Posts Tagged ‘class


farmers’ marketing

Sure signs of spring at the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market today.

A wonderful display of carrots, radishes, fava beans, spring onions, and beets:

All it’s missing is…


And, of course, dandelion greens, gone from a godsend to a nuisance to a delicacy:

But what really makes me think “spring” are the baby vegetables. Every farmer and gardener knows that you overplant, because not every seed will germinate. But that means that, eventually, you have to cull, so that the plants don’t crowd each other out.

baby beets

baby broccoli versus big broccoli

Any part of the remaining plants that won’t be productive has to go, too.

pea shoots

elephant garlic scapes

This all reminds me of my grandfather’s story of frequenting a Houston produce market as a child, helping sellers by keeping the areas around their stalls clean. They paid him and his siblings in loose produce–the stuff they couldn’t sell to customers. Like these loose grapes at the Noe Valley farmers’ market last fall:


My grandmother and the Food Network

Since she was released from hospitalization for a heart attack and a hernia, my grandmother has been under doctor’s orders to stay away from stress and physical effort—including cooking. Less time in front of the stove means more time in front of the TV, and she and my sister have been bonding over the Food Network.

It turns out, though, that English-language cooking shows pose some challenges for her. “Sometimes I don’t understand the ingredients they’re talking about. What’s the word he’s using for that pasta? I can see it’s noodles, but I don’t know what he’s calling them.”

They were rigatoni, and I explained to her that different shapes of pasta have different names. I left aside the issue of different uses, figuring she’d pick that up with enough watching. But I did notice that the Food Network had already taught her “pasta,” which she hadn’t known a few years ago, when her vocabulary there was limited to “noodles” and “fideos.”

She’s also having a hard time deciding what this “basil” thing is, sometimes deciding that it’s “bay leaf,” instead. But cilantro is a cinch–she was inspired enough by its television celebrity to ask me to buy her a few plants and pot them for her on her porch. And, prohibitions on cooking aside, she had a pot full of lovely poached chicken soup, with garlic, celery, potato, and cilantro, ready when I first arrived.

Another Food Network addition to her English vocabulary is “scallion,” as part of what they’re apparently calling GGS, or ginger-garlic-scallion: the Asian mirepoix. Garlic she got, no problem. Ginger, ok. (It’s familiar as a medicine, if not as a spice.) But, “What’s that last thing, mi’ja?” “Son cebollinas, Momo.” And maybe it’s time to see the eye doctor as well as the cardiologist…

In other news, this is the first Stuff White People Like entry that I’ve enjoyed in a long time.


link round-up

My friend Guille came back yesterday from a week of pressing OSHA and DOL officials for better legal protections for domestic workers, day laborers, and farm workers. It looks like Secretary of Labor Solis is on board.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, federal marshals are trying to keep H-2A guestworkers out of a Friday court hearing that could affect their working conditions. They’re being excluded, presumably in the name of homeland security, because they don’t have US-issued IDs, though they all have their Mexican passports and H-2A visas.

Robb Walsh catches Mi Abuelita’s Homestyle Mexican Restaurant in Galveston mixing restaurant and homestyle versions of Tex-Mex by offering a chile relleno served with beans and fideos. Fideos are pasta, usually vermicelli, for those not in the know–like commenter Mary, a life-long Texan who nevertheless had to Google the term.

Mexconnect reports that “creative Mexican chefs” are now using hibiscus juice “in a variety of both sweet and savory dishes, including marinades, sauces, sorbets, granitas, jellies and trendy cocktails.” The article makes me think about how the status of the people doing the cooking–in this case, “creative,” “trendy,” and “Mexican”–affects what we think about the food’s authenticity. It also makes me wonder how long before the jamaica craze sweeps north.

And more east-meets-west Tex-Mix from Taste of Beirut: Lebanese quesadillas.


Cesar Chavez Day

In Days of Obligation, Richard Rodriguez reminds us that even when César Chavez “made the cover of Time as the most famous Mexican American anyone could name,” he and the UFW directly touched the lives of only a small percentage of Mexican Americans. Many farmworkers were (or still are) Mexican-American, or Mexicans in America, but most Mexican Americans were (and are) not farmworkers. At a gathering honoring Chavez, Rodriguez remembers being among “the Mexican-American haute bourgeoisie, as we stood to pay our homage … stood applauding our little saint. César Chavez reminded us that night of who our grandparents used to be. Then the Mexican waiters served champagne….”

I am another member of the Mexican-American haute bourgeoisie, and as a child I played a lot of make believe around picking and planting crops, thinking of real farmworkers, if I thought of them at all, as part of a rather romantic past. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been that callow: the waiters keep serving me champagne and the farmworkers keep growing my strawberries.

Our society does a lot to keep us from thinking about who grows our food, and under what conditions. Here are a few links and reading recommendations to get and keep you thinking about the people who produce most of the food you eat:

  • Coalition of Immokalee Workers
  • Harvesting Justice
  • Dick Meister and Anne Loftis’ A Long Time Coming gives a good historical overview of farmworker organizing in the US, including the United Farm Workers up to the late 70s.
  • John Bowe’s Nobodies tells the story of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and explores some of the reasons for the continued exploitation of farmworkers.

And, if you’re going to eat strawberries, try to get them locally from a farmer you trust, or else try to get ones from Swanton Berry Farm–the only strawberry grower with a UFW contract.

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