Sunday, March 04, 2012

A barista named Kale

I finally got my hands on Charles Murray's Coming Apart, which is to say, now that the book and all the commentary about it by those who had and hadn't read it is so two weeks ago. I read much of it, not all, at the bookstore in town this afternoon. I got a look at the full version of the infamous quiz, and learned that if your preferred method of unwinding is crap sitcoms, and not a fine Merlot, you - to borrow a phrase - might be a redneck. If I were classier, I'd only watch "The Wire" and independent films, and would pretty much be Stephen Metcalf from the Slate Culture Gabfest. But because I can immediately summon the name of the half-a-man on "Two and a Half Men," I couldn't read Murray with that smug sense of you talkin' to me that I'd expected.

What it is about - and I'm not quite done with it, but began with the intro and sections on marriage - is how there are these kids, see, and they're on Charles Murray's lawn. Well, that's the tone, but it's basically about how high-IQ elites meet at Hahvahd (and Murray holds forth somewhat self-indulgently about how the diners back when he was young and in euphemistic Boston were Americana, because this was pre-latte, or something) and reproduce, creating a high-IQ caste, and leaving the rest of 'merica drowning in a pool of its own drool.

Murray's certainly pro-marriage, but seems more interested in making sure that children are born into marriage than in whether single 20-somethings are celibate or using contraception. The only references I noticed to premarital sex were in the intro, when he's nostalgic for a time when goils were goils and didn't believe in too much heavy petting. Nor did I manage to locate the part where he urges the Fancies to patronizingly tell the Poors how to live - if anything, it seemed to be about shaming the Fancies for not eating at nationwide mid-range chain restaurants.

One of Murray's points about the elites is that they evidently eat a lot of green vegetables and whole grains. Whether they actually do this, or merely believe in it and leave farmers' markets with something green and abundant-looking poking out of their canvas totes, is another matter. But anyway, after the Murray bookstore-mooching (and for the record I buy plenty at this bookstore, but there are certain books whose sales figures I don't want to improve), it was time for a coffee. Not a latte. An Americano. Possibly more offensive.

At the coffee place, there was a sign up for something called "Eat More Kale Princeton." Not "Eat More Kale, Princeton." It's the Princeton branch of "Eat More Kale," which appears to be a t-shirt company with anti-corporate cred, from a guy who's "about eating locally, supporting local farmers, bakers, famers [sic] markets, farm stands, CSA's, community gardens and restaurants, sustainable lifestyles, social commentary and community." And why not?

Kale - a big topic and quasi-acquired taste (great in the form of shredded salad, with shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, and heaps of ricotta salata, but otherwise...) here at WWPD - is the new arugula. It's so much better a fixation than arugula, because it doesn't taste very good, because it can be grown in winter (so you can feel virtuous buying it, even if it was shipped in, as it inevitably is, from California), and because OMG the vitamins. Arugula, next to kale, is basically a Twinkie. I'm not sure which came first, but at Whole Foods in Princeton (and not, to my knowledge, in New York, Chicago...) there are what look like college-logo t-shirts - more specifically, like Yale t-shirts - but instead they say "Kale." Presumably meant to lure Princetonians into a double-take. At any rate, kale has swept through town, to the point that there is not only a "kale tasting" this Tuesday, but a barista at the local coffee shop is named Kale.

Charles Murray, this is material for your next opus. I'm thinking that back when America was great-in-your-estimation, there was nary a leafy green to be found.


J. Otto Pohl said...

When I was kid in the 70s the popular leafy green veg was spinach which was best advertised by Popeye.

Kayla said...

Phoebe, this seems like your kind of thing:

"McMillan asks why the distribution of good, healthy food — easy access to which she considers a human right — is so often left to private companies, begging us to change the conversation from one about what people eat (she thinks that given the choice, people will eat relatively healthily) to one about healthy food’s accessibility."

It's the kind of thing conservatives love to hate. No evidence for the contention that all people will eat healthily if given the choice (do all rich people do this?)

The author also asserts that the advent of supermarkets made it _harder_ for people to get food, and that, if people don’t cook, it’s because they don’t have enough time or don’t know how. If people had more vacation time (like in Europe), everyone would cook – and garden, and can her own vegetables (!).