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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Daybreak on the Mediterranean

I woke up at 4 a.m. yesterday and couldn't get back to sleep so I was out the door before the sun was even up for the day's bike ride. By the time I got to the beach the sun was just popping up over the sea. I’ve ridden this path to the beaches south of Valencia perhaps a thousand times, no kidding. I never get tired of it or bored. It’s the best therapy in the world and the best way I know to clear my head of anything negative. No place I know is more calm and serene...but a few kilometers up the coast...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lunch Ladies Finally Taken Down a Notch

Some students at Oberlin College are taking their demands for diversity and racial inclusion to the dining hall, asking for more traditional meals and criticizing what they consider poor efforts at multicultural cooking.
-The New York Times

Bon Appétit magazine published a video called “This Is How You Should Be Eating Pho” starring a white chef who makes Vietnamese food in which he tells viewers to leave Sriracha and hoisin sauce out of the soup infuriating many viewers.

In a dragnet encompassing public school cafeterias in all five boroughs, New York school officials have arrested 213 kitchen workers for violating recently-imposed cultural appropriation statutes. Minister of the Ethnic Purity Guard, Dr. Vladimir Nassir Nguyen, insisted that lunchroom cooks accused of substituting peanuts for pine nuts in cafeteria hummus recipes were “class enemies” and would be sent to re-education camps in Vermont which double as retreats for over-weight teens. Those offenders deemed beyond re-education will be forced into positions as gym teachers.

“This thinly-veiled racism in the form of shoddily-prepared samosas and lackluster tapas will no longer be tolerated in our public school dining halls,” the Minister exclaimed at a post-arrest press conference in front of a table with several of the offending menu items including a Greek peasant salad with a very non-traditional bit of iceberg lettuce, Peruvian ceviche made with frozen fish, and the most shocking of all, a risotto Milanese made with turmeric substituting for saffron and canned stock instead of homemade. “Don’t our children deserve better than this culturo-gastronomic catastrophe?” The Minister paused and seemed to glow with pride in his wordplay, like an astronomer who has discovered a new planet.

The controversy over the cultural appropriation of food began when a teacher at P.S. 6090 overheard Spanish exchange student María Serrano remark to her tablemates that where she lives in Valencia, Spain paella doesn’t include sausage. The alert young educator brought the incident to the attention of school officials who immediately quarantined the kitchen while offering trauma counseling to the twelve year old student. Under intense interrogation the head cook of the cafeteria claimed she was simply following the recipe supplied by the food purveyors. “This ‘Nuremberg Defense’ wasn’t accepted once nor will it be given credence in this case,” insisted Minister Nguyen. Nguyen also called Miss (Señorita) Serrano the “Rosa Parks of the new nutritional purity movement in our cafeterias.”

Interviewed while waiting her arraignment a 22 year veteran cafeteria cook asked, “Think it was my idea to make coq au vin—or however the hell you pronounce it—for these little animals? The only things they’ll touch are pizza and chicken nuggets.” The food Czar stated, “We decided not to include Chinese food in our crackdown as this cuisine has been included in lunch programs for decades making it unrecognizable to anyone who may have actually been to China, so that cat is already out of the bag, so to speak.” Dr. Nguyen was immediately taken into custody for using “Chinese food” and “cat” in the same sentence.

The Minister’s replacement added, “We cannot, we must not, and we will not allow these cultural elites to suck the life out of gastronomic traditions that represent the core values of societies that have suffered under the boot heel of colonial imperialism for centuries.” When asked for a response one of the accused said, “I work for minimum and I emigrated here from Eritrea two years ago. Is this going to take long? I’m late for my other job.” Another cafeteria worker cautiously asked, “Can we still make sloppy Joes or will that be offensive to someone?”

The pot boiled over three weeks ago when students at a Manhattan grade school went on a rampage when they learned that what the lunch menu described as Vietnamese pho was actually closer to Japanese ramen. Tempers were further inflamed over the perceived insensitive comment of one of the kitchen workers who asked, “We’re just talking about noodle soup, right?”

