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02 September 2005

trying to savor every bite


seeing red, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

I have to write this: I feel a little silly keeping a food blog while all those people are dying, or near it, in New Orleans. I find it almost impossible to believe that 20,000 people or more are huddled in a major American city, or trapped in hospitals for days on end, with no food or water. I just don’t understand.

Early this morning, I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. I’ve been watching television, in spite of myself, and I’ve had a hard time not crying. Small children slipping into stupors in front of the television cameras for lack of food. Older men with glazed eyes no longer able to sip water. Women sitting along sidewalks, sweating, swearing, wondering where the hell is help.

And every glossy advertisement for beauty products and new cars, interspersed between the shots of raw suffering, makes me even feel even sicker.

And all I can do is sit here and take it in.

I take everything in. I don’t have much of a veneer. Other people’s suffering sometimes devastates me, because it should. We think too much of our own small selves. We worry about the minute details of our lives and blow them up in our minds. Meanwhile, we’re all bound together, all of us. And keeping this food blog has made me even more aware of hunger and how deeply human it is.

I know that there are good people in this, working hard, desperately trying to save other people. Doctors trapped in hospitals with no electricity or running water. Individuals fording through fetid water up to their chests, trying to find more stranded neighbors. Helicopter pilots flying into the area in spite of safety concerns. Times like this really can bring out the best in people. And I believe in people.

If you haven’t gone there already, here’s the website for the American Red Cross. Or, the Salvation Army. Harry Connick Jr, a lovely musician from New Orleans, has been walking among the people trapped near the convention center, and in a voice hoarse with emotion, he told the cameras how desperately upset he is that so little is being done. He’s a good man, and his website has some suggestions too.

But what I don’t understand is this: if a celebrity with a camera crew can walk among those thousands of starving people, dehydrated in 90-degree weather, why can’t the police get in there? Why can’t they just bring in trucks with bottles of water?

I just don’t understand why it is taking this government so long to bring food to starving people.

It's not enough to survive 100 mph winds or fifteen-foot storm surges, or flooding throughout the town, or living in one's attic for three days, without water, hoping that someone might hear your plaintive voice. But then, you gather in front of the Convention Center, just in front of the water, assuming that someone will recognize your plight, and that of the 10,000 people around you. After all, people all over the world are watching you and your neighbors on television. Diabetic women in insulin shock. Pregnant women going into labor. Handicapped women in wheelchairs having seizures. Old men who cannot breathe anymore. The government's going to come, aren't they?

Oh, that's right. The Louisiana National Guard is in Iraq.

I can't be the only one who's thinking this: if all those thousands of people weren't black, and poor, would they just be allowed to languish there? Would the police refuse to enter into the area for fear of their own safety if the masses of people, starving, hysterical, and naked (to quote Ginsberg, in a way he probably never intended) were white? If this had been Malibu, California, and all the victims had been movie stars, would they still be there, four days later, with no hope of rescue?

Would this happen in Seattle?

So I can’t really post what I planned to post today: a loving, luscious record of my favorite childhood food memories, including passages about sipping mint juleps, in New Orleans Square, at Disneyland. I’ll be back tomorrow with luscious descriptions of food and exuberance over finally feeling well, cooking with unusual grains and organic foods. But it just feels wrong today.

Later today, some dear friends are coming into town for the weekend, so I’m preparing a feast this afternoon. Quinoa salad with smoked salmon and capers. Fresh pesto with brown-rice pasta. Grapefruit salad with picholine olives. Marinated pork tacos with homemade corn tortillas. And chocolate sorbet, made in the ice cream maker that Carol gave me yesterday. Again, it feels decadent.

But I’ve decided that what I can do is this:

I’m going to savor every bite of food I’m lucky enough to be able to eat today.

11 Comments:

At 9:25 AM, Blogger ke said...

Sometimes getting angry can really help. CNN anchors are yelling at senators and bloggers are bitching about how horrible the government's response to the tradgedy is. Bloggers are also posting links to the Red Cross and other charities that can help. A lot of people are disgusted -- and posts like yours are going to inspire people to action! So, maybe you have helped more than you think.
Oh, yeah, I love your food blog, by the way!

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger tara said...

What a sobering, eloquent post. I came to your site since I've been eharing such great reviews lately, and was humbled to find such inspiring words. Well done.

 
At 12:03 PM, Anonymous the pragmatic chef™ said...

I know, Shauna. It's hard for me to post on anything else these last few days. I'm starting to get news through the Specialty Foods organization, and I'll post it as I get it.

We all need to support these relief organizations, and those who have been called back to active duty to help.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Erica said...

I know what you mean. I have the flu, and I feel terrible for every pathetic, self-pitying thought that I have had.

If you need a reminder of the kindness of strangers, take a look at craigslists in the states surrounding the affected areas. People are opening up their homes to evacuees in waves. I actually started to tear up when I was reading through them this afternoon.

 
At 2:15 AM, Blogger kitchenmage said...

All I can say is I am proud to have tagged you for the meme you aren't doing today.

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger Rachael said...

You captured my thoughts exactly. My heart is broken for those people. Just torn apart.

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Shauna said...

KE--

I agree with you. There are people still in their homes, trapped on balconies, six days later. We have a right to be angry.

Tara--

Thank you so much for what you wrote.

Pragmatic--

Keep us posted through the network of specialty foods. I wish that I could offer my home, but I don't imagine they're going to want a futon in Seattle. Still, I'm feeling a little helpless.

Erica--

Thanks for pointing me to Craigslist. That really moved me too. It's always away from the mainstream media glare that I realize just how good people are.

Kitchenmage--

I'm glad you tagged me too. Yesterday morning, it just didn't feel right to write it. But the structure of it forced me to break free and write what I did instead. Today, I think I can write it.

Rachael--

I agree. I walked around broken-hearted all day yesterday. People on the street in Seattle kept looking at me kindly, as though I were grieving. I was.

 
At 7:39 PM, Blogger Ruth said...

Like the rest, I too have been moved beyond words - filled with sadness and despair for the victims, anger and frustration at the government for not acting quicker.


Your post was msot eloquent.

 
At 10:36 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, Ruth, as always.

 
At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Melissa said...

Hi Shauna, this was a very moving essay on the horrific situation in New Orleans. How this could have happened the way it has is beyond me - I used to live in New Orleans and just can't fathom that half the people there have been left to die while the other half are given free reign to prey on them. I think you have the right response, though - apart from donating and doing what we can, it's important to let events like this remind us how lucky we are and how we should slow down and enjoy what we have, while we have it. Thanks.

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger kitchenmage said...

GFG, get you to do me a favor and swap the URL you have in your sidebar for this one? (I know I have your email address but I can't find it.) thx!

~km

 

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