- Chaney's Earlier Rampage
- College In Limbo
- UDJ's Redwoods
- Reverse Affirmative Action
- Bobby, the Mendocino Legend
- A Postal Miracle
- The Modern State
- Half-beast He Is
- Gastro Porn
- Craig Is Owed, Again
- Police Reports
THE MURDER OF DEPUTY DEL FIORENTINO by Ricardo Chaney seems to have been preceded by another Chaney rampage.
EUGENE, OREGON POLICE are describing Ricardo Antonio Chaney as “a person of interest” in a second murder, that of retired University of Oregon professor, George Bundy Wasson. The professor was apparently shot and his home set on fire late Tuesday night, just before Chaney began his crazed dash south in a carjacked BMW. Wasson had also been an assistant dean of students at the university and a tribal elder with the Coquille tribe in North Bend, Oregon. Chaney's lethal association with Wasson seems to suggest that Chaney was also a Native American.
THE SLAIN DEPUTY is described in the Press Democrat by his former football coach at Napa High School, Les Franco, as “the best lineman” he'd ever coached. “He was naturally born with some really great strength,” Franco said. “He had a great laugh and a great smile. He was always friendly with people. He wasn't your typical high school jock walking around campus. He was good to everybody.”
DEPUTY DEL FIORENTINO took a second in the heavyweight division of the state wrestling championship in 1982 and graduated from high school a year later. He earned a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Oklahoma, and was inducted into the Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
ALSO SPEAKING to the Press Democrat, an old and close friend, Thomas Sly, also a police officer with both the Fort Bragg Police and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, lamented the senselessness of Del Fiorentino's murder. “I think I'm like most Americans. We want the right to own a gun. We watch that stuff on TV and it doesn't have an effect on us. It's always somewhere else,” he said. “But you get a kid like Rick who just gets splattered. He probably had no chance at all. It makes you think about why is it necessary to have one of these things, particularly in a lunatic's hands, somebody that's desperate like this individual obviously was.”
CHANEY had a history of at least one arrest on methamphetamine charges. His Wednesday rampage certainly sounded as if it was meth-fueled.
MEDIA ACCOUNTS of shootings often refer to “modified” guns. Chaney apparently possessed a “modified” AR-15, a combat weapon. Modified how? Modified to become fully automatic? Off the shelf, this powerful firearm is not the kind of gun any rational person would feel the need to own, let alone “modify” to shoot more bullets, faster.
WHY THE EUGENE POLICE let Chaney go on his way after an earlier stop when he was found with ecstasy, the AR-15 and body armor, has not yet been explained. And we still don't know anything more about the couple Chaney highjacked and stuffed into the trunk of the getaway BMW apparently owned by the couple.
PENDING an autopsy, we won't know for sure if Chaney died of gunshots from Lt. Naulty of the Fort Bragg Police Department or shot himself to death. Naulty, speeding to the sound of gunshots, arrived at Del Fiorentino's vehicle to find Chaney trying to remove the dead officer's handgun from its holster. The two exchanged fire, Chaney crawled off into the underbrush where he was found dead.
ELEANOR COONEY WRITES: Lynn Turner told me today that on Monday, the night her partner, Joanna, was struck by a car and killed on Highway 1, Deputy Del Fiorentino came to her motel room to offer moral support and condolences. She said he was a “real sweetheart,” left his card, urged her to call him. Less than 48 hours later, he'd be killed himself in a shootout…”
THIS JUST IN...
Ricardo Chaney had been arrested on March 6th, it develops, by the Eugene police. He was in possession of drugs, the semiautomatic rifle and body armour but was released the same day. Charges were still pending when Chaney's murderous rampage began.
Chaney’s long hours of mayhem apparently began in Eugene's Fairmount neighborhood at the home of retired UO assistant dean of students George Wasson, who was found shot to death inside his longtime residence on Elk Avenue after firefighters responded to a neighbor’s 911 call at 12:36 a.m. The Eugene-Register Guard picks up the story from here:
"The neighbor, Svevo Brooks, told The Register-Guard that he awoke to the sound of a car rumbling down the dead-end street just moments before he heard 'an explosion' and saw the front of Wasson’s home engulfed in flames.
"Bills [Eugene police spokesperson] said Chaney and Wasson, 79, were acquainted, although she did not elaborate on their relationship. Chaney and his family had lived in a nearby home located near the east entrance of Hendricks Park.
The slaying of Wasson “was not random,” Bills said.
Chaney’s late father, Richard Chaney, apparently met Wasson at some point during his 20-year career as a cultural anthropology professor at the UO. The elder Chaney died in 1998.
