2017-The Five Tastes-with a Twist

I haven’t written a post in a while.  Here’s why.

I wrote my last post about my trip to New Orleans in September.  Since then, it seems like the world as we know it has turned completely upside down. People are angry and afraid, myself most definitely included.  And writing about food rituals, or trips or recipes seemed to be either:

  • ignoring the changes in the world and sticking fingers in my ears
  • just really trivial and trite

So, I didn’t write anything, because I couldn’t come up with anything that felt relevant or meaningful. This past year has hit me hard.  I campaigned for Hillary Clinton and was crushed by her loss.  Every day, EVERY DAY, feels like we are losing everything we have stood for as a country and as human beings. The lack of empathy from the White House, Congress and regular citizens is beyond shocking. I went to the Women’s’ March in January and did feel uplifted. But with immigrants being posed as a threat to American jobs (they aren’t) with Dreamers possibly losing the only home they have ever known, with the mass shootings by white guys (if I hear “thoughts and prayers” one more time with no action from Congress). White supremacists are being championed by Trump. The free press is under attack.  Lying is the new normal.

Basically, WTF, America?

So I have felt sad, depressed and afraid. Not conducive to writing a blog about food rituals. But it is the last week of 2017, and I didn’t want to let the year end without having a final word.  So I am basing my final post of 2017 on The Five Basic Tastes, with a twist.

Here goes.

Our taste buds are able to distinguish the five basic tastes as:

  1. sour
  2. salty
  3. bitter
  4. sweet
  5. umami

So let’s take a look at 2017 in terms the five tastes.

Sour

lemons

Sour flavors make your mouth pucker and the taste is highly acidic. Perfect description for how the American people feel about Congress. Soured. And this is on both sides of the aisle, from the most ardent Trump supporter to those who championed Bernie Sanders. Bipartisanship seems to have become a thing of the past, with only a winner and a loser.  Compromise doesn’t exist.  And that is not how our system is supposed to work, my friends.

But sour flavors make you sit up and take notice. They demand your attention. We are seeing people becoming more knowledgeable in how our government works.  A new interest in civics is taking hold.  The sourness witnessed by many has created action.  And that action is getting noticed, and is getting results.

Salty

salt

Salt is a double-edged sword. On the one side, it enhances flavors, bringing out the nuances in a dish. Salt is key to bringing other flavors alive. It is the great promoter of flavors.  We have seen the salty side of people like Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Doug Jones. They have stood up against oppression and disrespect from their colleagues in Congress and from the President.  They didn’t back down when ridiculed or maligned.  In fact, they got stronger, enhancing with their salty passion the need to stand up for those who cannot.  Doug Jones’ triumph over Roy Moore was proof that good will prevail. They are the salt of the earth.

But too much salt is destructive. “Sowing the ground with salt” means that nothing will grow. Salty water is undrinkable.  The soil of democracy and the lifeblood of freedom is suffering from  contamination. Balance must be restored in order to bring growth and progress.

Bitter

bitter chocolate

A bitter flavor is thought to have been a poison alarm, that a food was dangerous to consume.

Ya got that right.  I have been very bitter with what I have seen happening in this country. Downright bitter, sad and angry.  But bitterness became my motivator. I took my bitterness and decided to become a Councilperson in my town to help get out the vote.  I live in a VERY Republican part of Pennsylvania. The Democrats here have had very little impact, but not for the lack of trying. So I became a part of a GOTV team for a local resident who was running for Town Board.  For the first time in many years, the Democrats had a huge turnout. Unheard of in years before. And while our candidate didn’t win, County and State positions that had been held by Republicans for years are now held by Democrats.

Bitter flavors are in foods that are high in antioxidants.  Which means, coffee and  dark chocolate, while bitter, have healthy components.  The point being, a little bit of bitter can be healthy in body and mind.

Sweet

sugar

Sweetness is described as the most pleasurable of the flavors.  It is the provider of energy and gives us our get up and go.  But too much causes decay and disease.

Many felt that the Trump victory was a sweet one.  There is a demographic that has felt unheard and unrepresented, and this cureent administration became their sweet revenge. But they have become addicted to the candy they are being fed.  They will believe anything that this faction says, as long as they will get their treat. The problem with sweets is, they have no nutritional value.  Empty calories.  No substance, just a flash of energy that leaves you in withdrawal. When the country finally has its sugar crash, we will be in debt from the tax reform bill, and people will lose their health insurance due to the individual mandate being removed.

But there is a sweet side.  The country has become energized.  People who never before have ever been involved in politics are running for office and winning. Protests are happening and voices are being lifted.  Look at how the African-American vote won the election in Alabama. Finally, there is a direct result that can be seen by the African-American community getting out and voting.  People there worked so very hard, and proved that their voices can and do make a difference. How sweet is that?

Umami

melting pot

Umami is a Japanese description that translates to “delicious taste”.  It is the hardest flavor to narrow down, but is best tasted in cured or fermented foods like cheese, cured meats, soy sauce or pickles. Umami is a gathering of many subtle taste points that are hard to identify individually, but together create a complex flavor.

It’s a melting pot of tastes and senses. Umami is diverse and complex. It is multi layered. It is not one narrative but many.  Umami is to be celebrated, not ignored or denied. Umami enhances and uplifts the other flavors.  It is a common thread of flavor and taste.  It is a unifier.

So here is what I leave you all with as we head into 2018:

We need all of our tastes to make this country a place for all. Sour, salty, bitter, sweet, all a part of our great heritage.

And Umami.  My new slogan for 2018 is MAUA. 

Make America Umami Again.

Wishing you all a hopeful and optimistic 2018, full of flavor and taste.

