"Still, there's something to be said for food that doesn't follow Slow Food's mantra. I mean, it's easy to eat the way Carlo Petrini or Alice Water's does if you're Carlo Petrini or Alice Waters."
"No, I think it's possible. You just have to be smart about it and dedicated to good food," she smiled in a way that her pursed lips turned as fine as lines drawn from a pencil. She reminded me of a Stepford wife - all pearls, soft makeup, and cashmere.
"Oh lord almighty, I think this one already drank the locally produced punch." I thought with dread.
I nodded to her comment and feigned that I was taking her words in and kneading them in my head like bread dough in an attempt to make meaning. I turned to my plate and used my knife to nudge a slice of green zebra tomato onto my bread. Pinning the fruit and bread together with my hands I sloshed it around some aged cherry balsamic vingear and dashed on a little fleur de sel. The taste was excruciatingly complex in its use of simple flavors. As others bit into zingy pineapples, winey Castulato Genoveses, and somewhat mutely rich Japanese Truffles the din of the room grew louder as people gushed and praised each and every heirloom they tried.
I had never been the biggest fan of tomatoes so going to a Slow Food event that focused on them didn't hold the greatest appeal to me at first. Still, as I was writing an entire thesis on Slow Food rhetoric I drew the conclusion I would have to immerse myself in the culture. Plus, after reading hundreds of pages of information (no exaggeration) I figured a field trip of sorts was needed. Slow Food Sacramento had put together a lecture about the history of heirloom varieties to be catered by Del Rio Farms, one of the regions premier organic farms which grew an astounding variety of, well, everything; all of it in line with Slow Food's Good-Clean-Fair mantra.
These tomatoes had single handedly changed my mind about what tomatoes can and should be. One of the best parts about my research thus far.
Sadly, the lecture only lasted two minutes which left me feeling a little stymied and a bit peeved. Yet it seemed that the history snippet was enough for most as they were primarily here to eat and in the process donate money to whatever charity was being run that night (no one seemed to know).
I was able to do some observational research though. The room was, except for three people, white. All very well off judging from the fact that a designer label bomb had apparently been detonated in the room prior to the event. Given, I was no exception in either case, but I was in attendance as a poor student and planned to write the cost of the ticket off that way come tax season. (Slow Food Sac's committee had rejected my plea to attend for free so I could just listen to the speaker and then leave when people sat down to eat. I assume due to the fact that the "lecture" was secondary to eating.)
I swallowed my bite and admired the bright, grassy finish of the green zebra. I turned back to my table, "Well, no offense but I live as a grad student who works at a non-profit. I eat well but only because I buy what's in season at the farmer's market. Furthermore, I'm only buying for one so it's affordable for me. I rarely buy meat aside from frozen chicken cutlets for easy cooking. I'm also lucky that I have friends who hunt and farm," I nodded to Hank and Holly who were also in attendance and at the table. "For the most part, living the Slow life isn't feasible if you're poor, live in a low income urban area, and in both cases means you probably aren't white."
"Well, that's why we have to encourage our economies to work the right ways," replied Stepford. I noticed her high demeanor, and statuesque presence. I wondered if she had ever reflected on this discourse and what the right ways were in detail and how they were supposed to work? I had no idea and couldn't judge - though I am good at it - so I plowed on with a different argument.
"Still, that's niether here nor there. These tomatoes are fine eating. Can't believe I used to refuse them. I think it's just the Albertson's irradiated and sprayed tomatoes. I always found them way too sweet, almost like they tasted rotten," I snarked. We all laughed in agreement.
"Certain childhood foods, likes and dislikes, you just can't let them go sometimes," said Holly.
Stepford's husband chirpped in, "I still love McDonald's french fries. Love. Them. Ate them all the time as a kid."
"Ick!" I said, "Not me. McDonald's makes me ill, though I am a fan of Jack in the Box. You know what? I still love tuna casserole with potato chips crumbled on it. I still make it once or twice a year. It's not haute food but it's nostalgia and my childhood tastes. You can't be served that in a restaurant."
"I don't see how you could eat that," Stepford noted before popping a small organic cherry tomato in her mouth as well as one can pop a cherry tomato in the primest fashion possible. I wondered if Emily Post approved of popping.
"It reminds me of home and of simpler times when I lived in the dorm staying up late to watch zombie movies with friends." I pressed on, "I'm not saying it's environmentally responsible food or crazy healthy. Just that some food doesn't have to be justified. It can just be fun and invoke memories. Every once in a while I buy Captain Crunch for the kick of it or eat frozen corndogs because I don't want to make homemade pasta or I want to sort of kick back and chill out. It's not Slow Food, but it works for me. Tuna casserole has a place in society and people's lives."
And then she rolled her eyes at me.
Let me say it again: She rolled her eyes at me.
Her lips pursed harder, almost so hard that they might have merged together forever binding the flesh and shutting her up forever. They might as well have. She refused to speak to me the rest of the event. Eventually she denied her amiable nature to Hank and Holly as well once we moved on to the topic of "How to create the most offensive dish ever!" (Answer: Bunny ears wrapped in foie gras and slathered in twinkie cream, then deep fried and served with a a variety of dipping sauces one of them being zesty ranch.)
Whatever. This was her problem. She was too entrenched in Slow Food's surface aura, unable to see their real messages about economic, environmental and nutritional change. Stepford was oblivious to how the world worked outside her bubble, or at least didn't want to hear about it. I was the graduate student who didn't know to not eat tuna casserole with potato chips.
"Oh well," I thought, "she'll make for a good subject in the thesis."