June 2007 Archives
In the chapter of The United States of Arugula that deals with how the 1960s and ’70s counterculturists influenced American eating habits, I devote considerable space to the tale of Mollie Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook. Katzen, who was one of my favorite interviews for the book, a funny, smart, engaging woman, recalled that when she was an undergrad at Cornell University, she was moved to bail on the college and relocate to the San Francisco Art Institute because she couldn't abide the student-led shutdowns of the Cornell campus that occurred in 1969 and 1970. “I just kind of wanted to go to school,” Katzen told me. “Everyone was like, ‘Nixon invaded Cambodia, so we shouldn’t go to school!’ I was thinking, ‘I don't completely see the connection.’” Though Katzen would later return to Ithaca, the home of Cornell, to help open the Moosewood Restaurant, her stay in the Bay Area proved crucial to her culinary education, alerting her to the possibilities of a vegetarian cuisine that was actually flavorful and pleasurable, as opposed to the brown-rice “remorse cuisine” that East Coast hippies were still eating.
But it turns out I was wrong to attribute the Cornell campus shutdowns purely to antiwar protestors. A reader named David Parker, a lecturer in history at the California State University at Northridge, writes in to say, “The shutdown in 1970 was indeed because of Cambodia, but the 1969 shutdown had nothing to do with Southeast Asia. During the spring semester, a number of African-American students occupied Willard Straight Hall, the student union, for three days. I was a sophomore at the time.” Parker provides this link to a contemporary Time magazine article that describes the standoff. It’s fascinating both as a semi-forgotten bit of social history and as a glimpse of the mindset of Time at its Voice of the Establishment peak.
You might have noticed that the book-cover image on the upper right has been changed to reflect the new paperback edition of The United States of Arugula. The paperback comes out on July 17–a smaller, cheaper, more portable version that makes an ideal beach read, mountaineering companion, hostess gift, airplane time-passer, or languorous cocktail-hour page-turner. (In no way am I trying to drum up sales or anything.)
You’ll also notice that my publisher smartly appropriated the excellent artwork by Ed Lam that ran with A.O. Scott’s review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, and that the book has a new subtitle: “The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution.” This subtitle is more in keeping with the one I originally had in mind for the book, because it conveys the sense of fun and discovery in the story I’m trying to relate, and positions the book as what I always wanted it to be, first and foremost: an entertainment, not a “food issues” tract. The hardcover carried the subtitle “How We Became a Gourmet Nation,” and while I understand my publisher’s need for a catchy, concise, explanatory tag, I never really make the argument in the book that we have become, all of us in these United States, a gourmet nation. (What’s more, the old subtitle opened me up to critiques from officious wankers who wanted to whinge about obesity and impugn the character of Vanity Fair, for which I do most of my magazine work.)
There will be events and readings related to the paperback launch that I’ll mention in future posts.
I have a brother named Ted who works in TV production out in L.A. but leads a Walter Mitty-ish fantasy life as a singing, nay, rocking, architecture critic. One day, thanks to such Apple programs as GarageBand and iMovie, he realized that this peculiar avocation didn’t have to be mere fantasy, and he made a brilliant rock video about the life and work of Mies Van Der Rohe that has become a minor viral phenomenon. (A still of which sits above this text.) Even better, the video led to his being interviewed by Lee Bey, one of the foremost architecture critics in this country’s greatest city for architecture, Chicago. Bey has an impressive CV–though not trained in architecture, he was for years the architecture critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, and, after that, he was the deputy chief of staff for planning and design for Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, and, after that, he worked as a media-affairs guy for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. He now has a blog that’s among the better and more accessible ones devoted to architecture.
Ted is preparing another architect song-video, but he won’t tell me which architect is his next subject. I suggested Walter Gropius, but what rhymes with that?
The Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s haute fast food joint in Madison Square Park, has already evolved into a New York institution. Studio 54 never saw such long lines; but then, Halston and Andy Warhol never stopped by the Shake Shack with Liza and Bianca. Anyway, on Thursday night, June 21, at 6:30 p.m., there will be still more incentive to brave the queues*: Danny and I will keep you busy with readings from our respective food-related books, Setting the Table (his), and The United States of Arugula (mine). This is part of a new series called Mad Sq Reads, and it takes place right in the middle of the park, at the foot of the Farragut Monument. There will also be books for sale, and Danny and I will be signing them, even if you stain them with Shack Burgers and caramel shakes.
* Egad, it turns out the Shake Shack will be closed for a private function on Thursday eve. So Danny and I will have to hold our own as an attraction. There will be snacks, though.