I have never been to India, but I’ve seen just about every non-Bollywood Indian movie I see advertised, have read a couple India themed books, and of course, love Indian food.  I don’t know exactly what it is that makes me happy thinking and dreaming of India.  The people seem so happy or at least cool, especially those living in slums (from the movies I see that is).  It just seems like another fairy tale planet in a way that offers what I imagine must be one of the most indepth and fascinating cultures in the world.

Maybe I’ll never go there, but in a way, I’ve already been there through watching their films and eating their food.  I guess what I think I like most about India is that I truly believe they take joy in their culture and in living life in a simple way.  I may not do that as fully as them but I like to think the people of India are a kindred spirit of mine.

If I ever do visit India, I hope it’s a prolonged amount of time so I get to know people there, do volunteer work maybe, and see the beautiful nature, culture, and arts that I imagine surrounds the country.

I think it’s ridiculous how some kids are taught how to bake growing up (maybe this has to do more with science then food), and then when they’re on their own, what do they do?  They eat out.  Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but really it seems that those kids who are brought up in a culture of cooking meals and vegetables, meats, grains, etc… are more well suited to actually cooking as an adult and passing that tradition on to their children.  Hence, why we have family owned restaurants.

Women used to be responsible for cooking meals for families, but as most of us know, women are now working more than ever, or busier than ever, so who has the time to cook right?  Maybe with the social norms gradually changing and men being stay at home parents, they should be cooking the meals.  And since the consensus is that men are better cooks (although I think that’s an outright lie in a lot of cases) maybe they could pass cooking traditions onto their children.  But I’m just daydreaming, yet again, so this really doesn’t seem like reality.

We are a baking country, and a lot of America’s great historical dishes are baking related, like New York cheesecake, Boston cream pie, Washington cake, carrot cake, red velvet cake, and Kentuckty bourbon cake.  Who really wants to say our national cooking recipes revolves around fast food when in reality we have so many splendid baked dishes?

I also think if you are on the poor side, you are forced to cook your way out of poverty.  Just look at China, India, and South American countries.  These countries are, or were in living memory, developing countries, and tend to focus more on family than American or European people.  I mean I cook because I’m poor and can’t afford to eat out that much.  And I’m part of a cooking family kind of.  I also cook because it’s therapeutic and makes me feel rustic and homey.

I’m always envious when I see movies of Indian or Chinese families cooking big meals from cultural recipes.  I wish America had some fantastic cultural heritage of cooking say, pioneer meals, because our basic nationality is farming based, but it seems to be not what ancient cultures possess.  Maybe with CSA’s making their way into our American conscienceness, we will one day be able to say we are a farming country to our core once again.

I often think about the arts in America, and why they are so strong.  When you compare them to other art centric countries like Italy, France, Europe in general, Japan, India, they just seem so drastically different.  I don’t think of America as having a strong food culture, but a lot of different cultures that have different cuisines.  Does this mean that our art culture is like our food culture?  Lots of different kinds of art sometimes mixing together to make an incredibly strong art culture? I like to think so…

Now, speaking of cooking, American citizens are not known to cook, but instead go to restaurants or pick up convenient food.  Whenever I think of European cooking, I think of a simple meal, like pasta with a quick sauce, or something in which one part of the dish is done with a lot of care and the rest is easy.  American cooking seems like a baking community.  When we cook, we bake.  Now I’ve visited my local Barnes and Noble bookstore and when I look at the cookbooks, they all seem to be in the so called European mode of simple yet elegant.  Since we are now the wealthiest country in the world (or at least we recently were) we seem to be rediscovering the land to some degree and experimenting with different ingredients.  Maybe this is why whenever I watch the newest food doc I am just so impressed and fascinated with what people are doing out there in nature!!

But back to the arts.  When I think of artists I love, like painters, I do not think of modern American painters.  I think of 20th century painters, but I wouldn’t call them modern.  Whenever I’m at an art museum and I go to the modern art section with high hopes that I’ll be inspired, it’s usually a letdown because I never understand modern art.  It just seems like a psychological experiment gone awry.  I’d much rather look at crafts people at art shows and friends of mine have done because they actually seem like work.  Modern art just seems so crazy.  It makes me nervous for the future of art…

 

Every time I see the media or politicians spin climate change, it makes me grimace because I really wonder how many people work to stop climate change and change their day to day habits and how many just want to get in with the protest hype.  Now, there’s probably lots of different ways to show your love of the Earth, but in this modern age we live in, I can’t help wondering how many hypocrites there are out there?!?  That being said, I don’t think anybody purposely goes out to trash the Earth, but it’s just our society that says it’s ok to trash and not have Earth as priority number one.

