Saturday, March 22, 2014

Who's a fascist?

            With the current Russian takeover of Crimea and possible incursions into Ukraine, we’re reminded of another time.  How did the Russians clean up their image to the point that those who don’t support them are called fascists?  I recently had a discussion with companions who dismissed the entire crisis as unimportant because the Ukrainians were fascists.  This label has stuck to the point that when you spoke Latvian in Latvia you could be called a fascist.  That happened to many Latvians who returned  in the 90’s and didn’t know Russian.

            The smear campaign of the former satellite countries is almost complete.  In the aftermath of the post WWll landscape when the horrors of the Nazi regime were revealed and the USSR was considered an ally, this was the way to categorize these countries and cover up the horrors of the war from the Russian side.  Latvians (despite losing 1/3 of the population) were deemed fascists because they were trapped in the untenable situation caught between Russia and Germany.  See Bloodlands by Timothy Synder .  The much reviled Latvian legion was formed after the Nazi deportations yet the label stands.

            There were no innocents in that war but there were certainly victims. Russians were not the heros not even to the Jewish populations it purported to protect. Many Jews were arrested in Siberia.  Here is the letter the Jewish community in Ukraine sent to criticize Putin. 

            Siberia with its 30 million prisoners in 60 years, the mass graves discovered, the decimation of populations of many countries, the closed corrupt society of the USSR that destroyed any idealist dream of a communist society.  Yet everyone but the Russians is labeled fascist. 

            Throughout we can feel sympathy for a country where the life expectancy is lower than most western countries and as we always say in these cases, the people deserve much better than their government.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Food as Fetish

At what point did food cease to be nourishment or pleasure and turn into a fetish?  Food is expected to solve every health woe these days.  Besides nourishing you it is supposed to be magical.  Unfortunately, the categories of which foods are “good” or “bad” for you change radically- take coconut oil.  Once it was considered the worse possible oil, now it’s perfect.  And rather than just eating it you can down teaspoonfuls to stay healthy. All this categorization of food takes us further away from reality. The reality was eating meals and enjoying them. 

When was the last time you had a meal in which no one talked about weight or fat or guilt?  “I shouldn’t eat this.  Oh, I feel so fat.” When was the last time you were at a dinner when everyone could eat whatever was served?  I can barely remember.  There always is a vegan or a paleo or a raw foods consumer complicating life for the host.  I wonder how someone with a restricted diet can travel anywhere.  And how so much energy devoted to analyzing or obsessing about food works out.  Do you actually feel healthier?  Is it worth it?

When did the idea that food can harm you occur?  I’m not talking about fast food or junk food which obviously can but grains and dairy.  And I’m not talking about celiac or people with food allergies but the general population which takes on these trends and drops them just as quickly as a new theory comes into fashion. 

I almost have to go back to Europe to have an idea what normal portions look like and enjoy a three course meal complete with wine and dessert.  And I weighed less there than here with all the fads and attempts as losing weight.  I can go to Europe where food is a celebration on special occasions and the refrigerator isn’t crammed full but is designed to buy the freshest products and cook them immediately.  There I won’t find eating to be a 24 hour possibility.  My taste buds won’t be battered by too much sugar and salt and fat. 

I’m guilty of the food fetish myself.  Mornings I often prepare a smoothie which bears almost no resemblance to food as we know it.  I throw protein powder and frozen fruit into a blender.  Why?  It’s easy and filling.  Probably the same reasons people have for consuming fast food. 

Even for the wealthy food resembles itself less and less.  There are foams and liquid nitrogen to make it more spectacular in the style of Ferran Adria.  There are endless elaborations to bring out the flavor of food which is simply not of the quality it once was.  GMO’s, farmed fish,and agribusiness have all changed food for the worse,  I have to admit I’d be happy to try Michel Bras’s famous vegetable and herb concoction that is as beautiful an array of color and form that I’ve ever seen.  I’m not sure it would taste as good as the vegetables on the farm I grew up on or the seasonal produce at the corner store in Barcelona.