I’m lucky for many reasons- I’m lucky to be surrounded by beautiful friends, I’m lucky to have such vibrant soil, (I run a wildly successful worm brothel and nightclub) I’m lucky to have the best partner imaginable, the best sisterwife, the best kid, the sweetest Bucket dog. I’m so blessed. And the foundation of all these blessings and mother hen of the collective Binky experience is my mom. No one could ask for a more supportive, thoughtful, lioness of a mother. And true to form, she wrote this blog in the middle of her busy schedule while she prepared to travel for a conference because she knows how busy I am in the week of our Earth day festival. Earth Day is really just a more expanded Mother’s Day, and since my mom is the collective mother of *all* the Binkies, read her words and let some real mama love wash over you.
Rhapsody in Yogurt
My girls will tell you that I am terrible with names, because it is true. Rather than prolong the awkward pause caused when my mouth has to wait for my brain to catch up, I have taken to calling all of the beloved women in my life a generic “Binky.” As the mamma of half the Eat Mendocino team (and honorary other-mamma of the other half), I sometimes have the great good fortune to sample to locavore genius of the Binkies. Last week, one of the Binkies gifted me with a pint of freshly-made yogurt – perhaps from the same batch referenced in her blog entry on the subject. Chuckling and muttering greedily, I hid the prized jar under my coat and scurried home, feeling like Fagan anticipating a particularly rich haul from the day’s pick-pocketing.
My husband and I ate the yogurt for Sunday breakfast with fresh, organic strawberries. I opened the canning jar and surveyed the coveted treat that floated in a thin veil of whey with tiny, buttery flecks of clotted cream on top. It was the color of my grandmother’s flocked cotton bedspread – antique white. As we dug in, bliss crossed our faces, and it was clear that this yogurt was superior to any manufactured product we had ever eaten – it was another food entirely. To eat this yogurt required a pause, a reflection, a meditation. I would go so far as to say that reverence was required.
Creamy and tart, at once delicate and corpulent, it married the berries and clung to them without feigning a blush. There was a faint under-current of “cow-ness” to it, but not in a bad way – more as a tribute to the warm cow that had recently given it up for the cause. It lent richness to the dish that I have never tasted in its poor, pasteurized cousins.
The pint disappeared in one sitting, leaving us fully satisfied and at peace. It occurred to me that several cartons apiece of Yoplait would not have done the job of this gem in an old-school canning jar, made with love in a little oven by the sea.
Now, those who know me well will not be surprised that my rhapsody on a gift of homemade yogurt contains a political coda. The longer I live the more intrinsic politics become in everything I observe. Politics reflect our culture even as they drive it. Our personal decisions become group mores that inform capitalism, which in turn builds machines designed to turn out dollars – machines that create unintended byproducts that carry consequences for all of us. As the first-world agribusiness machine chews through the mono-cropped, genetically modified feed that will be given to our dairy cows along with plenty of antibiotics and rBHT, the sun looks on in horror. Never before in the history of mankind have we laid waste the Earth so ferociously in order to feed all of us to bursting – and leave us malnourished. We eat, and eat, and eat – and never before have we collectively been so tired, so fat, so diabetic, so neurotic.
Of course, we are only doing what we have been trained to do – we are part of the machine we have helped to create. Just as seeds are tortured to make them pest-resistant and unable to reproduce themselves, so have our minds and bodies been tortured in the effort to make more and more dollars for the machine. Our own basic human needs have been used against us. Perhaps the only lesson I took away from my college marketing course was this astonishing factoid: the largest purchasers of psychological data and research are marketers. That particularly insidious and heartless machine is designed to know more about us and our desires than we know about ourselves.
Processed foods are carefully engineered to light up the addiction centers in our brains. The perfect balance of salt, fat, and sweet is carefully formulated to tickle the nodes that are hardwired to never be satisfied. “Mouth feel” is a new area of extensive research and currently is considered an essential consideration for any new food product. Don’t even get me started on packaging – the brain-blasting graphics and colors are designed to create the same primal response within us as observed in chickens trained to peck at a bright target for a pellet.
We have built a machine to please us without caring for us and fill us without nourishing us. Worse yet, the chronic low-grade malnutrition has left us tired, fat, achy, isolated, and sad. We have invented something other than food – something not-food, and we have over-tipped the scale until it is all that many of us can access. The revitalization and even worse, the community, have gone out of food. We sit alone in our cars at the drive-through, chewing and staring.
And that, friends, is why Eat Mendocino is going to save the world, and my precious Binkies are doing it. Eat Mendocino is not the rod thrown into the gears of the machine; it is a dusty little chamomile plant blooming modestly beside the road, waiting to be noticed. For those who do notice, it will help to restore our connection to the earth, to each other, and to our own spirits. It is the only thing that can, and the Binkies are showing the way. They would never say that about themselves, but then, that’s what mammas are for.
Am I implying that we all should drop out? Shall we dismantle this machine at the expense of those who will be crushed by what tension is left in the springs? Maybe those of us who are capable of doing so should consider it seriously, but the machine must be allowed to wind down slowly for those who are not and never will be so privileged. If that is so, then the best we can do is to heed the friendly invitation of these young women: to do what we can, where we are, with what we have. We can begin to identify those small things we can do in our sphere of control – a tomato plant, a duck in our garden rows. The yogurt recipe seems entirely approachable to me. Maybe I will try that soon. If nothing else, we can cast a kind eye upon the chamomile plant by the roadside. Her tiny roots are creating cracks in the asphalt.
Happy Earth Day, my friends, with all my heart.