I’m not saying that I’m the most green person around, but every time I’m asked if I still live at home, I want to say, “Yes and I’m saving heating costs, and doing lots of green living too!”  It just makes me crazy when mothers or families or whatever are proponents of being progressive, and then don’t seem to know what they’re supporting!  I try to walk around my town to do errands, I used to bike all over the place, and I take the train whenever I can.  It just scares me how people are blaming Trump (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but…) and don’t ever turn the tables on themselves and change themselves.  I mean, it starts with you and me.  If you act with more than just words and coolness, you should change yourself and influence your friends and family with your rhetoric into change.

Another thing, I know we live in this increasingly modern world, but isn’t what makes our world so modern kind of good for the environment in some way?  We need to use less paper so we have computers and cell phones.  I know there’s kind of this “slow” movement to do things like olden times, so hopefully that’ll catch on, especially now that the coronavirus is changing both the Earth and maybe even the people on it for the best…

I sometimes wonder if being outdoorsy is a way for people to say they support climate change.  Just think, the top outdoorsy countries include the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Switzerland, so when these countries are listed as environmentally friendly too, I have to applaud that too.  I think I’m kind of outdoorsy with walking as much as I can and living a green kind of life.

I think of myself and as pretty pro environment.  I do try to eat as much vegetarian food as I can (even though I do buy packaged veggie food sometimes), and I compost, recycle, reuse, cook, bike, don’t travel extensively, and reduce my consumption of materials as much as my mental health can stand.

Another thing, why does climate change evoke such negativity?!?  My Mom and I tried to watch a documentary called “The Plastic Problem” about plastic endangering the oceans and it was so depressing (like a lot of problems these days).  Aren’t more and more people changing their homes into plastic free?  There should be more documentaries about the positives of climate change, so to speak.  There are lots of events going on and things to do with positivity in the climate change world and it may be hard to focus on the positive sometimes, but it’s so worth it!!!

I try not to be snobby, but I think people think of me that way just because I am semi-involved in the arts, like to eat healthy, read, write, and try to be eco-friendly.  It seems to me that the ultimate snob thing to do these days is eat really healthy foods.  I googled “snobby foods,” and found a whole bunch of articles about people who eat at high end restaurants and only order the best of the best.

But if healthy foods are so in vogue these days, then it seems to me that that should lift up the whole food economy.  It seems that just this century, getting healthy and educating oneself and others about food is a main priority.  I mean if you look at food pantries, some of them seem pretty well off and can give great stuff to people who need it.  Even if we do have poverty and homelessness in some areas of the country, we are not a war torn country yet and definitely not a third world country, in spite of our many problems.

So does that mean that so called American food like burgers and fries, pizza, corn on the cob, potato salad, deviled eggs and food that Americans likes to call its own like barbecue gets labeled as food that causes obesity?  If the country is so caught up in how we need to introduce vegetables to kids in the school cafeteria and how to make people change their diets, does that mean that we ignore the foods that make us American?  Can you use the food culture to demonstrate how divided this country is right now in terms of politics?

I used to love to watch Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri and one of the things he does that made that show so magical was go to family owned restaurants that specialized in comfort food.  Of course, he didn’t go to the same kind of place over and over, but tried to include all sorts of cuisine that went above and beyond the call of duty.

So the next time I feel like a snob because of what I eat or see someone who eats really healthy, I’ll hopefully think about those who are eating truly American food and doing what they can to bring that piece of culture to the world.  Food shouldn’t be about eating something so rare and exotic to the table that you forget what your original culture is made of.

ItI love films, like really love films.  I know American films make all the money, but international films are more critically acclaimed as far as I know.  Now, American movies make more money in theaters in other countries with our big budget films than they do in the states more and more.  But the days are long gone when foreign/international films made big money in America (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Amelie).  But in the days of streaming movies, one can only hope that these stellar foreign films find an audience elsewhere.

I took an International Film class once some 15+ years ago that I think about every once in awhile.  I wrote my big paper on Russian films and spent many a long hour watching boring Russian films.  Now, some interesting Russian based films have come out in the last couple years like the ballet movie about Russian ballerina Rudolf Nureyev, The White Crow,  Bridge of Spies, about a real true to life spy tale, and Death of Stalin.

I’m always interested in the Oscar, ie awards season and it’s so fascinating to see what countries are represented, not just in the foreign/international film category, but other categories.  Even if viewership is down from say 20 to 30 years, I think the Oscars is definitely more international than it used to be.