The concern of student groups opposing “exotic food” choices in school lunchrooms is that many ethnic groups aren’t allowed to define their own place in our society that is profoundly white, straight and patriarchal. Cafeteria officials pointed out that they have lots of kitchen openings for energetic little go-getters who would like to do their part in rehabilitating the wrongs they perceive in food quality while helping to bring us all together.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

What Lies Behind the Veil

I must preface this by saying that I have never seen anyone in the street insulting a woman wearing the hijab (pictured). If I did I would defend the woman. I also think that it’s pretty silly that the French have banned the burkini. I do feel that the Islamic dress for women is oppressive and at times ghoulish. There is some sort of creature that frequents my supermarket decked out in the niqab. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman and it gives me the creeps. The niqab is banned in Catalunya and I think this is right. I also think that it is right for Western governments to ban Islamic dress in public sector jobs—I don’t think that it is proper for a secular society to teach this complete disregard for women’s rights and it is a terrible example for children. A society not only has the right to inculcate its citizens in the values it tries to uphold as a nation but it has the duty to fulfill this education. 

I take exception with just about every word of this New York Times article on Muslim women in Europe. OK, forget about the attacks on the French and Belgians by Muslim extremists—all of these women seem to ignore this bit of recent history—and just think about what their clothing says to me as a Westerner. What it says to me is that even though we have finally reached a point in modern society in which we have taken away the power of religion to rule our lives, a struggle that has lasted centuries and was literally fought in the streets at times, we are now being asked to accept without complaint an intrusion into this society by another, even more fanatical religious presence that seeks to end our secular society and send us back into an era in which religion dominates everything.

Muslim men in Europe have few problems like the ones discussed by these women. They can swim in normal bathing attire and they aren’t instantly recognized in the street by the clothes they choose to wear—“choose” is the key word here. Something not brought up in this piece is the fact that there are countless Muslim women who don’t want to wear the traditional garb but that choice is denied them by their family. Also not mentioned is the growing intolerance of European Muslims towards European women and what they wear in the street.    

“I am a woman who wears this full-coverage swimsuit. (“Burkini” is a term that is too loaded.) I used to settle for watching others enjoy the pleasures of swimming — at most I would go into the water in my street clothes, which is absolutely impractical. This piece of clothing has broken my chains."

Your “chains” are forged by your medieval religious beliefs. Your religion is also why you aren't allowed to ride a bike in most of the Muslim world.

“My teacher forced me to take off my head scarf in front of all the other pupils. I was humiliated.”

Why didn’t she take it off before she went to school? It’s not like they did a surprise “Everyone must remove their hijab” drill. She would have known about the rules for weeks so I call bullshit on this.

“I was curious to see if, in the cities where they forbade women in burkinis, dogs could swim. The answer was yes for some of them. Personally, I am scandalized that dogs can have more rights than a scarfed (sic) woman.”

If she had ever lived in a Muslim country she would know all about how badly women are treated in some places. Does polygamy and arranged marriages sound like the kind of rights you are looking for?

P.S. Along with pork, booze, Jews, and women's bodies Muslims don’t like dogs, either.

And then there are the threats of exodus:

“Every time I visit Morocco, I feel and see more freedom than here in the West.”

“I think that French Muslim women would be justified to request asylum in the United States, for instance, given how many persecutions we are subjected to.”

“As a Muslim young woman, I do not feel safe anymore. … I am preparing to go to the U.K.”

It’s curious that none of these women is threatening to go to a Muslim country to live.

More than half of British Muslims feel that homosexuality should be illegal. Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country. As far as not feeling safe, we need to hear from French Jews who have been attacked and harassed by French Muslims for many years. 

Of course, many would brand me as an "Islamophobe" and they would be correct. I am afraid of Islam and its growing influence in Western society. I am terrified of living, once again in my lifetime, in a world in which I am not able to profess publicly that I am an atheist. Am I a bigot or a racist? Absolutely fucking not. In fact, I spent years of my life learning Arabic and studying the history and culture of the Middle East and Islam. Bigotry is based on ignorance so if you're looking for ignorance look elsewhere.