Thursday, January 17, 2008


This is the first of what I hope will be a series of entries. I’m not sure what the subject really is and knowing me, it’ll end up somewhere I never expected it to. But, it revolves around women (and men), food, nurturing, and surprisingly how what we define as food does more than just fill our stomachs.

The combined blog never did get off the ground did it? Jobs, housecleaning, business running, pets, yards and kids tend to take priority over research projects. I still have some ideas. There’s a line from Fiddler on the Roof. The young student radical is hemming and hawing, trying to work up the gumption to propose to one of Tevye’s daughters. He tells her he wants to ask her a question, a political question, a question about marriage, actually. At her surprised “marriage is a political question?” He tells her (with a shrug and a sort of well, duh) “everything’s political.”

I have a hard time seeing food as political, but it is. The respect we show for food is reflected in how we treat the people who grow it and the people who prepare it. Small farmers and subsistence villagers are under corporate pressure all over the world. The almost endless varieties of food grains and oil seeds are being reduced to a few varieties of each. Tenant farmers are being forced off the land as coastal land is sold off for shrimp and fish farms or farm land is sold to grow crops for export. The former farmers or fisherman find themselves working for wages to buy what they used to grow or catch for themselves. Or worse, they’re forced into the city slums to compete for low wage jobs, if they can find jobs at all.

Women have made progress in this country, but we’re still the ones who do the majority of the cooking, housekeeping, chauffeuring, and everything else it takes to keep a family running.  I know my mom worked just as hard as a stay at home mom as she ever did cooking in a dorm kitchen at the U of O. But her cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing, preserving and child care work never appeared on a balance sheet because she didn’t get paid for it.

I’m coming to believe that there is something fundamentally, perhaps fatally flawed in an economy that values a parent’s contribution to the state of our nation if there is a paycheck involved and doesn’t even take notice when no money changes hands. Goddess knows I don’t want to go back to a time when a woman’s place was only in the home. But I pray for the day when contributions everyone makes to our families are counted, whether money changes hands or not.

And I also pray for the day when the definition of family goes beyond husband, wife, 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat, a minivan, and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. It already has for many of us. It’s the getting the rest of the kids to agree on who’s allowed in the sandbox that seems to be sticking in some folks’ craws. Here’s hoping they wake up before they choke the rest of us.  There’s more to family than a shared set of genes and more to love than any of us can imagine.

Anyway, I thought I’d pour a little water in the sandbox and start building a sand castle. If somebody wants to help build one castle, come and play. If you want to build your own castle and build a bridge between the two, it works for me. Heck, if you want to build the village tavern, I’ll stop by for a drink.

1 comment:

toonguykc said...

Working on the tavern ... and thinking "family" stopped seeming like a good word twenty years ago.