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Monday, June 11, 2007

Anniversary Archives - - June 11, 2003

OK, time for the next installment of my '03 road trip with son Jonathan.

Before inserting the re-publish, however, I have to add my two cents about last night's ending of The Sopranos. Opinions are all over the lot--which is probably just as David Chase intended it. Once again, he proved himself to be the master of multi-texturism.

David Weinberger asks: "Am I the only person who liked it?" Definitely not, David. I thought it was ingenious. I'll leave it to critics Tim Goodman and Alessandra Stanley to convey what I felt. I'm in complete synch with their observations, and I heartily recommend reading them.

Now, let's get back on the road, four years ago:

The Fat of the Land

Before setting out across six hundred miles of tedious prairie, Jon and I decided to settle in for the night in the old meatpacking town of Austin, Minn—the birthplace of the real Spam, the home of Hormel and one of the bitterest, most notorious strikes in American history.

Next morning, over a truly crappy breakfast in a restaurant in which we were the only non-obese people in the entire place, we realized that, not only did we have hours and hours of boring, treeless, windswept landscape ahead of us, we were also not likely to see a good meal again until we crossed into California (with the exception of Jackson Hole about which more later). Nor were we likely to see many bodies of normal size.

Each time I find myself back in the heartland, it seems to get worse. The food seems to get more and more tasteless and toxic, and the inhabitants more and more rotund. How can the food be so bad—and so bad for you, I wonder, in the middle of one of the richest agricultural areas in the world?

It is said that the reason France has the best cuisine in the world is because the country is blessed with prime agricultural riches. Why doesn’t the same logic hold true here? Why is the food so unappealing, so unhealthy, so fat-producing?

Not trusting the accuracy of my memory, I double-checked with someone of my own age. “When we were kids,” I inquired, “weren’t the folks from the farmlands the ones who were hearty and lean? Wasn’t the food fresh and wonderful? Or am I just fantasizing?”

“No, no,” he replied. “Your memory is just fine. That’s exactly how it used to be.”

The culprit, obviously, is the corporatization of agriculture, food processing, and food service, plus the inability of today’s families to find the time to prepare good meals and sit down together for a healthy meal. Yes, the same time constraints exist in the large cities of the two coasts, but people have the discretionary income—plus the influence of foreign cultures—to buy and demand good food in their groceries and restaurants. Most of today’s farm families have to have a job in town to make ends meet. They may be growing food for others, but they only have the time and money for fast food crapola.

Each time we stopped somewhere during our prairie crossing, it made me sad to look at the people and recall the way they used to look out here when I was a lad. The richest country in the world, and our people are going to pot physically.

I needed to get my mind off of this sadness. Fortunately, as the sun drooped closer to the western horizon, the welcome sight of hills began to appear. We were getting near prairie’s end and close to a complete change of scenery—the gorgeous Black Hills.

The culture and appearance of the towns had changed from Midwestern to Western. We checked in for the night in Rapid City to rest up for the next morning’s jaunt into Mount Rushmore and a refreshing new landscape. The good food, however, would have to wait for a while longer …. (to be continued)


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