I didn't write this one, but I wish I had. I love Maureen Dowd, I don't always agree with her but she is such a smart woman and excellent writer. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass on the opinion (and it's just an opinion people, and I realize NOT the only one) of George Lucas on Cheney - something I have said in the past and present.
As well, her review on the first gardener I found delightful - so enjoy.
April 19, 2009
The Aura of Arugulance
By MAUREEN DOWD
The first thing I wanted to do in the Bay Area was go out to Skywalker Ranch and ask George Lucas about a disturbing conversation we’d had at an Obama inaugural party in Washington.
Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” had told me that I had gotten Dick Cheney completely wrong, that Cheney was no Darth Vader. I felt awful. Had I been too hard on Vice?
Lucas explained politely as I listened contritely. Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. “George Bush is Darth Vader,” he said. “Cheney is the emperor.”
I was relieved. In “Star Wars” terms, Dick Cheney was more evil than Darth Vader. I hadn’t been hard enough on Vice!
Lucas was on his way to Europe and didn’t have time to elaborate in person. But he sent me this message confirming our conversation: “You know, Darth Vader is really a kid from the desert planet near Crawford, and the true evil of the universe is the emperor who pulls all the strings.”
Sated, I went over to talk to the other celestial celebrity in San Francisco who inspires cultlike devotion for what she does with green cooking rather than blue screens: Alice Waters, who has created her own mythical empire of healthy food with her cookbooks, edible gardens in public schools and renowned Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.
Waters has been much in the news lately as the fairy godmother of the White House organic vegetable garden, an idea she has been pushing since 1993. Instead, Bill Clinton installed a seven-seat hot tub on the South Lawn. Though he loved to eat, Bill was more a consumer of fast food than slow food, as Waters calls her movement to persuade Americans to sup on simple, locally grown foods free of pesticides and herbicides.
The 64-year-old Waters, who got her taste for revolutions in the ‘60s in school at Berkeley with the antiwar and women’s movements, wears a gold peace sign on a necklace. But with her radiant skin and her mesmerizing, hesitating arias about the sensual pleasures of food, she seems more like a ‘30s movie actress than a graying hippie. (I’m not surprised to find out she loves Turner Classic Movies and Hollywood’s vintage hotel, Chateau Marmont, that she named her restaurant after a character in Marcel Pagnol’s 1930s trilogy of movies, and that she thinks of her restaurant as theater.)
She wasn’t invited to the opening of the White House garden, and she understands why the Obamas would want “to keep a kind of distance from me and from that whole celebrity chef” aura. Barack Obama got upset during the campaign that he was painted as a finicky elitist after he complained about the price of arugula at Whole Foods.
She’s well aware of the criticism leveled at her in blogs for condescension and food snobbery. In a post on Friday called “Alice in Wonderland,” National Review stirred the pot against her: “The truth is, organic food is an expensive luxury item, something bought by those who have the resources.”
She says wryly: “I’m just put into that arugulance place. I own a fancy restaurant. I own an expensive restaurant. I never thought of it as fancy. People don’t know we’re supporting 85 farms and ranches and all of that.
“And so my first thing I say, it’s going to cost more and I want to pay for my food. I go to the farmers’ market; it makes me feel like I’m making a donation.”
Since the Obamas haven’t taken her up on her offer of a “kitchen cabinet,” she wants to do her first TV show called “The Green Kitchen.” She can do a soliloquy on the “discernment” of choosing the most ambrosial orange. But she also says that a recession is a time when people need to learn the basics — “a kind of everyday cooking, in a really tasty way. We’re really trying to take the ‘ie’ out of foodie.”
She says she’s sick of hearing about diets and obesity in America, and believes neither would be so prevalent if her European-style “delicious revolution” succeeded.
Waters is a visionary. She imagines a “peace garden” on the Gaza Strip that would employ people “from all sides.” She imagines a high school where the kids could run the whole cafeteria themselves, learning math, nutrition, art and food. She imagines starting gardens at Monticello and Mount Vernon that would “become the source of all food in the White House.” She imagines food being covered on the front page and the business page — not the food page, or on TV by “lesser” reporters like “the weatherman.”
Her most ambitious vision involves President Obama, who didn’t want beets in his garden. “I would just like to serve him some golden beets sometime that were roasted in the oven, that were not overcooked, that were dressed with a lovely little vinaigrette, maybe even diced in a salad,” she says in her seductive way. “Squeeze ‘em with a little lime. It’s fantastically nutritious.”
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company