By Susan North
Castronomics=Castro + gastronomics, i.e. Castro dictates regarding the rationing of food in Cuba. These dictates change from time to time but are done to control where, what, and how much food can be purchased, and determines how much may be consumed per person. In other words, the government controls what Cubans eat.
Cuba once had the 8th highest wages on earth and, according to the 1960 Statistical Yearbook of the UN, Cuba ranked third of eleven Latin American countries for being well-fed. Then Fidel Castro took power, and rationing has been a feature of life in Cuba ever since. Today the people of Cuba are among the worse fed people in the Western Hemisphere. By contrast, in pre-Castro Cuba, the Cubans were among the best fed in the Western Hemisphere.
Where you aware that Fidel Castro is setting up shop in the White House? American’s first lady of Castronomics. Lady Castronomics delights in creating new methods of serving up the greater good, more in tune with the times than the dictates of her Cuban brethern. One must admire (and she craves admiration) her ingenuity, for indeed her methods are ingenious (if diabolical). Under the guise of being helpful, serving the “greater good”, and that old stand-by, “concern for the children”, she has found new methods of rationing, and more victims, or as she likes to call them, “people in need” (of her guidance).
Her new programs to “improve” the diets of these so-called “people in need” have garnered her accolades from multiple sources (aka Kool-Aid drinkers). And if there is one thing our First Lady of Castronomics relishes it is accolades. Her concern for what people eat has been featured on numerous television shows, in newspapers and magazines. She has been photographed growing vegetables, wearing an apron as if cooking, and serving food. But does she ever do any gardening, cooking, or waitressing?
Her gardening has been exposed as a fraud, and someone on her staff is probably tending that well-photographed garden. As to cooking, well she might on occasion, but her domestic staff handles that on a daily basis and for special occasions – in fact we know the names of some of them. And of course the waitressing is mostly for photo opportunities, because it is clear you cannot waitress in all those nice outfits seen in all those photographs. Outfits which must take a fair amount of shopping time just to acquire. Also she spends a LOT of time giving speeches explain her wonderful ideas on what should and should not be eaten, the source of these foods, and the importance of growing your own or having community gardens. Here are some of her revolutionary ideas:
Lady Castronomics believes everyone should eat fresh, unprocessed, locally grown foods. Entirely possible for some people, but if you live in Alaska or Maine, part of the year this is nothing more than a Martha Stewart idyll and much of your food will come out of the freezer. Unless you can raise your own food or shop in a farmers’ market the fresh and local part, can be a bit difficult almost anywhere. The unprocessed part is nice too, but does cutting up a piece of fruit count? If you don’t have time for making salads or cannot buy salad mixes, then I suppose you are not eating properly according to Lady Castronomics.
Our Lady of Castronomics was very worried about childhood obesity. It was clear that programs in countries with well-planned central economics have long bread lines and sometimes mass starvation. That would of course reduce obesity, but probably would not be too popular. So she decided to concentrate on “food deserts” (i.e. long distance from a grocery). Now most people I know who live in food deserts make arrangements to have food, but evidently she was worried about “food deserts”. Despite a 2009 Department of Agriculture study http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/AP/AP035/ which proved that “food deserts” are nearly non-existent, she felt that a $400 million project was necessary to address this nearly non-existent problem.
Walmart tried very hard to open new stores in places which are “food deserts” but the First Lady of Castronomics has friends who hate Walmart, and that made it difficult, if not impossible for the chain. Maybe that is why Walmart is making nice to her now – they still want to open those stores.
She has made it clear that “We can’t just leave it up to parents”. Besides if children get their meals at school every day, and year round, it would provide a lot more jobs especially for those nice folks of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union – the government employees’ union). And government determined meals are so, so, well so Fidel Castronomic – it would also be a plus for cultural diversity.
No word yet on Lady Castronomic’s response to the Food Safety Modernization Act (passed January 4, 2011) – which sounds like a terrific idea. It grants government authority over the growth, trade and transport of all food. But it could have serious consequences for all those community gardens she talks about. We thought responsibility for this bill should go to Farmer Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, after all he is from Iowa, a big farm state and it is his job to supervise Agriculture and food. But instead the bill puts the backyard garden under the Department of Homeland Security. We don’t know why. Maybe because Janet Napolitano (head of Homeland Security) is from Arizona and Arizona has a lot of deserts, and a lot of Mexicans who do farming. Or maybe because the bill is a man-caused disaster.
Anyway, the law gives the U.S. government the right to arrest backyard food producers for selling their produce, which might be hard on those community gardeners. Clearly the First Lady of Castronomics isn’t going to sell her produce – after all she isn’t interested in generating revenue, and could get arrested. So this got us to thinking. What is she doing with that backyard garden?
Well, it could help with the household budget and we all need to cut back somewhere. And after all, she does have to feed two children, her mother and her husband (although he apparently is always sneaking off to fill up on junk food), but a backyard garden might help. Plus, she does have a lot of guests, but hey, that’s paid for by someone else (shared sacrifice anyone?).
So what was the reason for that garden? It made for some nice press – m’lady in the garden, photos of m’lady in a New York studio with her vegetables (opps, those veggies were from a local supermarket, not her famous garden).
Finally, we realized the purposes of that garden: gifts, conversation, and virtue. Lots of people come to visit – also she goes to lots of places. M’lady could give veggies from her garden to her visitors and hosts. Also the veggies are colorful and could complement or compete with her wardrobe (why not, it is always competing with her or itself). Plus holding baskets of vegetables, or big veggies like cabbages or pumpkins could be used to conceal her ample girth.
Talking is more important than doing in Lady Castronomics world and a garden would give her something to talk about. It seems her husband has her under strict orders never to mention again how mean the country is, nor can she talk about how much she hates living in the most prestigious house in the country. A lot of people think that because she doesn’t like the house and the country she lives in that she is not patriotic. But, she is determined to prove them wrong – growing and eating her own vegetables is evidence of her patriotism, virtue, and concern for the health of America’s citizens - just ask any vegetarian.
Will efforts to acclimate children to (Fidel) Castro-style dining succeed? Despite all her best efforts, children are still haunting all those places which serve happy meals in cheerful settings. To fight these terrible places the Los Angeles Unified School district implemented new ‘healthier’ menus, in part funded by money from the Department of Health and Human Services. But the children have largely rejected the black bean burgers, vegetarian curries, and quinoa salads in favor of foods they bring from home or buy in their schools’ developing black market of candy, chips and other forbidden foods. All of this has resulted in a 13% drop in school lunch participation, and 87% of the students getting their lunch on the black market in their schools. On the other hand the children are learning to be resourceful and to fight tyranny on their own terms.
Most recently Lady Castronomics has turned the focus of her passion for healthy eating on the military, and we cannot help but wonder what the impact of her plans will be on the military’s MREs. The military is an audience ideally suited to her ideas – a captive audience which often has no choice but to eat what is put before them. But does munching on a Babe Ruth bar occasionally instead of eating a salad make one AWOL? According to Lady Castronomics this could classified you as a food felon, an unrepentant gouger, driving up the price of health care, a threat, a burden to society to be shipped to a re-education center so you will not become a hindrance in maintaining a fair and equitable society for all.
And finally we wonder if our First Lady of Castronomics will apply for a waiver for her backyard garden, just like all those companies and states which have received waivers from the new healthcare bill.
However, maybe this time she has gone too far – after all Janet over at Homeland Security works for Lady Castronomics’ husband, and he seems to prefer junk food over vegetables.
We are exhausted from writing about all these glorious plans. So we have decided to go have a Big Mac, some fries and a soda - while they are still legal.
Thanks to Stan Zir who originally suggested the article and provided some excellent ideas.