This looks like a good read:
“The code-oriented morality of the Soil Association is an absent presence that is at variance with a looser set of values and rules associated with the self-sufficiency movement and handed down as an oral tradition. Within a heterogeneity of organic, the care of the self practice parrhesia is used to analyse how community members establish collective organic farming practices through decision-making practices.”
Restaurant review: Philippe’s French Dip – Germinal for the new millennium:
The French Dip sandwich is a wholly American invention and yet Philippe’s does have a few Gallic elements, not just the name. The bread is decent, the mustard outstanding, the grilled/stewed meats are of high quality and the wine selection is on par with much higher end places. I have no problem admitting that the sandwiches are delicious and of the highest quality.
The sawdust on the floor is a nice touch as well, not in the “Western” saloon fashion but more like a bistro back on the continent. However, one can’t help but be reminded that during the collapse of the Ancien Regime, the peasants and workers were hoodwinked, particularly in the introduction of the Republican Calendar. While the months with evocative names like Floreal and Thermidor, the latter giving name to the famous lobster dish, were romantic and utopian, the reality was that breaking up the work week and the months into a decimal system made the peasants work longer until they had a day off for church. The seven day week with Sunday off was replaced by a ten day week. Kind of like voting for Trump. Anyway, we see this in action at Philippe’s. The descent into Philippe’s is literal, there are several steps one takes to reach the counter area where you place your order and this descent combined with the fragrant smells of ham, beef, turkey and lamb reminds one of the olfactory onanism of Joris-Karl Huysman’s great work of decadent fiction “La Bas” But that is where the decadence ends. Once the descent is complete, one is transported instead into a Zola-esque nightmare of workers carving meat, serving starving Angelenos who are in their own private hell waiting for their food. Like Zola and Jagger/Richards, we sense that war, children, is just a shot away. A tinderbox waiting to explode…
One need not go further than the highly controversial founder of the French Revolution, Saint-Juste whose ideas were as radical as Stalin or St Paul: “A nation regenerates itself only upon heaps of corpses.”
A+ for food. F- for a social disaster waiting to happen.
There is something to be said for “fusion” cooking, and much more than something to be said about the other implications of this concept, be it cultural appropriation or a reflection on colonialism. One of the stranger ones I experienced the other day was “Japadog”: American hot dogs but with a “Japanese twist”. Apparently this bizarre concoction started in Vancouver, BC and now like a Hokusai octopus has spread its tentacles across the rest of the North American West Coast. It has recently arrived in Santa Monica.
What’s the twist, you ask? How about teriyaki sauce. OK, innocuous enough. How about fish flakes and seaweed? A bit fishy you say? That’s part of the point but we’ve already touched on the yin-yang of femininity and masculinity in the mind of the land of the rising sun.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I have already mentioned that Japan can be called “penis-obsessed”. Look no further than the fertility ritual known as Kanamari Matsuri.
The hot dog is a penis, plain and simple. By enveloping it in the feminine seaweed which brings to mind images of not just vaginas but mermaids, the process is a type of mating ritual. Yes you can say the same thing about “surf and turf” but the seaweed with its hair-like structure also brings to mind not only the vagina but also the Medusa, as well as the “Rusalka” in Slavic folklore. The slimy vaginal texture of the seaweed literally grips the penis sausage in her dubious embrace. This is a case of role-reversal but the sub-dom dynamic which is part of every mating ritual takes a slight detour in the case of sausage vs seaweed.
Sausage, while universal, is associated with certain cultures more than others, notably Germanic and Slavic. By using feminine seaweed to engulf the engorged member of Europe is a better and more efficient way to rape the colonial powers, as per this illustration from the Russian-Japanese War of 1905.
If you can’t do it in war, you can do it through food. This is where Japandog uses an insidious technique. Instead of full blown rape, like sticking the hot dog into a big plate of raw fish, it uses seaweed to beguile and then destroy.
Fortunately, Japadog is actually a success. It is better than your average dog but, as much as I like seaweed, the flavor of the seagrass did not really guide the sausage one way or the other. The only impression I was left with a lingering sense of something “oriental”, some type of miasmic reminder that that “they” are plotting to take over even our cherished wurst, and that the yellow peril is real.
However, according to Zizek, “For the West, Japan is the ambiguous Other: at the same time it fascinates you and repels you.” – a type of “uncanny valley” one can say.
Furthermore, Zizek states: “But there is another Japan, the psycho-analytic. Whenever you have the multi-culturalist approach, the almost standard example is Japan and its way of ‘Verneinung’, saying no. There are thirty ways to say no. You say no to your wife in one way, no to a child in another way. There is not one negation. There exists a small Lacanian volume, ‘La chose japonaise.’ They elaborate the borrowing of other languages, all these ambiguities. Didn’t Lacan say that Japanese do not have an unconscious?”
Try the hot dog and ponder these thoughts while you try to find an “umami” between Oscar Mayer and Hideki Tojo.
