Apropos Appropriators

In my small town there are four Asian Restaurants. Two of them are the sort of Chinese place you’d find in any town anywhere -- glossy pictures of food on the wall, general tso’s, eggrolls, crab rangoon, four small tables on tile floor, overhead fluorescent lighting. The type of place you can walk out of for under $15 full, perhaps too full, riding a monosodium glutamate high. The other two establishments ain’t that. They’re posh, dimly lit, serve cocktails and ambiance and $20 plates of noodles. Their pantries are Asian -- fish sauce, miso, shaoxing and scallions -- but their patronage, their owners are white.

What should we make of this? Are they Culture Vultures? Gentrifiers? Appropriators?

What about the food? Should the ethnicity of the chef reflect on the food’s value? What if it’s genuinely delicious? What if the flavor is more pronounced, more ambitious, more unapologetically Asian than the Americanized-Asian food offered by owners who tone down their cuisine so white people will like it? Is it possible that in some cases, the more ‘authentic’ flavor could come from a white guy in chef’s whites, or is that colonialism all over again? Elvis stealing the blues, Brooklyn turned into a bike lane.

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Grand Theft Vino

When I saw the owner of the bar the day after the heist he was in an unusually manic mood. Drink in hand, a mad hatter grin on, he leaned against the bar. “That cocksucker’s going away for a long time. We’re gonna hit him with grand larceny.”

That “cocksucker” was, the night before, a patron at the owner’s fine dining restaurant. He had spent the evening eating oysters and escargot, drinking wine and $20 cocktails, celebrating his upcoming wedding with family, friends and his very pregnant fiance.

Now he was a wanted man. For the owner to want to lock up an expectant father, to guarantee a child spend their first years with pa in the pokey -- this monster must have committed unspeakable acts, ripped the place off for thousands, tens of thousands, he must of endangered the safety of staff, conned his way to the safe, assaulted someone, brandished a weapon…

Or he just helped himself, drunkenly, to a bottle of wine and walked out with it. Not exactly John Dillinger, this guy.

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Brad Wilson and The Food Movement's Ouroboros

I met Brad Wilson at the Just Food Conference in NYC in 2013. I think he was the angriest man in the city that day. Definitely the angriest corn farmer from Iowa.

The conference brings together food policy advocates, non-profits, farmers, foodies, chefs to workshop new ideas for addressing all the ills of the food system. Big picture stuff. Solve world hunger, poor nutrition, economic instability, bankrupt farms all in a weekend, all while having some really nice catered lunch. Kale and figs and goat cheese to fuel the food revolution.

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Kratom Conspiracy

Get your tinfoil hats on, there’s a conspiracy a-brewin. For within the halls of our fearless government institutions, a great war is being planned. A war to save us from ourselves, to shield us from that insidious enemy that for generations has plagued us from the inside, ravaged our minds, corrupted our morals -- public enemy number 1, psycho-active plants.

These sneaky plants use their alkaloids to elevate our moods, increase our physical and mental health, keep us high so that we keep them around. And they do it without making our pharmaceutical companies any money.

You still can’t patent a plant, and plants just want to grow and as long as those facts remain, this war will rage on. Please see the history of Cannabis. Please witness the current war on Kratom.

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I have always felt for a pig in heat. During those few days every month, their whole world turns upside down. Their gluttony shifts from food to sex, from filling their gut to filling holes further south, and nothing else interests them. They don’t eat. They don’t run from strange things. They stand and stare and hope that each passing creature — be it a tractor or a man or a dog — will have what it takes to scratch that itch. Their impulse for self preservation — maximize caloric intake, fear potential predators — is short circuited in favor of making babies. 

I can commiserate.

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Flame Weeding, Fire Weed

Certain things don’t mix. Eating weed, flame weeding -- don’t mix. Despite the fun syntax and potential for puns, it turns out to be quite a dangerous activity, one that could send your crops, your farm, your dreams, up in smoke.

Flame weeding is a particularly effective means of weed suppression used by organic growers because it uses elemental fire instead of petrochemical herbicides. Basically you take a propane grill tank, strap a flamethrower on there and fit it to a backpack. Then you take that mobile flame thrower and literally scorch the earth.

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Prison, Purgatory, Paradise?

Imagine you were born on an island. As you grow up, you find all of your needs provided for, all of your biological necessities met by some benevolent presence. You don’t have to work. You don’t have to find shelter or food. You’re surrounded by family and peers who, like you, have no concerns other than how to spend these waking moments. Should I lay in the sun? Or maybe have another meal? Socialize with friends? Sleep? Hump? Presumably time would become hard to track. With no real structure to your days and no struggles to strive against, time would stretch into one long sleepy now. 

Now, at some point in this now-ness, on this island of no concerns, a strange figure arrives one day. Unbeknownst to you, his presence signals the end of yours.

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