Rotten Tomatoes

Mom tells me that there are help-wanted ad in her local paper looking for fruit pickers. The job pays $10.50 an hour, comes with benes and is being advertised in English. They can’t get their usual workers because of the policies enacted by Current Occupant in the White House. I spent some time a couple of weeks ago at a training for “Rapid Response”, expressing Solidarity during Immigration Raids. Oddly, no one talked about food. Why are these things related? Because undocumented workers are really unthanked workers who bring home our bacon, and our tomatoes, our brussel sprouts, our fruits, not to mention our milk, our salad greens, and our juices. If you are, right now, within a short drive’s distance of a grocery store selling fresh produce – especially a “big box” grocer, but also a good many food co-ops, and mom-and-pop bodega, you have all the documentation you need on your table. If you’re within a stone’s throw of fresh stone fruit at this time of year (or at any time of year, really) you’ve got slave food there. Grapes? Yes. Wine. Yes. Doesn’t matter really: unless you can trace it farm to table and you know the situation on the farm.

You have to have both the knowledge and the trace: because some Mom-and-Pops have armies behind them and they are probably not paying them $10.50 plus benefits.

Thing is, that wage is going to cost some money.  Some amazing money. I jokingly suggested to Mom that next year’s crop of apples might cost $5 a piece. Peaches might cost $10 each because they are more delicate and require not only a careful handling, but also a Rapid Response sort of picking. You have to get them at the right moment or they’ll go bad.

None of this is important.

What is important is that we have an economy predicated on cheap food that we buy not paying the full cost in human energy or dignity. Some cities actually have laws against growing food. Even at the monastery, I couldn’t get any interest in farming.

As I was discussing this with Mom this morning after Mass, I told her that Grandma Kate, my Great Grandmother, grew bushels of veggies in her garden – which had nearly the same footprint as her house, maybe larger. She canned the veggies every fall and left them in her basement. We all enjoyed the fruits of her labors through the winter. She also pickled a lot of things and there was so much goodness there! He daughter, my grandmother, also had a large garden (and a family of six to feed) but, by 1975, when I started paying attention to this stuff, Grandma wasn’t canning so much as Grandma Kate. My grandmother was the only member of her generation with a large garden.  Uncle Eddie, her brother, didn’t have one, neither did her sister, Aunt Marie. Her brother raised chickens! But I don’t remember us ever having either eggs or meat from Uncle Jimmy’s chicken farm. And their children, my Dad and all the cousins… they are all thoroughly modern Grocery Shoppers. I did have a garden once in the back of our house in Astoria. But that was a one-time affair and I’m not the best gardener. But there were tomatoes and peppers!

This is why we’re doomed: our economy is based on injustice, and we’ll be trapped. Any uprising will be destined to be fighting, in part, for the enslavement of some for the purpose of food production. I begin to image that the whole purpose of the current exercises in stupidity is to so ruin everything that we beg to have our undocumented workers back, that we demand to have our cheap out-of-season strawberries.

What are we to do? I suggest we learn how to garden real fast.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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