Now, I try to watch as many “international” films as I can.  BBC films makes a fair amount of movies set in other countries, such as the French based “Collette” and Russian based “Anna Karenina.”  But they all have English accents in them, despite the country of origin.  Thinking of American “international” films, (like Blood Diamond and Argo) they are more modern I reason, but they do try to have the correct language spoken (with subtitles) and that counts for a lot in my book.

I also saw a fascinating documentary called “The King” (2018) about Elvis Presley and his affect on America until today.  They mention that farming used to be the main export of America but now entertainment is.  Maybe this explains why international films aren’t put on the same pedestal that American films are.

Now, I study box office receipts of films every week and one aspect of this that always fascinates me is the international reception of American films.  And films that you wouldn’t really expect to have good international box office receipts have some serious credibility in other countries.  Small films like “Sunshine Cleaning” and last year’s “Pain and Glory” do incredibly well despite their low budgets.

Of course, we have Latin America and South America so close by that you would think we’d have more Spanish films come out, but I wonder do Latinos in America want to watch that kind of movie?  The films that I know of to come out of Spanish countries are relatively small (like “Motorcycle Diaries, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Roma,” etc…)  I see in the box office lists that Indian films are sometimes in the top ten these last few years, so I wonder if those are Bollywood influenced at all?

I have pretty mixed feelings about the holidays.  I’ve gotten pretty good at giving presents (usually baked goods) and other items to a select people, but I’m single and I HATE the feeling that you HAVE to be happy this time of year.  It’s like if you’re not happy, goodbye.  Maybe that’s not true, but I just read a fascinating book that came out 10 years ago called The Geography of Bliss about a NPR writer who goes to 10 different countries to find out if they are as happy (or unhappy in one- Moldova) as he thinks.

I actually found the chapter on Moldova the funniest, and believe it or not, it made me happy reading about people who just muddle through life to the best of their abilities, even if their country doesn’t have their best interests at heart.  I also enjoyed the chapter on Iceland, because it seemed like that small country was a storybook land that valued people and I can see why tourism has taken off their in the last 10 years or so.  It just seemed like the opposite of Moldova, where Iceland did have its residents’ best interests at heart.

Anyway, when I think about being happy in America, it just seems like a fake happy sometimes, especially if you consider retail and shopping.  That’s probably not reality, but it seems like if you can be happy during the holidays, you can make it through the rest of the year.

But also in the Geography of Bliss book, the writer talks about four Asian countries: Qatar, Bhutan, Thailand, and India.  Now I kind of want to go to India someday, but comparing India to the other countries, Bhutan seemed the most ideal in terms of happiness quota.  Its been ranked the happiest country consistently because they don’t value money and material possessions it seems (they didn’t have a national currency until the 1970s).  Also, comparing the Asian countries to the Western countries he profiles like Switzerland, Netherlands, Great Britain, Iceland, and USA, the Asian countries like Qatar and Thailand seemed more fake happy (at least to me) than the Western ones.  Maybe we Westerners are more genuinely happy than we think.

But he also notes that happiness isn’t everything.  Just because you’re happy, doesn’t mean you’re content (he gives an example of a very happy man released from prison, who was so euphoric, he essentially dies of happiness- ugh).  Now I tend to suffer from depression sometimes, but I think by keeping busy, ie volunteering, reading, cooking, being around friends, does wonders and I think I am more unhappy than depressed when I am sad (which is why the unhappy Moldovans were so funny!)  So whatever mood you’re in this holiday season, try to be good to yourself, and if you feel up to it, read “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner, because it just will help you get over those holiday blues!!

I’ve been thinking about being crafty more, because I’ve been crafty my whole life.  So I recently joined a meetup craft group a couple towns over.  Most of the ones I looked at were knitting, wouldn’t you know, but this one was open to any craft.  So I’ve been two times and people do a variety of crafts like scrapbooking, beadwork, some sort of sequin cross stitch, and me, regular cross stitch.  Now I try not to buy a lot of the stuff at the big craft stores because it just seems like a waste, but I’ve done crafts that don’t really use plastic, and are somewhat environmentally friendly.  In the past 20 years I’ve made Ukranian eggs, a variety of cross stitch, decoupage (glueing shells, or pieces of paper on boxes), making earrings from porcupine quills I collected, basket weaving, and a variety of little things like fixing crafts or projects.

Now I’ve been thinking of Native Americans some and how they would use materials they had on hand to make things.  Isn’t that how we should do it with crafts today?  I know some people recycle items to make crafts, but it just seems that if women want to be called real craftspeople (as opposed to men who do a specific craft like woodworking, metal working, or bigger things), then shouldn’t we work we what’s around us?