In a 2001 dissertation titled “Growing Up Indian: An Emic Perspective,” Wasson — a doctoral student at the time — mentioned Richard Chaney in a dedication, writing that Chaney “readily shared esoteric cultural perspectives with me.”
The Chaney family formerly lived in a home near the east entrance of Hendricks Park, not far from Wasson’s house. Ricardo Chaney stayed at the family home until approximately two years ago, Bills said.
After he apparently killed Wasson and set fire to the two-story home, Chaney left the scene in a vehicle that belonged to a friend, Bills said.
About 40 minutes after Brooks reported the blaze at Wasson’s house, police learned of another 911 call — this one from the victims of a carjacking on Kinsrow Avenue near Autzen Stadium, Bills said.
The victims, two men in their 20s, reported that a masked man had approached them while armed with a gun, and forced them to get into the trunk of their 2006 BMW, Bills said.
One of the men was able to swiftly pull a safety latch, which allowed him and his companion to free themselves from the trunk before the car left the parking lot where the confrontation had occurred. The carjacking victims were uninjured, Bills said.
Eugene police subsequently notified law enforcement agencies throughout Oregon and neighboring states to be on the lookout for the stolen BMW."
STILL NO DEFINITE word on negotiations between the College of the Redwoods and Mendocino College for Mendo College to assume responsibility for fall classes at COR's former Fort Bragg campus.
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL vs The Ukiah Daily Journal's three redwoods has resulted in a compromise. The Journal has agreed to spare two of the trees, mercy-kill the ailing third. The newspaper has also agreed to nurse the two remaining trees back to full health. The trees are at least a hundred years old.
THE STORY behind this story is the obvious desire by vengeful persons in Ukiah City government to hassle the paper because those vengeful persons are unhappy with the Journal's often biting descriptions of their incompetent functioning.
THERE ARE TREES all over Ukiah that could be described as potentially menacing, but City Manager Jane Chambers and the ineffable council person, Mary Ann Landis, as always supported by the triply ineffable councilman, Little Benj Thomas, says the Journal's trees are somehow more menacing.
COMMENT OF THE DAY:
Who are the real victims? — Several recent commentaries contend that affirmative action is wrong because historical discrimination shouldn't be assumed to adversely affect its targets' lives or opportunities. You can confront the critics with a mile-long list of indignities and roadblocks that disproportionately or exclusively affect certain minority races' lack of educational resources, mistrust or harassment by law enforcement, harsher treatment by the courts, second-guessing of professional competence, and psychological inheritance of centuries of official second-class citizenship. Yet if you suggest that these might actually have a negative impact on someone's opportunity or drive, you're accused of belittling their abilities and creating a culture of victimhood. If minorities are determined enough, none of these obstacles should impede them. So why won't these conservatives demand that same resilience from the whites or Asians who, they insist, would be victims of reverse discrimination under affirmative action policies? When an applicant insists that race-conscious policies cost him the chance to get into college, why don't they just respond, “Oh, come on, that shouldn't stop you. Don't take on a victim mentality.”? — Reed Fromer, San Rafael
ROBERTA ‘BOBBY’ MARKELS (1926 — 2014)
Born in Chicago, on Nov. 11, 1926, Roberta (Bobby) Markels died in the wee hours of Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. In her prime, she was tall and robust; when she died, she was just a little over 5 feet and weighed less than 100 pounds. This physical diminishment was not merely old age. She'd lived for years and years with a rare chronic autoimmune disorder called scleroderma, which disastrously affects the body's connective tissues and vital organs. That she lived as long as she did, not usual for sufferers of the condition, is a testament to her determination and vitality, both of which she had in abundance.
“Not usual” describes Bobby herself and pretty much her entire life. Born into a well-to-do, conservative South Side family, she'd been a “wild” girl, and eventually, in her early twenties, when her mother and stepfather couldn't handle her anymore, got sent to live with friends of her parents. That was where she met University of Minnesota grad student Julian Markels, the son of that family and her soon-to-be husband. The two of them gravitated toward the left-wing Chicago intelligentsia, and in 1948, they worked on the presidential campaign of Progressive Party (read: Commie) candidate Henry Wallace, no doubt to her parents' chagrin. Bobby and Julian had two children, but eventually divorced because Bobby found life in academia confining, though she stayed close friends with her ex for the rest of her life. She was writing seriously by then, and moving in serious writerly circles, including a residency at Yaddo, the renowned upper New York State artists' retreat. She wrote her first novel in the late 1950s. It was so good that it attracted the attention of Saul Bellow, who tried to pull his considerable strings in the publishing world on her behalf. Alas, not even he could counteract the capricious “snake bit” bad luck and the notoriously wretched judgment of editors that can chronically dog a writer. The novel languished.
