Everyone loves to imagine who they might invite to dinner – living or dead. I have lots of different dinner parties in my head – the literary crowd (Hemingway, Plath, Updike, Salinger, Kingsolver, Allende, Marquez, Neruda, Dickenson…can you imagine the conversation?!), musicians and actors and of course social activists, inventors, artists, philosophers….I’m getting really tangental in my head right now imaging the menus and conversation…
The most interesting dinner guests, however, might be a batch of foodies – writers, chefs, farmers, advocates. I got a glimpse of how the conversation might unfold in a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine with a piece called The American Table. It is a discussion between Ruth Reichl and Michael Pollen about American food culture. It’s a fascinating article and as close as I’ll get to having dinner with the two of them. “Yes, Ruth, I’ll have a deviled egg. Thank you.”
Michael Pollen: “It’s empowering…for everyone. Food choices are something fundamental you can control about yourself: what you take into your body. When so many other things are out of control and your influence over climate change – all these much larger issues – it’s very hard to see any results or progress. But everybody can see progress around food. They see new markets rising, they see idealistic young people getting into farming. It’s a very hopeful development in a not particularly hopeful time.”
Pollen aslo said, “I think the next chapter of the food movement will involve paying more attention to workers in the food chain – on the farm, in the packing plants and in the restaurants.” One of my favorite chefs and advocates (and also a really lovely person) is Andrea Reusing. She discussed the plight of the workers in her recent TEDxChapel Hill talk. I’ve mentioned Reusing’s cookbook, Cooking in the Moment, in an earlier blog post. This past week I referred to it quite a bit. I harvested all the remaining beets and made a couple batches of her pickled beet recipe and with the mass of tomatoes (trying to get to them before the stink bugs do!), I made a couple jars of her delicious hot tomato relish.
Farm workers and laborers should have a seat at my imaginary table, too.
Ruth Reichl is really my ultimate foodie hero. She’s been a food editor for many publications, but most notably – the no longer in print – Gourmet. I grew up with Gourmet magazine the way most kids remembering growing up with National Geographics. My mom had shelves and shelves dedicated to her issues. And the beautiful thing about being a subscriber was that there was no text on the cover – just the beautiful cursive name (unlike the copies found in stores with content highlights diminishing the cover photography). Each issue was just as beautiful and exotic to me as a National Geographic. I desperately miss Gourmet magazine.
Ruth Reichl: “Chopping is like meditation…I love everything in the kitchen – even doing dishes.”
I couldn’t agree more.