“Let us not speak of those days
when coffee beans filled the morning
with hope, when our mothers’ headscarves
hung like white flags on washing lines.
Let us not speak of the long arms of sky
that used to cradle us at dusk.
And the baobabs — let us not trace
the shape of their leaves in our dreams,
or yearn for the noise of those nameless birds
that sang and died in the church’s eaves.
Let us not speak of men,
stolen from their beds at night.
Let us not say the word
Let us not remember the first smell of rain.
Instead, let us speak of our lives now —
the gates and bridges and stores.
And when we break bread
in cafés and at kitchen tables
with our new brothers,
let us not burden them with stories
of war or abandonment.
Let us not name our old friends
who are unravelling like fairy tales
in the forests of the dead.
Naming them will not bring them back.
Let us stay here, and wait for the future
to arrive, for grandchildren to speak
in forked tongues about the country
we once came from.
Tell us about it, they might ask.
And you might consider telling them
of the sky and the coffee beans,
the small white houses and dusty streets.
You might set your memory afloat
like a paper boat down a river.
You might pray that the paper
whispers your story to the water,
that the water sings it to the trees,
that the trees howl and howl
it to the leaves. If you keep still
and do not speak, you might hear
your whole life fill the world
until the wind is the only word.”—"The Immigrant’s Song," by Tishani Doshi (via commovente)
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker slapped the back of my head and made me stand in the corner for not knowing the difference between persimmon and precision. How to choose
persimmons. This is precision. Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted. Sniff the bottoms. THe sweet one will be fragrant. How to eat: put the knife away, lay down newspaper. Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat. Chew the skin, suck it, and swallow. Now, eat the meat of the fruit, so sweet, all of it, to the heart.
Donna undresses, her stomach is white. In the yard, dewy and shivering with crickets, we lie naked, face-up, face-down. I teach her Chinese. Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten. Naked: I’ve forgotten. Ni, wo: you and me. I part her legs, remember to tell her she is as beautiful as the moon.
Other words that got me into trouble were fight and fright, wren and yarn. Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
fright was what I felt when I was fighting. Wrens are small, plain birds, yarn is what one knits with. Wrens are soft as yarn. My mother made birds out of yarn. I loved to watch her tie the stuff; a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.
Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class and cut it up so everyone could taste a Chinese apple. Knowing it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat but watched the other faces.
My mother said every persimmon has a sun inside, something golden, glowing, warm as my face.
Once, in the cellar, I foudn two wrapped in newspaper, forgotten and not yet ripe. I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill, where each morning a cardinal sang, The sun, the sun.
Finally understanding he was going blind, my father sat up all one night waiting for a song, a ghost. I gave him the persimmons, swelled, heavy as sadness, and sweet as love.
This year, in the muddy lighting of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking for something I lost. My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs, black cane between his knees, hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home. I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question. All gone, he answers.
Under some blankets, I find a box. Inside the box I find three scrolls. I sit beside him and untie three paintings by my father: Hibiscus leaf and a white flower. Two cats preening. Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.
This is persimmons, Father.
Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk, the strength, the tense precision in the wrist. I painted them hundreds of times eyes closed. These I painted blind. Some things never leave a person: scent of the hair of one you love, the texture of persimmons, in your palm, the ripe weight.
‘You have to think of a different kind of menu,’ says Alice [Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and organic Slow Food guru]. ‘You eat dried fruit and nuts. You make pasta sauces out of canned tomatoes … you’re eating different kinds of grains—farro with root vegetables … Turnips of every color and shape! Carrots that are white and red and orange and pink! … Cabbages!’
Basically, you can eat like a fucking Russian peasant, is what she’s saying. I don’t know if that’s what they want to hear in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or Buffalo. And what about the healthy, pure, wholesome, and organic foods that Alice says I should be buying—particularly if I have children? If I’m making an even average wage as, say, a sole-providing police officer or middle manager? Regular milk is about four bucks a gallon. Organic is about twice that. Supermarket grapes are about four bucks a bunch. Organic are six. More to the point, what if I’m one of the vast numbers of working poor, getting by in the service sector? What should I do? How can I afford that?
Asked this question very directly, Alice advises blithely that one should ‘Make a sacrifice on the cell phone or a third pair of Nike shoes.’ It’s an unfortunate choice of words. And a telling one, I think. You know, those poor people—always with their Nikes and their cell phones. If only they’d listen to Alice. She’d lead them to the promised land for sure.