After more “wild” adventures, including an affair with Bellow (and others whose names you'd recognize), she got to California way ahead of the “Summer of Love” migration, arriving in San Francisco in 1964. She was way ahead of everyone else in other ways, too. Long before the word “diversity” was part of the popular coinage, she lived the concept and taught it to her kids. Her friends were gay, straight, black, white, brown, and all were welcome in her home, wherever it might be. And she made it to Mendocino before most of us even knew it existed, arriving in 1966, landing a job at the Byron Randall Gallery running a sort of “hotel” where rooms rented for $6 a night. Soon she bought her house, for $1000 cash down, and she and her kids and an ever-shifting assortment of boarders, guests, pals, suitors, vagabonds and waifs sheltered under its roof or came for baths. This was the beginning of Bobby, the Mendocino Legend. She'd live here for nearly the next 50 years, with occasional absences for work or education or to go to Florida to care for her mother, who lived to 102. She wrote more books, most notably “Mendocino Malady” and “Popper.” She acted in plays, she performed in her famous one-woman shows, and she was ever the adventuress, staying “in the game,” having love affairs until her health didn't permit it anymore. She started the still-vital Mendocino Coast Children's Fund, she edited other writers' work, read deeply and widely — fiction, history, psychology, physics, poetry — and had finished getting her first novel, “The Seduction of Nony Stein,” ready for publication at last when she died. She'd immersed herself in Buddhism, meditating regularly for years. She was annoyed at the prospect of approaching death, but not at all afraid, and was serene and fully conscious in her last hours.
She's survived by her son and daughter, Alex and Linda; granddaughter, Kris; and great-grand-daughters, Ingrid and Eva. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Mendocino Coast Children's Fund, Box 1616, Mendocino, CA 95460. Memorial date to be announced.
A MIRACLE HAS OCCURRED. Several Bay Area subscribers have written to say they received Wednesday's AVA today, which is Thursday. This is the first time in months, maybe even years, we've enjoyed the one-day service we bloody pay massively for. I suspect, though, it might be a trap, a kind of postal water torture. The paper gets here in a day this week, next week it arrives, if it arrives, seven days later. The week after ten days late. And so on. But we live in hope.
COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
“Two wars necessitated vast curtailments of liberty, and we have grown, though grumblingly, accustomed to our chains. The increasing complexity and precariousness of our economic life have forced Government to take over many spheres of activity once left to choice or chance. Our intellectuals have surrendered first to the slave-philosophy of Hegel, then to Marx, finally to the linguistic analysts. As a result, classical political theory, with its Stoical, Christian, and juristic key-conceptions (natural law, the value of the individual, the rights of man), has died. The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good — anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new name 'leaders' for those who were once 'rulers'. We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, 'Mind your own business.' Our whole lives are their business.
I write 'they' because it seems childish not to recognize that actual government is and always must be oligarchical. Our effective masters must be more than one and fewer than all. But the oligarchs begin to regard us in a new way.”
— C. S. Lewis
As much as I had thought of him to be a male,
That much he is not;
Half-neutered he is,
Half a male.
A life goes by,
And you may sit and lie with a man,
but how much can you come to know a real man?
He whom I so long thought I knew —
He whom I know is nothing like that,
In fact, he's the one I most don't know.
As much as I had thought him to be man,
That much he is not:
Half-beast he is,
Half a man.
by Alexander Cockburn (1977)
They came and told one of the more recent dukes of Devonshire that in the interests of economy and general modern-mindedness Chatsworth really ought to dispense with the pastry chef. “What?” cried the Duke, aghast. “Is a man no longer to be allowed his biscuit?” Somehow things never seem to get better in the world of eating. Indeed, if we are to believe Marvin Harris's version of prehistory in “Cannibals and Kings,” things have gone more or less downhill since the upper Paleolithic period when the hunter gatherers enjoyed high quality diets with plenty of free time too.
But those times are gone, alas — and are unlikely to return, since analysts of the connections between energy and food such as David Pimentel have reckoned that the land mass of the present United States can only support 750,000 hunter-gatherers before overcrowding would force its agricultural settlements and the whole ghastly trend toward Earl Butts, General Foods, and liquid protein diets.
Cookbooks with certain very rare exceptions such as Marinetti's futurist cookbook, almost by definition try to appropriate the past, at least those bits of it that seem palatable. And so usually they become versions of pastoral, with the urban masticator being whisked into a world where kitchen and garden coexist in harmonious union instead of being mediated by Safeway, the can, the freezer, and the poison list on the back of every package.