Overall rating: B+
For starters, the very essence of the term “iconic” is problematic and despite this article’s superficial paean to diversity I can see more holes in this iconic selection than in a block of Emmentaler (NB the Swiss have their own issues as well). Nonetheless, as an Angeleno, it looks like I have my work cut out for me. Some of these are out of my price range but I will work within my means unless someone wants to take me out for lunch or dinner. I will also state that LA Magazine is the absolute most vulgar example of classism in media and in our society, second only to the New York Times, basically the polar opposite of Pravda’s good old days. And this predatory dialectic is exemplified subtly by entry No. 18 – “The rabbit and the rattlesnake” sausage at Wurstkuche. I will be going through this list and start with the places I have been and haven’t. More in a bit. But first…
Notice how in this photo: “Brats” and “Snakes” lie together atop a blanket of gentrification with the potatoes (of South American origin) pushed to the side.
Restaurant review: Don Jamon, Madrid, Spain.
At first glance this hole-in-the-wall serving up delicious Spanish staples, mostly Tortilla Espanol (potato omelet) and Bocatos de Jamon (ham sandwiches on crusty rolls) sees both innocuous and convenient. Located right off Gran Via and within a five minute walk to Plaza de Sol, the epicenter not just of Madrid but Spain itself, and placed right between a Starbucks and an internet café, this inexpensive and tasty eatery practically screams “convenience”. Until you consider the geography and that is where things turn just a tad bit messy. Don Jamon is located directly across the street from Hotel Emperador, a majestic building which while not in practice but certainly in name harkens back to the faded glory of the Spanish Empire. A large part of the poetry and philosophy of the glory of the Spanish Golden Age was centered the concept of “what’s next?” followed by “There is nothing next”. This is not the case at Don Jamon. You can order anything you want next but it’s mostly limited to pig products and eggs products. So on to the food. While I am a big fan of Spanish potato omelet it is not too soon to revisit some of my earlier points. Obviously the Spaniards were the biggest and most egregious plunderers of the New World: flaying slaves, raping women and most importantly ripping out tubers from their native soil and bringing them back to Europe for further exploitation. The egg is a symbol of resurrection, and it also a symbol of femininity being a by-product of the avian menstrual cycle. Combining potatoes and eggs in this context is nothing more nor less than a bipolar attempt at both atonement and dominance. The egg in the omelet becomes a type of feminization of the aggressive Catholic policy of the Spanish Crown, gently oozing its arms around the helpless Peruvian spud. There is a reason why there is no ham in the omelet for that would be too obvious a symbol of colonial domination and the Spanish through their insidious conversion of the native people they conquered, from the Americas to the Philippines and parts in between knew exactly how to coddle their subjects. (Is this where the term “coddled egg” comes from? Perhaps). By cloaking her ultimately sinister motives, Spain seems to whitewash her colonial legacy. Whereas ham is concerned, this could be a preventive device to deflect from her guilt even if done in a joking fashion e.g.”Don’t be a ham”. On the other hand, no matter your political beliefs and allegiances, one must remember that Gran Via was the scene of great fighting during the Spanish Civil War. While there are still older (and some younger people) who thought Nazi Spain was a good idea, if for nothing else than that Franco refused to officially join the Axis, the fact that potatoes, eggs, ham and bread can at least live together in delicious harmony in this one little corner is a testament to the resilience of the newly resurgent Spanish nation where everyone finally bonded together to form a new democratic society under El Rey Juan Carlos and they did it successfully with a bond as strong as eggs and potatoes.
I had something unnamable for dinner last night and this morning I dreamt I was a torso living in a jar outside a Paris restaurant.
What does one immediately associate with New Jersey? Bruce Springsteen, the demagogic self-styled poet of the proletariat. Romanticizing the blue collar working class is as old as the hills and nowhere does the dichotomy between the haves and have nots reach it’s Yankee apotheosis than in the songs and lyrics of “The Boss” who sings about poor Wendy serving up sandwiches in Asbury Park, dreaming to ‘get out’ with her boyfriend so they can reach the West Coast to make more sandwiches. While Jersey Mike’s luckily avoids most references to Springsteen with just a marginal nod to beaches and surfing communities in south NJ, this sandwich shop is firmly ensconced in both Durkheim’s anomie as well as some more recent post-situationalist thought. The French sandwich is plain, devoid of the various optional toppings that Jersey Mike’s offers – from “Mike’s Way” (lettuce, tomato, onions, salt and pepper, oregano, mayonnaise, and something else I am forgetting). In France, a ham sandwich is generally just that – ham and bread perhaps with some mustard or mayo. And yet the anomie present in both the romantic longing in Springsteen’s songs and the chansons of Jacques Brel is evident in both situations. Make no mistake – Springsteen’s “Wendy” is not the French Marianne, a symbol of the people and the nation trampling over the Ancien Regime. It is as plain as day that Wendy is a deliberate reference to the hamburger chain of the same name and thus a Ouroboros of capitalist consumption and repression. Thanks to the strength of the American unions, the United States never seriously flirted with socialism and yet, much as in the condiments at “The Hat” (see my previous essay), the choice is there and simultaneously isn’t. To order your submarine sandwich “Mike’s Way” is a subtle but very powerful push for conformity, which is why Wendy can never truly leave Asbury Park, as is evident that together, her and the narrator will need to “live with the sadness”. And the narrator who says “Wendy let me in, I want to be your friend” if one opens one’s eyes is no different than a Fagin type of entrapment: for Wendy a life of wage slavery, for the consumer, obesity, diabetes and coronary ailments.