What else should we be doing? Alice says we should immediately spend 27 billion dollars to ensure every schoolchild in America gets a healthy, organic lunch. More recently she added to this number the suggestion that fresh flowers on every lunchroom table might also be a worthwhile idea. This is, after all, ‘more important than crime in the streets. This is not like homeland security—this is actually the ultimate homeland security. This is more important than anything else.’
Which is where Alice really loses me—because, well, for me, as a New Yorker, however quaint the concept, homeland security is still about keeping suicidal mass murderers from flying planes into our fucking buildings. And organic school lunches might be more important to you than crime in the streets in Berkeley—but in the underfunded school systems of West Baltimore, I suspect they feel differently. A healthy lunch is all fine and good—but no use at all to Little Timmy if he gets shot to death on the way to school. In fact, 27 billion for organic food for Timmy seems a back-assward priority right now—as, so far, we’ve failed miserably to even teach him to read. What kind of dreams can a well-fed boy have if he doesn’t even have the tools to articulate them? How can he build a world for himself if he doesn’t know how to ask for—much less how to get—the things he wants and needs? I, for one, would be very satisfied if Timmy gets a relatively balanced slab of fresh but nonorganic meatloaf with a side of competently frozen broccoli—along with reading skills and a chance at a future. Once literate, well read, and equipped with the tools to actually make his way in the world, he’ll be far better prepared to afford Chez Panisse.
As of this writing, not too far from Berkeley, just across the bridge, in San Francisco’s Mission District, they line up every Tuesday for the $1.99 special at Popeye’s Fried Chicken. They don’t stand in the street waiting for forty-five minutes to an hour because it’s particularly healthy chicken, or organic chicken, or conscientiously raised chicken. They do it because it’s three fucking pieces for a dollar ninety-nine. Unless we respect that reality, Alice? We’re lost.
Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and People Who Cook
Bourdain devotes an entire chapter of his book to decimating Alice Waters, who has been lauded in a 60 Minutes puff piece as “the Mother of Slow Food” (which is a bullshit claim). He admits that he was perhaps overdoing it when he called her “Pol Pot in a muumuu” in an interview — but only barely (he also called saccharine blonde Semi-Homemade host Sandra Lee “the hellspawn of Betty Crocker and Charles Manson” and called her Kwanzaa Cake “a war crime on television”, so Waters is far from alone). Bourdain selects his targets for a reason, and Waters is a highly suitable stand-in for the growing ranks of white, privileged, socially ignorant eco-food ideological stick-wavers whose contempt for communities of color and for the poor ooze out through their self-righteous evangelism.
In a typical move, Waters wrote an open letter to the newly elected president Obama warning that “the purity and wholesomeness of the Obama movement must be accompanied by a parallel effort in food”. She appointed herself onto an advisory committee to help the Obamas select “a person with integrity and devotion” as White House Chef, adding “I cannot forget the vision I have had since 1993 of a beautiful vegetable garden on the White House lawn” — apparently oblivious that they already had a chef of “integrity and devotion” and a vegetable garden. This, from someone who has boasted that she hasn’t voted since 1966. Nevertheless, the Obamas were cool and invited her to the White House to throw a series of dinners and help expand the garden. As an example of her sustainable, locavorian ways, she flew in big-name chefs from all over the country for a five-hundred-dollar-a-plate gala, as though there are no qualified chefs in Washington fucking DC. This is why I appreciate what Tony Bourdain does. His targets usually deserve it. He’s a linguistic assassin, and sometimes that’s just what’s needed. And yeah, it feels good too. Plus, say what you want but I dig Popeye’s.
Bourdain is the most thoughtful, conscious, mindful ‘celebrity’ chef I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m pretty sure he’s also a dick (all chefs are dicks, especially on the line), but he’s awesome.
The idea of ‘the one’
- is absurd
I wake up to different parts of you
and each part
as beautiful as the next that i find.
I find morning you
and i fall in love.
i sit with your voice in my ear
falling in laughter.
i find a different woman
i want to bring pink orchids to.
And my body betrays me
mellowing for you
changing weather for you.
your song - Tapiwa Mugabe, tapiwamugabe.tumblr.com