Here is a fairly representative swatch of pastoral from Richard Olney's “Simple French Food”:
“Comforting also are the fantastic, crowded out-of-door morning markets of which that in Toulon is exemplary, bearing ample witness to the fact that people still want fresh garden produce and seafood and to the certainty that on the whole the French willingly spend a great deal more on food than a similar budget in any other part of the world would permit. The banks of fruits and vegetables, freshly picked (depending on the season), baby violet artichokes, tender young broad beans, tiny green beans, peas, tomatoes, fennel, squash, and zucchini squash with its flower still clinging; creamy white cauliflower the size of one's fist, giant sweet peppers, and asparagus — white, violet, and green; figs, cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, and medlar; the endless tresses of garlic and wild mushrooms of all kinds (including the divine amanita of the Caesars); and crates full of live snails and crabs, both of which constantly escape and wonder in a wide circle around the vendor's stand. There are the odors of pissaladdiere; the mongers cants [sic], melodic and raucous; and the Renoiresque play of light through the plane trees' foliage, an all-over sense of gaiety and well-being.”
Provence is of course the heartland of cookbook pastoral, and we can set Olney down on the shelf next to Elizabeth David who began her great “French Provincial Cooking” book with a reverie in her London kitchen:
“…now and again the vision of golden tiles on around southern roof, or of some warm, stony, herb-scented hillside will rise out of my kitchen pots with the smell of a piece of orange peel scenting a beef stew. The picture flickers into focus again. Ford Maddox Ford's words come back, 'Sometimes between Vienne and Valence, below Lyons on the Rhone, the sun is shining, and south of Valence Provincia Romana, the Roman Province, lies beneath the sun. There there is no more any evil, for there the apple will not flourish in the brussels sprout will not grow at all.”
By the time “French Provincial Cooking” was published in 1960 Elizabeth David had been conducting her elegant propaganda for French regional peasant and bourgeois cuisine for a decade. And it was having considerable and generally beneficial effect — at least in England. By the early 1960s when I was there (and eating cheap Indian food most of the time), half the academic kitchens in North Oxford had earthenware pots in them, simmering queue de boeuf aux olives noires or a daube du bearn, or indeed the fearful cassoulet itself; this last produced with prodigious effort and damage to digestion and the thought processes generally.
(Students of Provence cookbook pastoral will know that cassoulet invariably stirs the writer to protracted analysis and counsel. The normally pithy Elizabeth David spends three pages on this dish; in the first volume of their “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” 1961 Julia Child et al take six pages or rather eight if you include their preliminary advice on how to roast pork in a casserole; and even this barrage of advice omits a recipe for something which only makes its appearance on two pages of their second volume (1970). I'm glad to see that some sense of brevity is restored in Paula Wolfert's excellent Braudelian “Mediterranean Cooking” (1977) which cuts the saga down to three pages, although she does shirk the confit business. By contrast Escoffierr's “Cook Book,” which had to cover more ground than just Provence, takes just three-quarters of a page.)
These cookbook pastorals have some pretty consistent formal rules. There is the customary invocation to Escoffierr's Faites simple and usually a doff of the toque to Brillat-Savarin, though I'm glad to see that Olney denounces him for the gormandizing old bore he was. And there's the insistence that only the best ingredients will produce the best results. This apparently self-evident piece of counsel is actually a crafty pastoral ruse since the cookbook reader is usually nowhere near Olney's Toulon market or some equivalent haven and thus is damned before he begins. You can of course try to interview a fish in a local store to see whether its eyes are clear, its gills red, and its scales in prime condition, but fishmongers have a limit to their patience and so you are left with the unspoken recommendation of the cookbooks — namely to get up at four in the morning and go to the local wholesale market where you will be trampled to death by the retailers and restaurateurs and despised by the wholesalers to boot.
In keeping with the pastoral genre, many cookbooks are in fact moral tracts about gastronomic good behavior in which the reader-consumer's best strategy is to fall into line without too much fuss. Sometimes, in a confusion of genres, amateur cookbook writers attempt a jocose tone, hoping to inveigle the reader into a shared ritual. Thus, in her “The Carter Family Favorites Cookbook,” Ceil Dyerr attempts some advice on the preparation of coleslaw: “Cut the cabbage in quarters, place in a large bowl of well salted cold water, and let stand for least one hour. This is to make sure any possible 'critters' emerge — nothing spoils good slaw like the many-footed friend. Once soaked, drain and place the cabbage on a large chopping board and chop away like mad.” This is all wrong, and the reader backs cautiously away from Dyer, somehow associating her with the critter instead of with the healthy strips of slaw.
