Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maira Kalman's Thanksgiving "op-extra" column

Maira Kalman has long been one of my favorite artists, ever since I was first enchanted by her children's book "Ooh la la, Max in Love." She now writes these amazing pieces for the New York Times online that are illustrated columns; part of a monthly series called "And the Pursuit of Happiness" about American democracy. Her November column is titled "Back to the Land" and includes many of the themes about food explored in Michael Pollan's work.

She visits Alice Waters' home and restaurant, the farms that grow the food served at Chez Panisse, and a school that is part of Waters' program called "The Edible Schoolyard," taking photographs and offering commentary along the way. Michael Pollan makes an appearance (well, a photo of his hand does) and Kalman provides a thoughtful analysis of food issues as they relate to democracy and Thanksgiving.

Here's an excerpt where she muses about the agrarian society envisioned by our forefathers: "Is there some inherent value to that way of life that we have lost? Is there some element of democracy that is diminished? We can't all be farmers. You would NOT want to rely on me for your food. And what about getting the good food? Do the wealthy have access to the really healthy food while the less affluent do not? When you look at it that way it does not feel at all like a democracy. The fabric of our lives is bound in the food that we eat and the way we sit down to eat."

Kalman's illustrated story-telling of the exploration of these issues is both thought-provoking and delightful. I encourage you to visit this column.

-Carrie Kruse
Director, College Library
UW-Madison

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