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Saturday, January 6, 2001

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Rain and schedules

We had some lovely rain today. It wasn't heavy, just enough to get us wet and cold. The air was fairly cool still about midday and I came home to get a heavier jacket. Of course, then it warmed up but life's like that. It wasn't enough to even get a trickle running in the washes but it's the first rain for a while. Winter rains are so different than the monsoons since they are cold. At least I don't sweat when I wear my raincoat.

I've spent most of the afternoon looking at bus schedules and trying to figure out how to go to and from New York City this spring. I'd like to stop a couple places on the way out and a couple places coming back to do volkswalks, not only because I want to pickup some more capitals but because I do better if I don't spend three days on a bus.

I've sort of settled on Baton Rouge and Tallahassee going out but I can't decide on what coming back. It can't be very far north as I'm not sure how cold it's going to be this spring. We're starting out with a very cold winter. It should be good for the southern states which are usually much to hot and buggy even in late spring. I don't mind it being cool anyway since I'm soon taking off layers when I walk.

I finished reading "The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World" by Larry Zuckerman. This was a very interesting book. He starts with how the potato came from the Andes and the ease of planting and harvesting it. Even with that it took a century to catch on at all and then it was considered poor food and for the lazy.

Much of the book was spent on the Ireland potato famine that devastated the country with people literally dying in the ditches. The peasants depended heavily on the potato because of the very bad land laws and the potato was the one crop that was filling and easy to grow, leaving them time to earn money at other jobs. On the tiny plots they could eat better with potatoes than with anything else and then they were considered lazy for depending on the potato.

Zuckerman showed how completely primitive cooking facilities were in most homes other than the rich at that time and then the poor were blamed for not cooking tasteful, nutritious meals. The potato also worked well as a fast food, both at home and at fish and chips shops. Again this was popular as the normal work day was twelve to fourteen hours. Today the same bias exists toward those who eat at McDonalds or Burger King. For some reason sitting around a tastefully set dinner table with a tasteful and nutritious meals and chatting about the day with your family is suppose to make you more moral than those who eat and run.

The potato was actually blamed for the famine when it fell to a fungus because it was thought to make people lazy. Even when the true cause of the crop failure was determined some people didn't believe it because they preferred to blame the famine on the laziness of both the potato and the poor. I'm not one for handing out money to people but there are some things people just can't help. I won't say an act of god, since I don't believe in god, so how about an act of nature.

This is a very good look at not only the history of a great vegetable but how closely morality was intertwined with everything, whether it mattered or not. Morality does matter but eating unfashionable foods isn't a matter of morality nor is being subject to laws that do not allow you to make a decent life for yourself. We've let go of many silly ideas about morality but new ones show up and old ones return with a new look.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2001.
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