Far superior to the Dyer approach is the pastoral-aristocratic strategy of Pamela Harlech, whose “Feast Without Fuss” invites the reader to consume, in a simple act of transubstantiation, aristos and their camp followers. Lady Harlech, as the book jacket takes good care to terrm her, announces in her acknowledgments that: “The following recipes are reproduced by kind permission of Conde Nast publications Ltd. — Miss Fleur Cowles' Jerusalem artichoke soup; Ms. John Hay Whitney's oyster stew; Madame Jacques de Beaumarchais's oeufs chimay; the Earrrl of Gowrie's oeufs en cocotte with duck jelly; Ms. Anthony Lund's taramasalata: Mrs. Rory McEwen's avocado and caviar mousse: Peter Coats's Mr. Briggs's avocado ramekin; Baroness Dacre's curried melon and shrimp; Mrs. Arthur Schlesinger's spinach quiche; Lady Elizabeth von Hofmannshtal's poached bass: Fiona Charlton-Dewar's kedgeree; the Honorable Mrs. James Ogilvy's deviled pheasant: Anthony West's good chicken recipe; Mrs. Jeanette de Rothchild's special stuffing; the Earl of Gowrie's cold steak au pooivre; Derek Harrt's stew; Mrs. Ralph F. Colin's baked Virginia ham; Mrs. Anthony Lewis's veal goulash; Anthony West's veal roast; Anthony West's kidneys in cream and Calvados…”
But I'll stop there, for the merging of person and product goes altogether too far with the thought of West's innards (or “variety meats” as they are called) being bathed in cream and applejack and served up to the would-be gourmet.
There are, as a matter of fact, some pretty disgusting things in the Harlech anthology. We need go no further than “Peter Coats's Mr. Briggs's avocado ramekin listed above. Lady Harlech confides that she was given the recipe by Coats, who presumably got it from Briggs. What this man Briggs apparently did — unless either Coats or Harlech got it wrong — was to put three ripe avocados in a blender along with three quarters of a can of Crosse and Blackwell clear consommé, some lemon juice and two tablespoons of cream. Half the resultant gunk is then put into the ramekins and allowed to set in the refrigerator. A little later chopped walnuts are added, then more gunk, then a little bit more Crosse and Blackwell, and then finally some bits of crisp bacon. The stuff, says Harlech, should then be kept in the refrigerator until it is finally unleashed on unsuspecting guests. Harlech, naturally, does not mention guests, unsuspecting or not, but I do not imagine the ramekins were destined for anyone with the least capacity for resistance, such as children or pets. Guests will eat almost anything.
However, even the Coats/Briggs/Harlech effort pales in comparison with a recipe from another volume in the pastoral aristocratic mode. This is “Irish Countryhouse Cooking,” edited by Rosie Tinne, who seems to run a restaurant in Dublin called Snaffles (which gives the whole game away), has put together one of those cookbooks where each page is a simulation of the letterhead of the relevant recipe provider, thus allowing the reader almost to imagine that “Lindy Dufferin and Ava” (facsimile signature) is sending her “Candeboye chicken” to him personally from Clandeboye House, Bangor, County Down.
On page 77 of this dreadful volume, beneath the letterhead “The Glebe, Leixlip, County Kildare” we find a recipe for “Cold curried fish.” An indecipherable signature which appears by process of elimination to be that of Lady Holmpatrick is attached to the following:
“1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked and cold. 1-2 pounds whitefish, cooked and cold. 1-2 pints white sauce, cold. One (or more) tin shrimps. One dessertspoon curry powder. Chopped chives. 1 teaspoon lemon juice. 1 teaspoon redcurrent jelly or apricot jam. Garnish: Parsley, paprika. Mix all ingredients gently together, sprinkle with parsley or paprika. Chill and serve.”
I wonder what the hunter-gatherers of the upper Paleolithic period would have made of this. Short of lowering one's naked foot slowly into the weeds at the bottom of the pond, it is hard to imagine a more depressing experience. Indeed Irish cooking, justly maligned, does badly in the current crop of cookbooks. “Paul Bocuse's French Cooking,” one of the fancier productions of the season, has a recipe for Ragouut de mouton a l'irlandaise which defiles the divine purity of Irish stew by urging a bouquet garni, lamb shoulder and lower ribs (instead of just best end of neck), and celery. And Bocuse omits the pearl barley which is the whole point and without which life — so far as Irish stew is concerned — lacks all meaning. There should only be the meat, potatoes, onions and garlic. Bocuse is not alone in his errors, and indeed was possibly influenced by Escoffier who gives virtually the same recipe. Prosper Montagné, in his “Larousse Gastronomique,” adds insult to injury by calling his version of Irish stew “Ragout d'agneau a blanc, (a l'anglaise).” There may be a problem here. On the old packet boat which used to ply between Fishguard (Wales) and Cork (Ireland), the dishes on the menu were rendered on either side of the card in both Irish and English. Except for Irish stew, which appeared only in English and which apparently defeated the best efforts of Gaelic scholars.
