Profiting from the Poor

Who doesn’t like making a few bucks from the poor? The poor are every bit as important to the economy as human suffering was to Mother Teresa and original sin is to Christianity. After all, if there were no cash-strapped masses, pawn shops, sub-prime lenders and entire brigades of charitable deed-doers would be out of business. Entire industries built upon serving the destitute would face bankruptcy.

Microfinancing for low-income entrepreneurs, once considered a brilliant move by social thinkers and economists, is now taking a hit for being too successful, says the Wall Street Journal. What, there aren’t enough poor folks to go around these days?



White People Like to Grow Their Own Food

Farmers markets and vegetarianism aren’t enough for white people. They have to grow their own, even if they grew up with a disdain for home gardening as something taken straight from victory gardens and American Gothic. Growing your own food starts out innocently enough by shopping for organic food at Whole Foods and co-ops, recycling bags, and gathering up used grounds for compost with each visit to the local coffee emporium. Some white people who grew up in the 60’s remember sorting out the seeds from their marijuana on the jacket cover of a long-playing record album and talking up a Whole Earth Catalog lifestyle before moving into investment banking and the practice of law.

The 80’s led to an affection for multiple forms of fresh basil, easily enough grown from pre-seeded kits purchased at Smith & Hawken, the only garden shop which dare show its face at upscale malls. From that simple step, it was a downhill slide to Vermont Bean Seed Company and Territorial Seed Company, mail-order seed companies tailor-made for white people who snickered at the gingham-shirted Ma and Pa Kettle kinds who had to settle for buying their garden seed from places like Henry Field’s Seed & Nursery or Earl May.

Before long, it wasn’t just a matter of being green or organic. Or saving money. Before long, the notion of heirloom tomatoes wasn’t even the point. It was pure back-to-the-land, yielding up bragging rights more valuable than the crop of tiny pink, white, and orange tomatoes which white people, posing as Lady Bountiful, now can foist off on others less privileged, chiming in smugly that these tomatoes were grown right from seeds harvested from last year’s crop.


The Latest Acquisitions at the Biblioteca Rose

Books aren’t easy to come by in Michoacán, so we have to depend upon the kindness of others to schlep our Amazon purchases here during the odd months we’re not making a trip northward.

The Texans arrived this evening, delivering my latest summer reading:

On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language by Ilan Stavans

Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans

San Sombrero: A Land of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups (Jetlag Travel Guide) by
Santo Cilauro

Long After Midnight at the Niño Bien: A Yanqui’s Missteps in Argentina by Brian Winter

Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer by Chuck Thompson

Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolano

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain

Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris

Last Harvest: From Cornfield to New Town: Real Estate Development from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway by Witold Rybczynski

Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors by Bill Bryson

The Disappearance: A Novella and Stories by Ilan Stavans

The South Beach Diet Supercharged: Faster Weight Loss and Better Health for Life by Arthur Agatston

Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth: A Novel by Donna M. Gershten

Next month’s shipment is already waiting for me in Florida:

The Official Filthy Rich Handbook by Christopher Tennant

First Stop in the New World by David Lida

The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by Kinky Friedman

Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty by Tim Sandlin

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Paula by Isabel Allende

Uniforms: Why We Are What We Wear by Paul Fussell

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch : A Novel  by Kinky Friedman

The Naked Tourist: In Search of Adventure and Beauty in the Age of the Airport Mall by Lawrence Osborne

The Essential Ilan Stavans by Ilan Stavans

Dictionary Days by Ilan Stavans

Miscellaneous: An Artist’s Notebook by Charles Patterson


Eating is Overrated

Every second blogger writes about his or her culinary talents. Mine extends to yearning for the latest kitchen appliance, acquiring it, reading a cookbook for the plot, and making reservations. My manual dexterity remained in kindergarten, there’s the matter of having the attention span of a gnat when it comes to anything near the kitchen, and then there’s the urge to treat cooking as a giant science experiment.

If you’re invited to my house for steak, you can count upon having steak and nothing else. In my defense, I explain that appetizers, side dishes, and dessert weren’t part of the invitation. And then I offer up a reasoned explanation that it’s done that way in some country that my guest has never visited. For all you and I know, mono-ingredient meals are all the rage in France. You’d think these people didn’t know that salsa counted as a vegetable.

Just going to the grocery store takes up so much valuable time that could be productively spent doing important stuff. I’m tired of having to buy groceries all the time, practically once every week or ten days. It’s just such a nuisance. Maybe there are some sardines left over in the pantry from the time everyone stocked up in anticipation of Y2K. There is enough food in my pantry to feed several armies in the time of famine, but none of it’s particularly appealing. What was I thinking when I bought red rice? Or canned pumpkin? The supply of bean threads could satisfy most of China for a single day.

Grace Slick called to ask if I had any coconut, just in case she was overcome by the urge to make oatmeal cookies. “I don’t think so, but I’ve got some candied ginger,” I told her.

“That’s really not a substitute for coconut.”

“Well, how about some almonds? I’ve got three kinds of almonds. Almonds and ginger would work well together.”

“You were the one who made that gingerbread from a mix, substituting flax seed for eggs and oil, adding oatmeal and bran to make it healthier.”

“That was an exercise in creativity. You forgot to mention that I added a few spoonfuls of powdered buttermilk since I didn’t have any real milk. Besides, those are commonly accepted accommodations for high altitude baking.”

“Remember that German chocolate cake that you swore you’d made from scratch, messing up the icing to make it look homemade and then destroying the evidence that it came from the grocery store?”

“It was the best German chocolate cake I ever made.”

Cooking is such a bother, rivaled only by having to eat what you cook. I wonder how communion wafers would go with dulce de leche.


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