Friday, December 10, 2010

Think before you eat...






Don't worry this isn't one those annoying holiday pieces about watching your waistline. This is about being much more mindful and grateful about where your food comes from, the sacrifice of animals and the overall quality of what we eat. I have a theory: America's obesity is due to the poor quality of our food, so we keep stuffing ourselves because we can't get full without nutrition. Oh we've got tons of food but it comes from factory farms that have stripped the earth of all nutrients, replacing the good earth with chemicals. I've just come back from food heaven, Italy, where the phrase "localvore" is not a trendy movement it's been a way of life they've followed for millenium, it has started here and we should embrace it with vigor! While in Italy I ate exceptionally healthy and it was so easy - from the simplest pizza to food as High Art from chef Mona Talbott and the kitchen gang at the American Academy. Since I've been back it's been depressing, returning to eating in the cafeteria at work has been especially brutal. So food is high in my mind these days, couple that with all the PETA posters I see when riding the subway with pictures of animals horribly mistreated it always makes me wonder why are we so cruel and uncaring to the animals, plants and earth that sustains us! How can we possibly justify such actions? We should be worshipping these things by taking very good care of them.

There is a person I admire greatly and heard him speak at the Academy where he is a fellow. He's on a mission I want to help spread the word about his great work....Edible Estates. Fritz Haeg (http://www.fritzhaeg.com/) has a great desire to get people connected with how their food comes to be, wants to move the garden to the front of the house to celebrate that which gives us life and the gardens are beautiful. Plus his philosophy is to leave the excess fruits and veggies you harvest and cannot possibly eat in a basket so others can take it. He also believes in the magic of worms and their great composting skills. He is someone we should be paying close attention to and if you have a yard you should have a garden!

This is the season when people will mindlessly stuff themselves with mass produced, poor quality food that is full of salt and preservatives then spend months regretting it or joining some weight reduction group. So in this season of massive consumerism (aka gluttony) of every kind take a moment to be mindful and deeply grateful for what sustains you. Hopefully in the new year you will think more about it and realize that we live in and are steward of this beautiful Garden of Eden and we are responsible for taking very good care of it and all it's beings. That is my holiday wish for us all...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Some final notes on Rome, Florence & Bologna…

The reality of leaving Rome and Italy hit like a hard punch in the nose when I was given my airplane "lunch". After a month of the finest food on this planet I had a piece of chicken that clearly came from the smallest chicken in the world and almost made me turn vegetarian. Spongy carrots and whatever they did to the rice should be punishable by making them eat it. The sucker punch came when the "snack" was delivered. It was a lunchable gone very wrong. Not entirely sure if that was cheese or butter or an unknown substance on the bread, it was tasteless and slimy in a kind of creepy way so I used a lot of mustard to take my mind off it. Brutal re-entry.

Rome - after being here for a month I got into the rhythm of the city just "being" there, people watching, got into the daily cappuccino at my local cafe routine. Rome is a big very busy, chaotic city, it is NYC on massive quantities of caffeine! For cheap sightseeing and because I love to people watch I rode the buses everywhere and watched the riders. Romans, Italians, work very hard and endlessly they have a most admirable work ethic which I always appreciate in anyone. My fellow bus riders look like everyone else who works hard for a living, never earns enough for their efforts, hate the political structures they are saddled with - they are tired.

As I mentioned above buses are the way to go anywhere in the towns, great for cheap sightseeing. Chances are you will only need to get a few tickets as most of the validating machines on the buses don't work and most of the riders don't bother using them. One wonders how they pay for anything as no one on the bus pays but you'd better have a ticket or a euro and make a good faith effort. One time I got frustrated the validating machine wouldn't work and there wasn't a machine to deposit a coin so I went to the driver and handed him a euro…he refused!

Florence is very walkable, very sweet and just my kind of town, however, it's a real toss up between Orvieto and Florence. I dream of moving to Italy for a while and would love to live in either town. Bologna, not so much. I'm glad I went there, I was on a pilgrimage to see the Giorgio Morandi museum and loved it. One of the best things are Bologna's covered streets and the cafe scene I wrote about in an earlier post but overall it didn't really move me. Wish I had planned it differently as there were some towns I would have rather seen but it just means they are on the list for the next visit!

Be advised: they give directions just like they do in Boston. So, keeping that in mind, ask several people many times which way. Around the corner or down the street doesn't mean one corner or close by. It could be 12 miles away or around lots of corners.

It's good to be back, see my friends and so forth but there is a quality of life in Europe that I adore and miss terribly. The food is amazing, local, fresh and not processed to death. Being an artist in Europe, even visiting, is fantastic. Their reaction to hearing you make art is the best, they want to know what you work on, what you are interested in, they never ask the tacky crap that you get in the U.S. which is always "how much do you sell it for", or "how many galleries do you have". You never hear that dreaded phrase "I know what I like"…always said by people who haven't a clue. Europeans instantly understand because they have been surrounded by art for millenniums and have a deep almost genetic love of culture it's hard not to want to be there all the time….sigh.