Spaghetti with bottarga, the must-order at La Ciccia.
This hasn’t been a week of notable dining, but it has been a week of good reading. So let’s just replace the best things I eaten with the best things I’ve read.
I used to be a voracious reader of all kinds of food writing. From Calvin Trillin and M.F.K. Fisher to Laurie Colwin and Margaret Visser—I ate them up. Of course, I aspired to be all of them myself (especially the fiesty Betty Fussell who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet in person more than once). That was my twenties. Maybe I overate, but as I got older and food writing became my career, at the end of the day I found myself wanting to read about anything but dinner.
I'm back on the horse. Two of my all-time favorite writers re-entered my life this week. A couple of days ago in the New York Times, Michael Pollan wrote the most compelling argument for Prop 37—the proposition that will require genetically modified foods to carry a label stating as much. Called “Vote for the Dinner Party,” I suggest you read it and pass it along to anyone who might be on the fence. In his straight-forward but eloquent way, Pollan makes so many good points. One of them is the simple fact that 60 countries around the world require GMO labeling; another is that our food movement thus far has been focused on soft politics (see: Michelle Obama's garden) rather than hard policy—the game-changing kind. And another one of them is this:
The fight over labeling G.M. food is not foremost about food safety or environmental harm, legitimate though these questions are. The fight is about the power of Big Food. Monsanto has become the symbol of everything people dislike about industrial agriculture: corporate control of the regulatory process; lack of transparency (for consumers) and lack of choice (for farmers); an intensifying rain of pesticides on ever-expanding monocultures; and the monopolization of seeds, which is to say, of the genetic resources on which all of humanity depends.
It's notable that Monsanto Company is reported to have contributed 7.1 million dollars of the 34.5 million dollars that has been put forward to fight Prop 37. A poll released today says that funded television ads and more have started to sway people. (Meanwhile, supporters of the bill have raised a paltry $4.1 million.) Prop 37 needs your support, in other words.
Last night, in a less political moment, I picked back up Judith Moore’s 1998 memoir of short stories called Never Eat Your Heart Out. Moore was another of my favorite food writers—poetic, darkly funny, frank. She lived in Berkeley and used to write for San Francisco when I worked here as an assistant editor in 1996. I started reading Never Eat again last night, relishing her fantastic writing, thinking I should get in touch with her again to tell her how wonderful the book is on another read—how I was now jonsing to make a chicken pot pie just from her description of it. But upon looking her up, I found out that Moore passed away from cancer six years ago. I hope she knew what an inspiration she was to this food writer way back when.