A lot of people still ask me (and presumably always will, so think about what that implies for a minute!) why I live here and I promised that I had 1,001 good reasons.
One of the most important ones to understand is that food = peace.
The evidence of this is immediately apparent when you look around you. Where are all the fucked up violent places on earth? Where are people literally fighting and shooting and raping and killing each other?
It’s always in a place of food scarcity. Iraq? Dirty and hot and mostly sand. You get sick of eating camel meat and figs all day pretty quick. Afghanistan? The dusty side of Mars! Jungles of Africa and little brown people squatting in the foliage of Colombia. They’re all areas where food is scarce. I’ve been to Israel – it’s mostly a hot brown country with a metric ton of rocks lying around.
On a local level, this is the same reason you see it in big cities of the so-called “rich” countries. Seriously, it never makes sense, if a country is so rich and great then why do their big cities get rife with vicious crime?
Then you look at it and you realize in richer cities like London or Paris or Detroit or Oakland California (Acorn represent!) the food scarcity aspect is hidden. Every “bad” pocket of a city is characterized by next to zero food grown immediately locally, which means every bag of chips and loaf of bread is essentially “imported” from somewhere else.
This means that the locals are at the mercy of a predatory system of food control which can be summed up in a single sentence. Food that is processed, in other words converted from its natural state and then wrapped in a shiny container with a cutesy logo that you’ve developed emotional affinity for because the product is advertised a million times with the conscious and willful intention of the marketing department because it’s both legal and morally okay to partially hypnotize a large segment of the population in order to make a profit even when it means widespread malnutrition.
That’s food control. Shit food is more profitable than unprocessed food. And so you rip out the heart of a neighborhood, a city or even a region until people fight over the scraps. And when it becomes as large as a country (Afghanistan, particularly comes to mind) you find that Pepsis and Pringles are easier to get than a fresh tomato.
Likewise when you reverse it, when you live in a super fertile country (or city, or region) that grows a big percentage of its own food, the exact opposite becomes true. Life is always more peaceful when food is plentiful and available in its unprocessed state.
Let me tell you, there are some pretty damn poor Romanians, there’s no doubt about it. There’s some pretty grim villages out there where people get mud on their clothes as a matter of regularity and got to go a fair piece to get a doctoring. And far grimmer are the Domnul Lazarescu types, about which I once wrote Cine Joaca Sa Traiasca, the wizened city dwellers who have to eke by on a tiny pension and whatever they can seize by their own wits.
And just like you’d expect, the real couple in that story were incredibly malnourished (mostly due to their own stupidity!) and lived on primarily instant “Ness” coffee which they would drown in sugar, mamaliga and then cured meats (sausages, et al) that were usually given to them by a family member.
Poor bastards get badly malnourished when they eat so poorly. But in contrary, all the jolliest villagers I ever met were eating fresh local food all the time! There is a lot of fertile land in this country and even a person of middling ability can grow a ton of food.
Even Bucharest, with its size, is not just providing itself a ton of local food (a combination of the stuff grown on people’s balconies and between the blocuri as well as straight up “regular” farming) but also has numerous markets where you can get the fresh stuff that’s grown right down the road.
And every smaller city is even more festooned with local food. Christ, I know a guy right here in Unicorn City who has a cow that he milks every frigging day LOL I remember being hungry as hell one day in Sinaia and somehow I found the million year old piata and came up on the mother jackpot of raspberries and blackberries. Bam!
Likewise anyone with a bit of money in these cities (and any sense, unlike the mamaliga + caffeine/sugar + cured meat died) can access this food.
And so I told you this story but wanted to test how the situation was amongst the homeless here in Unicorn City, which I happen to be quite familiar with. So I started doing like a little “survey” to see how good they were living.
Clothing condition? Yes, sometimes quite poor. And nothing sucks worse than wet shoes in the winter.
Living conditions? In the summertime it’s fine but in winter it can get pretty gruesome.
Eating conditions? Turns out that they eat just fine and quite regularly. Besides just cash handouts from pedestrians walking by or people in the neighborhood knowing them, they also get a lot of food handouts.
I also asked my buddy Ishti about it and he told me rar nu mananc dimineata which means “I rarely miss breakfast”, which I took to be quite a good sign indeed. It’s exactly why Cluj is so peaceful is that pretty much everyone is well fed.
It isn’t some kind of topnotch crime busting cops or vigilant citizenry or “inborn goodheartedness” of the people who live here which is what makes this city so peaceful, it is the food abundance that allows people to get along. When people’s bellies are full, they fight a lot less.
Think about any Romanian major holiday, there is always a ton of eating involved. The food stores get cleaned out in these parts around Easter. But even the “smaller” holidays always involve a ton of food. The good ones always do! And people can be jolly and relax and have a good time when they’ve got lots of food in their stomach.
This is why people can lament about the “good old” Communist days but that will never, ever return. The food has been “flowing” quite nicely since after the revolution. Stupidest thing Ceausescu ever did was first, borrow money from the IMF and then secondly, sell off most of his wheat crop to pay the money back!
Everyone in Romania has a grandma who grew up in some seriously tough food times, who had to do all kinds of ingenious and scrotum shriveling, Anne Frank in the attic kind of things like eating potato peels and older sisters standing in the fields, feeding their infant brothers with a milk-soaked rag.
But all them old times is gone around these parts. And that’s why everything is cool right now and why this city has lazy homeless gypsies and lazy cops and lazy bridge inspectors and lazy professors and a lazy mayor and why you’d have to take a baseball hat to a hornet’s nest to get anyone to put up a fight with or against anyone or anything.
It’s why little children play in the street and kittens scamper on fenceposts and shepherds wrap bark around clabbered milk and little kids go down to the store to buy dad’s smokes and you can safely stagger home drunk from a bar without getting robbed and why people open their arms to you and welcome you in with incredibly generosity and you’ve never had a truly serious problem with anyone, ever.
And you know what? It’s nice to live in a peaceful country like that.
5 thoughts on “Food is Peace”
You’re so inspiring, Sam. I’ll never step into a McDonald’s again:)
There is really no real neat way to end this discussion about Iraq and the USA. Passions and politics usually give way to facts pretty quickly. Iraq did as well as it did before the USA invaded because Sadam had the full backing of the USA in the form of US military and economic aid.
Iraq did have a well educated population, even women experienced high levels of literacy. Yes, the war brought that all down. Iraq’s success before the USA invasion had much to do with the USA’s aid to Iraq.
On the food thought. Economics, which includes food, has always been the reason as far as I can see when it comes to conflict. Religion is often the excuse, race, ethnicity, etc, but in the end economics always factors in to the cause. Sam makes a pretty good point.
Hm, interesting point.
Dear Sam, before the US army reduced it to dust, Iraq was a civilized, self sufficient country…and I am not speaking about hundred years ago…just about until end of 20th century, It was the garden of the Middle East…As we say in Arabic ”fat el fat…wa lif fat mat” i.e. what’s past is past…and the past is dead! Very infortunate for the Iraki people though!
Even Bucharest, with its size, is not just providing itself a ton of local food (a combination of the stuff grown on people’s balconies and between the blocuri…
Yeah, right! You forgot to mention all the cows, sheep and chicken we keep in the living room… :)