Saturday, February 6, 2010

Asparagus for brunch

Snow still falling on the crumpled blanket in the back yard, where snow clumps dropped in the night. Branches are gracefully piled with snow, so are even little twigs. I am afraid of a power outage. This is a heavily treed neighborhood, and in weather events, trees fall on the power lines. One year we were out eight days. It was summer, though. In winter, we could stay warm with our gas fireplace and layered clothing for a while, but Tom needs to sleep on his ventilator or goes downhill rapidly (CO2 builds up in his blood). So we have to find alternative housing if the power's out for very long. Of course, we have options. Bla bla, our life style.

How can you not feel a lift of beauty and awe when this kind of weather happens? It is a great change. It isn't like this half the year here in the Ohio Valley; in fact, this is going to be a record storm. Another huge weather event, courtesy of climate change. From the kitchen window, snug over coffee and two newspapers, I saw the woman all in black walking, the black dog prancing in front of her. A living haiku.

The front page of the NYTimes has an odd conjunction of articles below the fold. In the center, one about a servant maid in Pakistan, a child, who seems to have died of abuse. The article talked about how hungry the poor are there, how they will do anything for work, and then don't earn enough to live on. Right next to this was an article on portion size in American food, how for instance, a soup bowl that is destined to be one serving is labeled to be 1 2/3 servings, something like that. I am quite familiar with it because I do read labels and even measure portions, fruit of a long life narcissistically concerned about my "weight". I know 1/2 cup of ice cream is a serving, and I know how small that is.

How ironic is that? these subjects side by side, front page. People starving somewhere way far from here. Americans too fat, so much so that our government itself is trying to slow down our eating through legislation. Think about it. I would not have thought about it before I got captcha'd by Peter Singer's book. So far he is promising me that my fair share to end extreme poverty will be on a sliding scale, does not have to cost me my pleasures, like the asparagus I bought yesterday and plan to cook for brunch in a little while, with scrambled eggs.

It was only $2.99 a pound ($3, that is), and I bought only half a pound. None will go to waste. Asparagus is good for me. Asparagus in February, shipped in from I don't know where, maybe all the way from California, in a big truck fueled by oil formed in the carboniferous era, a truck that laid rubber particles on big highways that we as a people have paid to have put down and maintained. To see a whole world in this asparagus is not just a mystical trip. The asparagus must have been picked, cut, by hand, I think, it is so delicate. That would be migrant workers perhaps, illegal immigrants who sometimes die trying to get into the land of plenty.
Volunteers with their own guns like to patrol our borders, I understand, as if there wasn't more than enough food here. They think that rigidly controlling immigration is not about food. And what they think it's about is not really what it is about, in my opinion. I think about the timeless application of the parable of The Good Samaritan, who would not let a stranger die in a ditch.
This asparagus was not labeled "organic," or it would have cost twice as much, and I wouldn't have bought it. It can't be local, isn't in season, so it violates the rules some people set for themselves when it comes to their food purchases. They are rules that make a lot of sense, and like Peter Singer's ideas, they keep knocking on my skull, asking for my attention.

It used to be that in spring I watched and waited for asparagus to hit the markets. It was like Easter, a sign of the resurrection of plant life, one of the first edibles to come through the ground locally. I have never had an asparagus bed, but I understand it comes up so fast it is magical. You can still buy that kind of wonderful real asparagus at the local co-op, which just keeps going along somehow, decade after decade, kept alive by people who care. Real asparagus, from local organic farms. You can still buy that. As the poet Hopkins said, "For all this, Nature is never spent."

p.s. It didn't taste much like asparagus.

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