Last week Kristin and I traveled back to my hometown near Buffalo, NY for Christmas. My brother, his wife Kristen and nine month old Charlie (my first nephew) also made the trip from Fort St. John, British Columbia.
Traveling back is usually a culture shock. I don’t use television, microwaves, automatic dishwashers or disposable plates, but those are just the basics of my family’s lifestyle. Christmas morning, Uncle Television screamed as we opened gifts and tried to talk to each other. It didn’t really faze anyone else, but Kristin and I realized that no one was even watching the stupid thing. That morning was the first of many where I asked that it be turned off.
We watched my brothers play video games for days. Guitar Hero and some other games for the Nintendo Wii shared time with random shows about how peanut butter is made and Shirley Temple movies.
I gave in and played some bowling on the Wii. It was pretty fun – all the fun of bowling and you can quit any time you want.
Discussion of taxes crept into every daily conversation. A new “obesity tax” on soda drinks proposed by the governor of New York has members of my family up in arms. My response – “don’t buy soda” – was met with weird looks. The best anyone living around there can do is complain, stay uninvolved in any decision making process, watch television, eat crappy food, and complain some more. It drives me insane to see so much apathy attached to so much moaning and groaning about the state of things. And no proposed solution makes any sense to them.
“Food is too expensive”. Have you tried growing more of your own? “Vehicle registrations are going up in price.” How about ditching one of your vehicles? “The gas taxes are crazy.” How about driving to town once a day instead of four? It is always the same whenever I visit; nothing is ever good enough or cheap enough or easy enough. My response can only be that we live in a world of our own making.
I had some complaining to do myself. Besides the television being on all the time and eating on Styrofoam, I had issues with the same old racism and homophobia that plagues my family. Not much to do with that except argue and inject some acidic comments into the mix.
As if all that were not enough, a ten acre field of carrots rotted in a field across from the house because the industrial sized farm (where I worked as a teenager, by the way) had met their quota at the cannery. As an aside, my father insisted that the owners of the farm didn’t receive much of anything from the federal subsidy system. A quick search of the federal database says that each of the four brothers received $52,000 in subsidies last year. So the farm received a total of $208,000 last year. That seems significant to me.
Tons of carrots will stay in the ground not because there isn’t a market or people aren’t hungry, but because an arbitrary threshold has been crossed at one processor. All the labor, fuel, time and thought that went in to tilling, planting, weeding are wasted. Not to mention all the energy that went into growing and shipping the seed…
We managed to rescue a few carrots from the field for our salads, but most were so large as to be impractical for anything but the processing facility.
For food, we made a pumpkin lasagna based on a recipe from a recent local lunch.
On the way from the airport we stopped at Lexington Co-op to get the needed supplies, looking out for local ingredients. Local milk, acorn squash and butter made it into the dish that we would end up eating for four meals.
The alternatives were not appealing: