Published in The New Yorker, April 13, 2009; on my bulletin board since then.
On a spring day in Portland, Oregon, I celebrate meeting my spouse in Manhattan. March 1966, a large, airless room at a counseling conference in the Commodore Hotel. He was presenting; I was in the audience determined to get my question answered. He took me for an ice cream soda at a nearby Schrafft's on 42nd Street.. It was a lovely day; we walked twenty blocks south.
We lived four blocks apart--Ron in a classic 8-story 1930s building--one-bedroom, rent-controlled ($110) on East 24th. Mine was a smaller
studio ($160), in a new 21-story high-rise. We married in his apartment October 29, 1966--the same year NOW began. The word "femnism" was not in my vocabulary at the time. We disagreed on the war in Vietnam. We moved quickly toward working on equality between women and men--and being very opposed to the "American war," as it's known in Vietnam.
Two children, four grandchilddren, several moves--Oberlin, Ohio then Baltimore, Maryland, then back to New York City before landing in Portland.
The Commodore, built in 1919, was renovated inside and out in 1980. Unrecognizable to us in its current state. Schrafft's is gone. We are still New Yorkers in spirit, almost 50 years later, in Portland, Oregon.
Last night we watched Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she questioned whether those opposing the legitimacy of gay marriage were inventing new: skim milk marriage as different from "full milk marriage." Enjoyed every repeat on Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell shows.
How much further ahead social justice in the U.S. would be if women had been allowed to enter law school earlier. Then we might have had an appropriate representation of our gender in the number of Supreme Court justices.
Saved this page from New York Times Sunday magazine. What was it about a slice of bread that was so compelling? That the shrinking, obsessively up-scale newspaper paid attention to an object from everyday life? Just a slice of a pre-sliced white, the kind my father described as "punk bread." He was good an naming things he disdained, ideas and objects favored by people different from him. It's a trait passed along that I must be cautious about in my judgementalism.
The article is part of a "Who Made That?" series in the Times. It is filled one page of odd facts that tie together many aspects of the influence of the industrialization of America in the early 20th century. Last year a social history, White Bread, by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (oh, people, why did you do this to your offspring; the hyphenated name is sure to create relationship problems) was published. [There it is-- the too judmenta...sigh]
"The sliced loaf becomes a kind of small, edible promise of a better world."
Much more interesting to me than recent explorations about cod or salt, I now intend to purchase it from Alibris for hardly any money (as the almost-free economy moves on). In a New York Times review of the book, titled "Against the Grain," there was further exploration of how problems of unsanitary public bakeries led to the business solution: industrialized bread. What would another review deliver?
Libby Copeland wrote a longer essay a harsher title, "White Bread Kills". Subtitled-- "a history of a national paranoia," she addresses the present-day "...backlash against white bread" and the growing interest in gluten-free products and increase in people receiving a diagnosis of celiac disase which afflicts one in 133. She points out that little is known about how gluten sensitivity may effect the majority of us.
"...from the ‘germophobia’ of the 19th century to concerns about cholesterol and chemical residues in the 21st. Read this book and you’ll understand why warnings about the safety of your food should always be taken with a pinch of salt. (Just a pinch, though — too much could be bad for you.).”
Even though my results are not always edible--like this one (left) which looked much like the one in the book (middle), and filled with many good pumpkin seeds, I'm working on getting comfortable with major mishaps. The successful ones are always better than packaged and pre-sliced American white bread. In Mexico, similar product is Bimbo!
ADDENDUM Every now and then, not often enough, bread-making is enhanced by doing it with Zoe, our seven year old granddaughter. I have a sense that she is learning something that will be long gone by the time she has her own household.
Something grander than Google will speak to her about what the ancients once did in kitchens.
How much I'd missed making bread. My baking enthusiast friend Molly visited in February and this was to be an opportunity. We had so much to talk about that--classes at Portland State, whether she would take a college loan because three (!) jobs and 16 credits were too much. I refreshed my starter and sent her home with some.
Politics intervened.. Nationally it has been all the efforts to counteract efforts to withdraw women's agency-- the equity and freedom we worked so hard to achieve in the 20th century. Petitions to sign, phone calls to make to D.C.
Locally, it's support of improved gun control legislation in Oregon. The other local political activity was the dive I took into running for the board of my retirement community. Though I lost--which might be for the best--the experience was a good one. Much positive feedback from neighbors and the chance to encourage conversations among residents on ideas they had for improvements.
Finally, actual bread-making had its moment. B uttermilk around (do you buy certain food items that have a special appeal then have to figure out new ways to use?) that needed attention. Found a recipe that put it together with my starter. "Golden Sourdough" was its name and Shelene Wilhelm of Cheyenne, Wyoming, was the baker. I owe her well-written instructions many thanks.
Reduced the recipe by half though used even less salt (1Tbsp.). Otherwise followed her lead-- expanded the starter overnight. Probably crucial to how well it turned out. Produced two pretty 8x4x5 inch loaves and a mini-loaf, great sourdough taste, more delicious over a few days.
It's a lot of bread for two trying to keep waistlines from spreading. Shared slices with neighbors, gave entire mini to another friend. After trying others, I've settled over the past year or so on Fairhaven white organic flour from the state of Washington. Discovered since moving to Portland where there are better choices on local shelves than in New York.
What I'm finding as I move toward 80, is the need to be less ambitious. Recipes that were challenging a year or two ago leave me tired when contemplating. This one only had some combining of ingredients before long kneading with dough hook attachment on trusty 1980s Kitchen Aid. Ron helped when bowlful of dough became too heavy for me to hold/scrape at same time. He does much of the cooking and looks to me for recipe selection. That works!
