.

And yes, I am ALL caught up in what amounts to an Amish soap opera.  In fact, I finished the third in the five book series last night, and since I found myself out and about today at lunch, I decided to see if they had the remaining two on hand at the local Borders.  They didn’t have both, but they did have the fourth, so I’m good for at least another two or three days (they’re very quick reads).  While I was there, I picked up the first two Stephenie Meyer books – I’d have bought all four, but they were out of the third book in the series and I’m positively anal about things like that.

Checking out was interesting.

Clerk:  Did you find everything you needed?

Me:  Well, you didn’t have all of the books I wanted in stock, no, but you had enough.

Clerk:  Oh, we can look for you – what did you want?

Me:  The third in this series of vampire books and the last in this series of Amish romances.

Clerk: …Oh, well…I suppose we can check…are these gifts?

Me:  No, they’re for me.

Clerk (eyeing me warily):  Okay…(pushes a piece of paper and a pencil towards me)…just give us your name and phone number and we can notify you when they arrive…

Me:  Nah, that’s okay – I’ll just check back in a few days; I’m still looking for “Nuclear Armament for Dummies” and the collected works of Anton LaVey.

I don’t know WHY he ran off like that…