Be that as it may, for a long time after the war it seemed the English country house pastoral cookbooks had been vanquished by the pro-French school and that the daube had triumphed utterly over Lancashire hotpot. (If the Julia Child wave is anything to go by, something of the same sort seem to have occurred in the United States — France's revenge for the Marshall plan.) In England, particularly in the 60s, little inns sprang up, often run by retired naval officers, in which the zealous renditions of bourgeois French cuisine were offered and painstakingly evaluated in the Good Food Guide, an extremely talented and tolerant version of the Michelin.
But gradually, perhaps as the horrible memory of rationing and whale meat receded and with them the immediate appeal of Continental good eating, a reappropriation of the English, Scottish, even Cornish (though not Welsh) past seemed to take place, more or less at the same time as the devolutionary movements. In 1968 a slimmed down version of the great Eliza Acton's mid-19th century “Modern Cookery for Private Families” was issued, with a prideful introduction by Elizabeth David. Acton's delicate yet properly austere recipes were made available to a wider public by Penguin in 1974 and the reputation of the cheerless Beeton as the the Escoffier of England at last was under serious assault. By 1970 David herself had published the first volume of “English Cooking, Ancient and Modern” under the title “Spices, salt and aromatics in the English kitchen.” By the mid-1970s several exercises in national gastronomic excavation had appeared, including Elizabeth Ayrton's “The Cookery of England,” published by Penguin this year. “Let us cook and eat our traditional dishes,” Aryton's introduction concluded, “remembering that the food of France should be a treat not because it is better than our own but because it is different.” Hurray for the Cornish pasty rather than Olney's pissaladiere; down with bourrides and bouillabaisses and up with grilled herrings with mustard sauce.
There were signs of counterattack against Gallo-gastromonopoly in the United States too. John and Karen Hess's polemical “The Taste of America,” published earlier this year, paid unstinting tribute to French cuisine, but mercilessly belabored gastrosnobbery and also attempted to excavate an authentic American cookery from beneath the heavy footprints of Fannie Farmer, the nutritionists, the home economists, the food processing companies, and junk food.
The French were not idle amid such signs of mutiny from the periphery, and over the last few years a tremendous counterattack has rolled off the presses. First it was labeled la nouvelle cuisine francais and latterly cuisine minceur. The premises of these self-proclaimed advances in the art of cookery are simple enough: that modern times and modern arteries no longer permit the sauces of 19th-century French cooking, that cooking is a revelation of the inner and spiritual essence of each ingredient rather than a decorative assemblage of flavors. The watchwords are authenticity and purity.
Much of this has to do with the history of publicity and the demands of the French tourist and restaurant industry rather than with gastronomy. Sometimes, indeed, it seemed as though the whole movement had to do with a war between various French guidebooks — such as the Kleber or the Gault-Millau — each discovering a new tradition and a new pantheon of chefs, and each assailing the ancient monopoly of Michelin.
Certainly the wretched American reader was placed at an even greater disadvantage than usual; purity and freshness were stressed ever more unremittingly, and the distance to the French country market seemed altogether unbridgeable, despite encouraging noises from visiting French chefs who were reported to take sacks full of Idaho potatoes back across the Atlantic with them.
“Paul Bocuse's French Cooking” is a fair example of the new genre. The American introduction by Colette Rossant makes a customary stress: “Quality is the most important criterion in the choice of ingredients. As he explains in his introduction, in Lyons, Bocuse himself goes to the market every morning to choose his menu for the day. Whatever he finds fresh and in season is what will appear on his table for lunch or dinner.” The sense of the unattainable is rendered even more palpable with the news that “in the book, there are numerous recipes for small game birds that usually are not found in United States markets. Bocuse has asked that these recipes be retained in the book, because he hopes that readers will enjoy them, and when traveling in France, recognize the dishes on the menu and be tempted to order them.”
It turns out really that the book is not actually a guide to practical cooking but rather a costly exercise ($20) in gastroporn. Now it cannot escape attention that there are curious parallels between manuals on sexual techniques and manuals on the preparation of food; the same studious emphasis on leisurely technique, the apostrophes to the ultimate, heavenly delights. True gastroporn heightens the excitement and also the sense of the unattainable by proffering color photographs of various completed recipes. The gastroporn hound can, in the Bocuse book for example, moisten his lips over a color plate of fresh water crayfish au gratin a la Fernand Point. True, you cannot get black truffles in United States, three tablespoons of which, cut into julienne, are recommended by Bocuse. No matter. The delights offered in sexual pornography are equally unattainable. Roland Barthes made an equivalent point about ornamental cookery in “Mythologies,” when he was discussing the recipe photographs in Elle:
“This ornamental cookery is indeed supported by wholly mythical economics. This is an openly dreamlike cookery, as proved by the photographs in Elle, which never show the dishes except from a high angle as objects at once near and inaccessible, whose consumption can perfectly well be accomplished just by looking. It is, in the fullest meaning of the word, a cuisine of advertisement, totally magical.”
