Monday, August 8, 2011


I use olive oil in so many things I may have begun to forget what it tastes like. I eat packaged crackers that claim to be infused with olive oil (and pepper and various other flavors.) Are they? I'm not entirely sure. I think the flavor is there, but I'd have a hard time picking it out over the pepper or the salt or the wheat or whatever else is involved. One assumes the maltodextrin isn't overwhelming the olive oil but then one would have to have a fairly textured grasp of the taste of maltodextrin now, wouldn't one?

Extra virgin olive oil, of course, is ubiquitous in my use and virtually any cooking I've ever seen or partaken of (I guess that's not entirely true, since I've done a fair bit of Japanese cooking.) But, once again, what exactly separates it from plain, old virgin oil? (As an aside, I think almost all Westerners associate the term 'virgin' with the Church and the proliferation of its use with Italian cooking. At one point, terms like 'virgin' proliferated because of the rather religious nature of the Italian peninsula and the omnipresence of the Latin language as a religious vehicle. Thus, olives become tied to Italian cooking, despite their origin with the Greeks and profligate use in Greek, French, and Spanish cooking; not to mention the rampant spread of half-assed Italian cooking (and distortions thereof; pizza, anyone?) as a vehicle for the tastes of mass market America. You don't often see frozen Greek, French, or Spanish meals at the local store. This may have nothing to do with my main point but this is how my mind occasionally wanders...)

What normally separates EVOO from VOO is nominally acidity and taste. I don't know that I'd be able to tell the difference by taste, despite having tasted and cooked with any number of high quality oils over the years; even the disgustingly overpriced ones at places like Zingerman's (Bourgeois! Burn him!) Could I tell the difference between EVOO and VOO? I like to think so, since I have been able to tell the difference between Greek and Italian olive oils in the past. But, again, it's seemingly omnipresent in my life at the moment and I begin to wonder if I can pick it out amidst the static haze.

Can you tell what your life would be like without democracy? If you're an American, you've been living with it all of your life but would you be able to tell if it were gone? Would it matter? Would you care? As long as Modern Family came on at the proper time and you could still get it in HD, would it matter to you that you'll never have the opportunity to improve your life or the lives of others by participating in the grand process? And when I say "participating", I mean actively; not walking into a booth every four years and pulling a lever/darkening an oval/tapping a screen for some schmuck who's only vaguely dissimilar to the last schmuck who steps and fetches for Goldman Sachs and whomever else pays him.

Would it matter to you if the current occupant of the Oval Office stepped up to the podium tomorrow and, instead of giving some indignant response to the credit raters (the vast majority of whom would be in jail for crimes various and sundry if they weren't, you know, indirectly paying him and everyone around him), actually stated that we were giving up on the whole democracy schtick and instead just converting back to the feudal system? We're almost there, anyway. Would it matter? As long as you could still get to Lowe's and Whole Foods and Bed, Bath, and Beyond and as long as you could still get the kids to camp or Disney World, would you be able to tell that you no longer had any choice in the direction of your country? Is the concept of democracy so twisted, so distorted, so ephemeral to the average American's waking hours that it has become background noise?

Tea Partiers like to think of themselves as participants in democracy and, compared to the average American, they are. Despite being ridiculously ignorant, often bigoted, and incapable of understanding the broad and long-term meaning of many of their actions ("You keep your government away from my Medicare!"), they were sufficiently motivated and active enough to elect a collection of borderline insane people to the highest legislative body in the land. That's how our system is supposed to work. It's also the reason that the following aphorism is true: Imagine that the average voter is the average sports radio caller. Now, construct a defense for democracy.

Can you tell when your government has changed? Everyone is in a panic over the obdurate nature of the Tea Party and how it almost plunged the US into default and how our credit rating is down for the first time in history and yadda, yadda, yadda... So, people are actually sitting up and paying attention to their democracy. Their response? Many people that I've heard or read are now desperate to re-elect Obama, presumably so that they can go back to treating their government as background noise because, after all, Jimmy has soccer and that just takes up so much time and the feudal system really won't change that.

I'm going to keep cooking with olive oil, because I like it. But now I might think about where it is among the panoply of tastes that I'm eating and about whether I might do something differently.

No comments:

Post a Comment