 

 

 

Fueling The Cause-Protests & Food

dc protest

I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21, and it was an exhilarating experience.  There was an atmosphere of love, support, tolerance and a much justified dose of outrage.  My two friends and I drove down from the Philadelphia area. We waved to others on the road showing their signs from their cars and wearing their pink hats. The mood was uplifting; from the train ride in, though the march to the train ride back out.  I was so glad to be a part of this historic march.

This march has kickstarted many other marches on various days worldwide. With so much to protest about, I thought I would look into how food has played a part in the history of protests, and also touch on what to eat and drink when you are protesting.

The History of Protest and Food

Food and protests have gone hand in hand throughout history.  But why food?  Well, first of all, it was accessible.Tomatoes, eggs, easy to get and they make a great splat. NOTE: I don’t condone throwing ANYTHING.  No one should get injured in a protest.   While throwing food may be considered non-violent, I wouldn’t risk getting arrested for throwing an egg.

The first recorded protest with food was in 63 AD in present day Tunisia. Roman Emperor Vespasian was pelted with turnips by people who were angered by food shortages under his reign. That had to hurt…

turnip
ouch

Eggs historically were very popular at protests. In the Middle Ages people were put in stocks and pelted with eggs.  Abolitionist George Whittier was hit with eggs at an anti-slavery talk in 1834. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was hit with an egg in 2003 on a campaign trip for governor of California.   In 2011 Afghan protesters threw eggs at the Iranian consulate to protest a fuel blockade that caused fuel prices to soar. But the biggest egg protest took place in 2013, when French farmers broke 100,000 eggs a day to protest the low price of eggs set by the European Union.

french egg protest
Sometimes you gotta break some eggs…

On to tomatoes. While typically seen as a response to a poor theatrical performance, tomatoes have been used in protests.  In fact, one tomato protest has turned into an annual festival. La Tomatina occurs in  Bunol, in the Valencia region of Spain on a Wednesday every August. The legend is that the townspeople were upset with their town council and threw tomatoes at them. That one event  became the present day festival.  The festival begins with a ham being placed on a greased pole, and participants climb the pole to retrieve the ham.  Once the ham has been obtained, the tomato throwing begins. A cannon sounds, and the tons of tomatoes are thrown. Its chaotic, and messy.  The throwing continues for two hours, then the cannon fires and the throwing stops.

Not sure what happens after that.  Many, many showers, I guess..

la tomatina
La Tomatina Festival

The cream pie in the face has had its place in protest history. Ok, most of the time, you see this in the Three Stooges or I Love Lucy… but both Ralph Nader and Rupert Murdoch have been “pied”. Anita Bryant got a pie in the face in 1977 during a press conference when  she was trying to justify the fact that she hated gay people.  Again, I don’t condone this, as it could cause injury, and you may get arrested for assault (but Anita had that one coming..)

Lack of food has had a significant place in protest history. The hunger strike has been used  in many circumstances as a form of protest. The first hunger strike is purported to have happened in ancient India.  Indian scriptures tell the tale of when King Rama’s brother fasted to urge the King to return from exile. Gandhi  was on a hunger strike for six days to protest the British government’s decision to place a strict separation between India’s lowest and highest social castes. Gandhi’s actions caused this decision to be reversed.

gandhi
Gandhi

In the United States, suffragettes went on hunger strikes in jail. This method usually got them released prior to completion of their sentence.  But Alice Paul, famous woman activist and organizer of the Woman Suffrage Procession (and a Jersey girl from Mount Laurel!), was force-fed in a London prison. This damaged her gastrointestinal system permanently.  Alice Paul returned to the USA, attended the University of Pennsylvania and continued her work in the Suffrage movement.  Read more about Alice Paul here: http://nationalwomansparty.org/learn/who-is-alice-paul/

Alice Paul
Thank you, Alice!

I found this really terrific blog called “Food and Resistance“.  It is a collection of food related protest signs from various protests.  Go check out the images. They are powerful and also humorous.

My favorite? “Muslims Invented Coffee”.

Staying Fueled While Protesting

So you are getting out and standing up for what you believe in. Good for you! Here are a few tips for staying fueled during your protest experience.

  • Cut back on the coffee. I know, this is a tough one.  But  comfort stations can be few and far between, and lines can be long.  And peeing on the White House lawn is illegal…also a good idea to BYOTP.  (Toilet Paper)
  • Fuel up in the morning.  I recommend more protein than carbs.  Eggs will keep you fuller longer than a bowl of cereal. Perhaps a little fruit as well, to get some sugars for energy.
  • Bring snacks. Granola bars, more fruit.  You can also bring a wrap. Refried beans and rice with cheese in a tortilla are easy to carry, and have a great mix of carbs and protein. Make a few, and wrap them in plastic.  Yes, you will have to eat them cold, but you can deal this one time.
  • Bring water, but watch your intake. You will need to stay hydrated, but drink just what you need. Again, the peeing issue. Warmer weather will cause you to need more liquids. Look at bringing some green tea with honey. This provides good energy and will soothe your throat from all of your yelling and cheering. Throat lozenges are also a good idea.
  • Bring some chewing gum. This helps keep you from getting dry mouth, and you won’t drink as much water.

If you are one of the organizers of a march, try to engage restaurants and food stores who may be sympathetic to your cause to provide some eats and drinks along the march route.  They may choose to donate or sell. If they donate, make sure you provide a  money jar for  donations to cover their costs.

When you are done with your march, patronize the local restaurants. You are supporting the local economy, and you will assuredly meet others who were in the march as well.  Share a table with some strangers.

These are challenging times.  But I am so optimistic.  People are becoming engaged, getting involved and running for office.

So get up, get out, make some noise.  Fuel your cause.