Alongside Bocuse, who offers full-blooded gastroporn along with the traditional pastoral, are the exponents of cuisine minceur. The premise of cuisine minceur is that you can have your cake and eat it with a clear conscience; that French inventiveness has brought relief to gastronomes eager for fine nosh but fearful of high blood pressure, cholesterol, not to mention cancer of the colon. Virtually banished are butter, cream, other fats, starches, sugar, flour. This Gallic answer to the McGovern Senate Committee's report on dietary goals for the United States (less fat, less sugar, less salt, more complex carbohydrates) is certainly a saner strategy than the traditional pattern, namely abandoned consumption of rich foods followed by brutal dieting on the morrow; two huge American industries shackled together. And again it is a form of tourist advertisement for Americans making their continental holiday plans: eat like a hog and stay healthy. Roy Andries de Groot's “Revolutionizing French Cooking,” published last year, is really a catalog of suitable French restaurants where the chef will not tip a pint of cream into the sauce while your back is turned.
The gastroporn that accompanies this style is far more restrained than the Rubenesque excess of the Bocuse genre. The photographs in “Michel Guerard's Cuisine Minceur” which crept into Christmas stockings last year just when people were bracing themselves for the Yuletide high fat blowout, stressed the helpful simplicities of nature. Bocuse's crayfish (about 40 all told) swim in cream, cognac, wine, truffles, and even two tablespoons of flour: if Guerard's photograph has just a very few crayfish resting chastely on leaves of trevise lettuce (“It is picked very young in the vegetable garden at Eugenie les Bains”). The plate rests on earth, next to a bunch of primroses. The other photographs are in a similar style and plainly owe much to Japanese traditions of food presentation and arrangement. The entire cuisine, indeed, owes a good deal to the Orient, to which the minceur gang pays fervent tribute. Cooking and eating here become exercises of the good, balanced life in an age of recession, energy shortages, and high food prices.
And indeed essays in an interesting volume edited by KC Chang and titled “Food in Chinese Culture” make the parallel quite clearly. The Sung period produced the world's first great cuisine. The Hangchow visited by Marco Polo bulged with restaurants, fast food joints, ritual feasts, and general gormandizing. But, as Michael Freeman makes clear in his essay, cuisine minceur morality was also abroad in the land. Freeman quotes Su Shih's essay in praise of Tung-po's soup:
“Tung-po's soup is a vegetable soup that he cooked when he was living in retirement. It did not contain fish or meat or the five flavorings, but it had a natural sweetness. His recipe was this: he took some cabbage, rape-turnip, wild daikon, and shepard's purse and scrubbed them thoroughly to get rid of the bitter sap. First he took a bit of oil to coat the pot, then he put in the vegetables with water along with a bit of rice and fresh ginger.” … For Su Shih (Freeman continues) and for many others of the intellectual elite, naturalness was itself a value, and their interest in mountain herbs and peasant dishes reflected a broader concern for health, society, and self-definition. The praise of simple food, held up in opposition to the elaborate cookery and costly ingredients of the city, was atttuned to common intellectual concerns.”
The cook, to return to the modern cuisine minceur school, thus appears as a moral guide, appropriating not only the natural pastoral values but world gastronomy in an effort to lead the consumer toward a balanced life. (Just how ludicrous this Catholic appropriation can get is demonstrated in Armand Aulicino's “The New French Cooking.” One of his specimen minceur menus suggests the following: “Appetizer: Guacamole salad. Main dish: Swedish pot roast. Ultimate main dish: steak with tomatoes and oregano. Accoutrements: Spinach and Pear Puree. Dessert: Bahamian banana soup.” Aulicino does not make one feel much better by starting many of his recipes “Applying cookware spray to a skillet…” I much prefer the older, though no doubt perrilous, “Throw a lump of butter the size of a hazelnut into the pan.”)
