Saturday Tweets: A Difficult Week

The American College of the Building Arts

I have lingering regrets about my choice of college degree. It’s not that I think that studying music wasn’t worthwhile, but rather that I was more invested in the idea of being a musician rather than the act of making music. And let’s not get into the plinky-plunky, modernist musical cat fight that passed for the musical curriculum at UCSD, where I did my graduate work.

If I were to step into a time machine back to high school and ponder my next move I have no doubt that I’d ditch the University of California and head to Charleston, South Carolina to attend the American College of the Building Arts. ACBA was formed in the wake of hurricane Hugo, when local residents found that there were no skilled craftspersons to rebuild the traditional buildings that grace Charleston. Skilled workers had to be imported from Europe. The founders of ACBA set out to fix that problem by offering a four year degree that combines shop classes with the liberal arts. At ACBA you can study traditional building crafts such as masonry, timber framing, ironwork, plasterwork and classical architecture as well as English, Spanish, science and math. Many trade schools will teach you plumbing and stick framing, but few will teach you the things that ACBA offers. Garden & Gun magazine has an article on ACBA if you’d like to know more.

Of course things worked out for me in the end. I met my wife Kelly at UCSD when I discovered that the art department grad students threw much better parties than the dour music department.

2018: The Year Squirrels Discovered our Pomegranate Tree

One could complain that this blog allots way too much space to two topics: tidying up and complaints about squirrels. At the risk of repetition, let’s discuss the squirrel issue this morning beginning with a year end review of our fruit harvest totals:

Fuji apples: 0
Winter banana apples: 0
Fuyu persimmons: 0
Hachiya persimmons: 0
Peaches: 0
Pomegranates: 6
Figs: 20?
Avocados: 20? but with a few bite marks

So not a total loss in the pom department but a long ways from my days of thinking that the hard skin of pomegranates are squirrel proof.

This is the point in my squirrel complaint blog post where I lazily link to UC Davis’ squirrel management notions. It’s also the paragraph in which I claim to have discovered a miracle squirrel cure in the form of a lame old man joke. Now you’ve got a bad case of earworm. Go ahead and suggest dogs and rifles in the comments and you’ll see us soon on a PETA billboard.

Saturday Tweets: One Crazy Week

Food Storage Revisited

Kitchen spice pantry at the Joseph D. Oliver House, 1946. Photo: Library of Congress.

My post on de-cluttering our food storage hit a nerve proving, yet again, that the most direct path to the deeper issues of our culture is through the mundane details of our daily lives. Through the neglected field of home economics one can address collective vs. individual action, city planning, capitalism and, gasp, even eschatology.

To clarify my original post, I was not arguing against keeping a pantry stocked, rather that our pantry had accumulated a lot of useless items. I also contend that the storage in our house, built in 1920, is adequate for our day to day and emergency needs without having to add more shelves. In addition to the cabinets mentioned in the post on Monday, our house also has storage under the seating in the breakfast nook as well as built-in cabinets and drawers in a hallway adjacent to the kitchen. And there’s another set of cabinets that hold our dishes. I should also clarify that if you live out in the country and have a big vegetable garden you will need a larger pantry or basement. We are urban dwellers with, at best, a tiny vegetable garden (which has been neglected this year while I work on the house).

That said there are some big differences between the kitchens of the 1920s and the kitchens of today that present new challenges. Some of those changes:

  • We have a lot more kitchen gadgets and consumer electronics.
  • With the ascendancy of the personal automobile we have fewer small neighborhood markets in walking distance.
  • Pervasive cable TV food porn that pushes us all to turn our kitchens into the next elBulli.

Helms Bakery delivery truck alerting us all to the dangers of baking at home!

One thing that went away during the mid 20th century and has now returned is food delivery. In the 1920s lots of things were delivered: milk, baked goods, ice etc. Food delivery has returned in the form of services such as Instacart and Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods. Unfortunately, many of these new services rely on gig economy serfdom, which has made me uncomfortable about using them, though Instacart was handy when my mom could no longer drive herself to the market. I suspect we’ll see a lot more food delivery in the near future and can see how helpful it is to busy families with young children or elders to take care of. I’d just like to make sure that the folks delivering the food can also afford to buy that food.

I think if I could “immanentize the eschaton” of our 21st century pantries I’d see those shelves holding useful, healthy staples always ready to turn into basic meals. While that sounds simple, it’s not. Can we please bring back those home economics classes and make them co-ed?