Chennai Journal
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Back in the Saddle Again

After a wonderful vacation and a few days in the office, I'm back in Chennai again. We spent several days in New Hampshire at our place in Keene. Harry and I climbed Mt. Monadnock --he made it all the way to the top and I will save that for another day--supposedly is the second most climbed mountain in the world after Mt. Fuji in Japan.

And of course I spent time with Dad. He is not walking much now, as he is quite unsteady. But he seems content. I took the iPod with me to the nursing home, and played some of his favorites for him--Ravel's Bolero and 101 Strings "Soul of Spain." He would have been proud that I biked instead of rode the car on a couple of occasions--the nursing home is only a few miles from our house. Back in Tawas, Dad was an ubiquitous sight on his bright red bicycle--"I never take the car when I can ride my bike, and I don't take the bike when I can walk." Now, sadly, he is unable to do either.
I was dismayed at how the price of produce has shot up in the U.S. Everything seemed expensive, even more than meat. In New Hampshire we got some delicious strawberries at a local farm, but even those were pretty expensive. I did discover a new item--garlic scapes. These were delicious and very versatile.
Back in Chennai, the hot weather has broken and the mornings especially are very pleasant. Southern India does not get the summer monsoon that hits the North and West, but now there are occasionally rainstorms that also seem to have a mild cooling effect. Every season now is my last in India, and though I have grown acclimatized to the intense heat, I can't say that I will miss the oven blasts of spring and early summer here......

By the way, I realize now that your perceptions of prices might be colored by your time in India. Veggies have been more expensive than meat for years and years now (at least as long as I've been grocery shopping) largely due to US farm subsidies. Almost all farm aid goes to corn and soy, which in turn is almost all used as animal feed. There is next to no aid for vegetable farmers, who are also more subject to the weather, insects, and short term market pricing than the large grain agro-industries. This has been a growing area of social activism in the US for a while (see last week's NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/dining/04farm.html, and one of the responses over the past 10 years is the network of farmers markets around the country.
So its not that the veggies are expensive (I get amazing zucchini in season for less than $2 a pound), but that industrial processed meat is too heavily subsidized (especially considering the effects it has on health and the environment).
As a bit of consolation, we pay far less for our food as a percent of our income than almost any first world nation. Europeans pay far more for their veggies, so don't feel so bad when paying $4 for a pint of fresh healthy strawberries!
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