But at whom are all these adjurations and recipes leveled? You cannot read many of the cookbooks mentioned above without starting to feel that Bocuse's claim that his book is really a novel is not so wide of the mark. De Groot, for example, presents “An American adaptation of Chef Roger Vergé's Almost Melted Leg of Lamb Layered with Eggplant and Tomato a la Moussaka.” It is of immense length and complexity and indeed De Groot says sympathetically that “perhaps it should be a weekend project with some help from family or friends.” I'm not so sure about the family or friends. Food preparation in fact becomes a solipsistic ritual, almost infinitely protracted. The ritual accords with certain well-known trends in American life: to wit, gradual decomposition of the home, exit of the wife to work, dwindling number of tiny mouths agape to receive the junk contents of the local supermarket. Gradually the domestication of the postwar period is cleared of female/child oriented appurtenances of domestic management and becomes instead the temple of the modern gastronome, male and at peace with himself and his Cuisinart.
I do not mention the Cuisinart idly. Just as the wife leaves the gastronome's sanctuary this device makes its entry, and mechanical drudge instead of the human one at last making good her escape. In order to silence the onion, pastry dough, meat, suet, herbs can be submitted to its implacable blade. And it is indeed a fine, labor-saving tool, with only the paradox that modern ritualistic gastronomy demands a reverence for process, for the tender adaptation of natural materials to human requirements, whereas the Cuisinart is an abrupt instrument of domination, attacking and ravishing food, smashing it into small pieces or even pulp. The old pestle and mortar were servile adjuncts of the (usually female) hand and wrist, whereas the Cuisinart (itself set in motion by rapid jerks of the wrist rather than by pressing a button) is a mode of assault and subjugation.
Cooking thus becomes a lonely pastoral idyll amid the rising tides of liquid protein, McDonald's hamburgers, taco chains, and the active pursuit of the better beefsteak. The pastoral implies an entire scheme of life revolving around the gourmet store, the spice parlor, the trusted market, and even perhaps in the end the small family farm where critters can crawl out of cabbages unpolluted by insecticides. Man is restored to the kitchen, in a modern rendition of the good life of the old hunter-gatherers.
THE LATEST FROM CRAIG
Warm spiritual greetings, I do understand that the Caffrey for Congress 2014 campaign has gone crazy and has melted down to nonexistence. That said, I may wish to travel to Washington D.C. in the coming weeks, and am seeking cooperation for travel expenses. I understand that due to insanity within the campaign, or whatever actually happened, that Caffrey for Congress 2014 is not able to reimburse me $290, which I am owed. Nevertheless, what might I receive from you, such as for example, somebody using a credit card to charge me a Greyhound bus ticket from New Orleans to D.C. next month? You do understand that I am not able to just do nothing on earth, and that I will no doubt continue being socio-politically active, regardless of the implosion of Caffrey for Congress 2014...and btw, it is perfectly okay with me if the campaign staff who are currently living in the space (provided partially by myself and Dennis Fritzinger) get involved with responsibly giving me something back; even Jameson is welcome to try. I am thanking you in advance for your cooperation, Craig Louis Stehr Craig Louis Stehr Telephone number: (504) 302-9951 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Snail mail: c/o Jamie “Bork” Loughner 333 Socrates Street New Orleans, LA 70114.
POLICE CALLS AS OF FRIDAY MORNING
The following were compiled from reports prepared by the Ukiah Police Department.
ENGINE REVVING -- Caller in the 100 block of Leslie Street reported at 5:07 p.m. Monday that someone was revving an engine behind her. An officer responded and reported that someone was working on their car.
SKATEBOARDER HIT -- Caller at the corner of East Gobbi Street and South Orchard Avenue reported at 5:48 p.m. Monday that a skateboarder was hit by a Prius. An officer responded and reported that all parties had contacted each other and left the scene. At 8:19 p.m., a caller from Ukiah Valley Medical Center reported that a man in the emergency room was reporting that he had been hit by a car at the corner of E. Gobbi St. and S. Orchard Ave.
TRANSIENT NEAR DUMPSTER -- Caller at Lucky supermarket on East Perkins Street reported at 7:07 p.m. Monday that a transient was in the dumpster enclosure. An officer responded and the person left.
BIKE STOP -- An officer stopped a bicyclist in the 1200 block of Elm Street at 11:31 p.m. Monday and arrested Jessica M. Ewing, 30, of Ukiah, on suspicion of possessing meth and drug paraphernalia, as well as resisting arrest and violating her probation.
TRANSIENTS SLEEPING -- Caller in the 300 block of East Perkins Street reported at 8:09 a.m. Tuesday that two transients were sleeping there. An officer responded and the people left upon request.
The following were compiled from reports prepared by the Ukiah Police Department regarding calls handled by the Fort Bragg Police Department.
DUI ARREST -- Caller in the 900 block of Stewart Street reported at 7:09 a.m. Tuesday that a traffic collision had occurred and the driver appeared to have been drinking. An officer responded and arrested Ernesto M. Toscano, 22, of Fort Bragg, on suspicion of driving under the influence.