Sunday, November 12, 2006

Braudel for twelve year olds

My son's grade has an event where different subgroups volunteer to bring regional foods from different parts of Colonial America. My son's group was assigned the "Back Country", and, in their research, they learned that pork formed a major part of the Apalachian diet. It turns out that the pig's combination of intelligence and loyalty is ideally suited to ungenerous Appalachian terrain: A pig is smart enough to find its own food, and loyal enough to return home to be slaughtered. So, in many ways, a pork-rich diet allowed people to scratch a meager existence from the frontier.

My son volunteered to bring a salt pork roast to the event. He goes to an urban public school, and ten per cent of his class is either Jewish or Moslem, so this might seem to be a faux pas. His three Jewish classmates assured him that it would not hurt their feelings if he brought his roast, but he did not canvas the Islamic kids, and one of the marvelously liberal parents suggested that it might be less socially awkward if my son prepared a different dish. I also consider myself liberal, but my feeling is that if a twelve year old is willing to spend two month's allowance on a ten pound roast and is willing to spend spend his time preparing it, then I would rather not micromanage his generosity(particularly because he already demonstrated excellent sensitivity by including his Jewish friends in his decision-making process).

I'm planning on talking with his teacher tomorrow, to be sure that everything is fine, but, upon further reflection, his classmates will miss a potentially valuable learning opportunity if he doesn't bring his roast. Most educated people believe that the biggest problem with the former frontier states is that they do not have enough Jews, and the absence of Jews on the frontier is bound up with the fact the source of protein most suited to uncultivated land is traif. In an ideal world, the food at his school event would be as authentic as possible, and every dish from the back-country, from succotash to apple pie, would be heavily larded. Then, as different ethnic groups shun the backcountry table, the children would develop a greater understanding the historical origins of the red states' lack of ethnic diversity and tolerance, and see how a simple thing like a dietary prohibition can have lasting political ramifications.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borrow, I followed this post until the final paragraph. So are you saying we would have an equally distributed educated and tolerant polis had the jews only eaten pork? If so, your
chronology is in need of checking. THe great wave of Jewish
migration was well after the frontier days, unless you count
parts of the west and southwest. And, while I am no expert on southern cusine, I believe there was probably a great range of variance in protein sources. Did you never see Jed Clampitt hunting for possum and squirrel, ect, neither of which are prohibitive to the House of David.
Otherwise, a fine post and I'm sure the legions of Borrow readers will side with your son's 'merican right to bring in
a well salted hunk of bacon to the horror, wonder and edification of his peers.

4:13 PM  

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