Many false starts for this blog is about my horror with the gun culture in Portland, in Oregon. I attended a gun control rally last month. Horror?
Yes. I had never been in a public place and seen men with rifles.
Walking among us--women, children, old people. Neighbors of mine have gathered since the gun murders in our own city at Clackamas Town Center, followed by the elementary school in New Town, Connecticut. We were at a rally to support gun control. City Hall in downtown Portland.
An hour earlier friends and I had listened to a plea from Penny Okamoto of Ceasefire Oregon to mobilize ourselves to move along legislation under review in the state house. She is the hardworking, unpaid staff person. There is no paid staff for the group.
At the rally I'd met, talked with state senator Ginny Burdick, who represents this area. Another hardworking woman who has spent years trying to get more human-centered gun control legislation passed. Another hardworking woman.
I cannot get used to the idea often voiced that we should speak of "gun safety" because that is less infuriating to our opponents than "gun control."
Then the opposition, supported by the head of the state Republican Party went to Burdick's home and videotaped her daily life--like taking out trash. We were prepared to attend a meeting she called on upcoming legislation. She cancelled the meeting.
Next, Steve Duin, among the few readable columnists in the sad daily, had a Sunday piece with this headline "Intimidation tactics may silence Salem..." [Salem is the state capitol not the one with the witchhunt history in Massachusetts].
Now we learn that Mitch Greenlick, another member of the state legislature, has been subject to pro-gun ire that speaks to precisely who these people are, the racist anti-Obama men and women we've heard about nationally, the Tea Party enthusiasts:
"But even Greenlick has been surprised by the abusive, obscene and anti-Semitic tenor of the reaction to his support for gun-control legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre."
The next day there was an Op-ed column by Joe Nocera in the New York Times. "Politics by Intimidation" tells the Oregon gun story. Must come as a surprise to all those convinced that Portland, the City of Roses, was like the light-hearted view from "Portlandia," great restaurants, craft beer overflowing. But guns?
Living in Baltimore, in Harlem, I never felt as edgy about being on the streets as I do now. Day or night who knows if I may be sitting in a restaurant next to someone with a concealed weapon. And he has a disagreement with his wife?
Needed right now: more women like Rosa Parks. The Detroit News on the centennial of her [The link is to a new biography that begins with her activist life before her famous bus ride.] The Detroit News on the centennial of her birth (1913) marked by a new Forever postage stamp and Obama unvieling of her statue in the Capitol.
Charming and satisfying for us old ladies from the Second Wave to travel down memory lane as our moment in 20th century feminist history rolled by on"Makers: Women Who Make America." Surprised that public television would offer something with the "F word so prominent.
Most satisfying for me was that two younger women I suggested it to--one in college, the other in her forties--watched and responded with enthusiasm. In another time we would all have been in the same room, the same movement, working on gun control, violence against women. So many issues, so little time. That was the theme in early meetings of the Women's Political Causcus in 1972 in my Baltimore living room.
Needed right now: women to move gun control into the direction that only women have the courage to do, i.e., take on the biggest challenges. Think Elizabeth Warren and banking. Now Robin Kelly, Illinois legislator now running for Jesse Jackson's Congressional seat with a total focus on gun control. While looking for a photo of her, I encountered a vicious site, "Legal Insurrection," a window into her crazed Republican opposition. [photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP]
The Griot, an NBC blog, reported on her win and her commitment to "fight to ban assault weapons. To close the gun show loophole. And to ban high capacity magazine clips...We will do whatever it takes to end this epidemic of gun violence, once and for all."
Women's History Month was marked on March 1, at Folkways Notebook with a post on Women and Inequality. Barbara linked to the L.A. Times on the reauthorization of VAWA, the Violence against Women Act. The Times used a group photo of Native American Women at a meeting on the Tulalip Reservation (Washington state). They have gathered to promote passage of the Act which has special meaning for them.
Needed right now: women of all colors to move voting rights into the center of public discourse. The League of Women Voters' blog keeps its eye on what the Supreme Court is up to in Shelby County v. Holder. That's how I found the February 27 rally outside the court on February 27. Speaking on the Voting Rights Act to is Francine Lawrence, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Often I miss being back East. And then I found in the Oregonian, our conservative, clueless local newspaper, a photo [Bilal Hussein/AP] from Beirut. "The Uprising of Women in the Arab World" commenorating March 8, International Women's Day.
Translation:I want society to see me as a woman first before they see me as a mother, wife or daughter.
Women's, the people's action, continues in many places.
Too much going on to be a frequent poster here...or infrequent. Yet I want to stay with blogging as a practice even while I need more thought on its structure for the future.
My neighbor Joella demonstrates a perfect solution for all those buttons we collected in second wave activity in last century--coast to coast. Hers in Oregon, mine mostly Baltimore and New York. Gun control is a shared focus through Ceasefire Oregon.
Speaking of blogging, the life in bread has not had enough attention here.
It has not had as much attention as I would wish. Here's a whole wheat sourdough made in October 2011.
My personal challenge is should I emulate one of my favorite, 19th century feminists, Frances E. Willard of the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union).
"Do Everything" was her motto. Is it mine? Her unusual book, "A Wheel with in Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle" used that newly-introduced contrivance as a metaphor for women's lives. An excerpt HERE with comments by a contemporary blogger.
And so you have it: Black History month (a young friend recently pointed out is the shortest month of the year) and the upcoming Women's History Month. Both of which call out for celebration more often. I hope to do my part one day soon but till then...