In addition, it psychologically induces conformity into the very people it wishes to romanticize. Order your sandwich “Mike’s Way” and soon enough you’ll be an accounting major at Rutgers like every single one of your classmates from Tom’s River High. The insidious aspect of it all is that Jersey Mike’s is as successful a corporate entity as Bruce Springsteen himself, and from their golden cages they are an obvious parallel to the party structure in Orwell’s 1984. Both “Mike” and Bruce belong to the “Inner Party” and while offering incentives – cheap pornography and lottery tickets in 1984, Mike’s ‘points’ which add up to a free sandwich after a number of purchases – actually demean and degrade the working class who relish these lunches. Some anarcho-primitivists like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski argue that complex societies, particularly industrial and post-industrial societies, directly cause conditions such as anomie by depriving the individual of self-determination and a relatively small reference group to relate to, such as the band, clan, or tribe. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Jersey Mike’s. The small reference group one can relate to is the relative poverty of blue collar America. Fetishizing the spectacle as per Guy Debord – in this case, romanticizing the disenfranchised proletarian working class – is evident in the not too subtle word play that Jersey Mike’s is indeed a “franchise”. Debord of course follows Lukacs in commodity fetishism but the deeper roots are a disdain for the proletariat. By ordering your sandwich “Mike’s Way” not only are you continuing to promote conformity you are also making sure that Wendy will never, ever, ever get out of New Jersey and thus stifling any aspiration the proletariat can try to better themselves. It is a dark and difficult cycle that no amount of idyllic photos of young people in Wildwood and Cape May, oblivious to their bleak future, that adorn the walls of Jersey Mike’s can whitewash. If you want to “walk in the sun” like Wendy’s exploitative boyfriend claims they will while mulling over plans for her white slavery, then run from this franchise. Run faster than as if you were born to run.
This innocuous looking convenience stand attached to gas (petrol) stations serves a double purpose: yes, one is to satiate the hunger of the weary traveler and yes, two, it also exists to reinforce the mechanical oppression of capitalist society. Let’s start with the name. I don’t know about you but for me the immediate association with AM/PM immediately brings up the famed German Expressionist drama “Von Morgens bis mitternachts” (From Morning to Midnight) by Georg Kaiser. The German connection is no coincidence. I did not take notes but from my foray into this mechanical jungle of oppression fueled by the gasoline engine of modernity, I am fairly certain that they referred to the sausages spinning in agony over and over like the proletariat, a life of pain and pointless toil intended only for consumption, as weiners. Misspelling aside, the WIENER is of course a Viennese hot dog, and with Austria being the birthplace of Hitler it doesn’t take either a PhD in European History nor a food handling certificate to connect the dots. A double blind study of a motorist on the I-5 from San Diego to Los Angeles will most certainly reveal that the driver who, while driving, was engaged in a discussion about the Second World War and the rise of Nazism and who suddenly had hunger pangs was twice as likely to order a sausage from AM/PM than someone discussing the Mexican War of Independence. In the latter case, AM/PM has their bases covered by also offering a faux “Mexican” offering in the form of taquitos, nachos – again bastardized forms of Mexican cooking that is not such a subtle way of reminding us who is in charge. However, the AM/PM luckily avoids the traps of post-colonialism. It harkens back to the fecund period of the early 20th century where the collision of nascent theories of psychology, even as primitive as Krafft-Ebbing, and the performing and visual arts created a dialectic that gave birth to a renaissance in modern arts and letters.
All of the offerings at AM/PM come at a very reasonable cost, which reminds me again that in the third act of Kaiser’s play, the Salvation Army plays a distinct role. The superficial “charity” of cheap processed food parallels the plight of “The Clerk” in Morning to Midnight. But most importantly one needs to remember that primary function of the service area is to fill up the gas tank, not the stomach. In order of priority “feeding” the automobile, a demon engine of civilization is first, evacuating the bladder or bowels is second, and feeding the human engine is, in our society, last. This is in stark contrast to pre-modern societies and nowhere is this expressed so well as in “The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology” by Ernst Kantorowicz. Similarly, the proximity of the toilets to the roasting hot dogs brings to mind the opening of some of Strindberg’s most Freudian plays, notably the dung heap adjacent to the castle in “Ett drömspel” referencing the absurdity of our own anatomy and nearness of the sexual organs to the anus. Sweden too suffers from an overabundance of hot dogs, but I believe the situation in that country is not as dire as here with AM/PM.
In summation, a visit to AM/PM is not necessarily an “execrable” experience, but a familiarity or better yet, a more than passing knowledge of German and Swedish expressionist drama will only make your experience richer and more fruitful.