I mean, isn’t that what America used to be about, especially during the Great Depression?  Just because we’re a superpower now doesn’t mean we have the excuse to waste things.  I say if you use a certain amount of plastic, you should work it off like take the train, bike, walk to places that you can do that.

I watched this episode on PBS streaming last weekend about crafts in California and my Mom and I particularly liked a Native American woman who made baskets out of grass.  I see a lot of different ethnic groups around the world struggling to make ends meet, yet it seems like we focus on them when we want to show an example of what is the right way to live, and how cultural they still manage to be.  I know America gets a lot of negativity for pollution, politics, the way we eat, etc…  but if we are truly a melting pot, we should adapt to other cultures if we hold them to the light in many other ways.  America should not have a distinct American culture, like we do in terms of media or commercialism.  We should create a space for other cultures who come here to thrive and prosper, like we did when times were hard.

It’s kind of ironic that here in the Philadelphia suburbs where I live there are so many grocery stores, (too many), but yet we still have a huge hunger problem in Philly and around the suburbs.  Granted, I know there are some 8 million people in the Philly area, but it just strikes me that there needs to be a food community.  Now I’m not sure what I mean by that; maybe trading one food for another at designated places or something.

My Mom’s side of the family has a family cottage in Michigan that we go to once a year or so (if you look at Michigan as a hand/glove, it’s the little pinky where we live, Leelanau Peninsula.  It’s a summer place to live and so even though it can be kind of crazy with tourism and being there for a couple of weeks or so (I don’t think I could live there), I just love the food “community” there.  I mean I don’t know a lot of people there, but it just feels like you’re connected to the land.  If you drive down the backroads, you’ll always find a sign saying eggs, cherries (what the peninsula is known for), or peaches for sale.  And I kind of like the farmer’s market there better because it just seems like the produce really is grown right near by!  Our farmer’s market here is in Lansdale is very popular, but it just doesn’t seem like a truly local farmer’s market if you know what I’m saying.

I’ve done my share of non fiction reading about food, and some things I’ve read that have stuck out, is that food is supposed to be the main part of your day, so shouldn’t community revolve around that?  I read pretty often that community is really lacking in the USA, but with all the food books, shows, farmer’s markets, etc… it seems like we should use what we have to create a real vibrant food community!

I just think when I’m in Michigan, even though I don’t become an outright farmer, I’m so much more aware of the land and nature, and so grateful for the little food stands, and the real local food around there, like fish from Lake Michigan, cheese, produce, meat, etc…  that I suddenly feel like cooking local foods and being connected to what’s around me.  As Mario Batali said of the Leelanau Peninsula several years ago (he has a house there), one thing about Leelanau Peninsula and the food is they don’t pretend to be something they’re not.  They know who they are, food wise, and excel in that area.

I’m currently really trying to be vegetarian, for the last 2 months, but I did have meat a bunch of times.  However, one of the times I had meat it was humanely raised at a local cafe in a touristy town.  So I have to wonder, if people who are vegetarian tend to eventually eat carbs or sweets a lot of the time, is it more humane to just eat humanely raised meat?  Isn’t that more politically correct?  Because I hear of people who try to be vegetarian or vegan and get diagnosed as diabetic or something else because they’re not eating proper food like vegetables, or the like.  I think even when I do eat meat somewhat often, but also try to eat green vegetables and healthy foods, I am doing better for the environment than these people who say they are helping the environment, but aren’t really helping themselves!

And along that note, what about all the plastic that sometimes gets used in being vegan/vegetarian? I don’t mean just for eating, because I know there are a lot of people who do eat environmentally sound.  But what about all the so called environmentally safe products that have plastic and they’re touted as being “better” than old school stuff. I did some major reading of politics and the like during the Trump election, and one of the things that stayed with me is people who hunt (and thus use guns and want the 2nd amendment protected) and say they are doing more for the environment than some of the so called liberals who say they are using safe chemicals or whatever and using their liberalism as a platform to “pretend” that they are “better” than the Trump supporters.  I have to side with the Trump supporters on this aspect (if what I read is true) because I see all the plastic and the like that gets used when some of us try to eat environmentally safe or be environmentally safe in our daily life.  I don’t know much about hunting, but I live in Pennsylvania where I can imagine a lot of hunting goes on in much of the state.  It always strikes me that where I live, outside Philly is so rampant with drug use and homelessness and I hear about people living in other areas of the state who must live below the poverty line, and I’m sure some of them must do what they can to survive and not turn to drugs, etc…  They seem more “cultured” in a way than some of the “liberals” who live around artsy Philly.