Who are we?
Jacques Pepin is one of America's best-known chefs. He is the author of 24 books, including a best-selling memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. He has also hosted nine public television cooking series, the most recent of which is called More Fast Food My Way. Pepin was born in rural France and his first exposure to cooking was in his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican. He began his formal apprenticeship at the age of thirteen and went on to work in Paris as the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. He moved to the United States in 1959 and studied at Columbia University. Pepin is a former columnist for The New York Times and now writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. He received France's highest civilian honor, the French Legion of Honor, in 2004. He lives in Madison, Connecticut.
Question: What forces have shaped humanity most?
Jacques Pepin: As I think I mentioned, Levi-Strauss before who said that cooking is the process by which, you know, nature is transformed into culture. That very important. And European civilization, you know, certainly you can go back. And anything can be filtered through the food itself. I mean anthropology, history, sociology, even politic you know? You have political decision like the tax on la gabelle in France in the 17th century which put a tax on salt. Those are political decision who decide where the food goes, or how the food is going to be consumed; or the embargo of Carter in the ‘70s. Again the grand embargo against certain country in Europe. This political decision as we see in Africa and other parts of the world will determine where the food goes, who dies, and who starves. And who dies and who lives. So those are . . . Whether it’s political . . . Religion. You know food can be a . . . The Bible is an enormous source for food, or for history of food if you want, you know. So whether it’s sociology, there is no part of social science which cannot be really filtered through food. And to a certain extent now, it becomes a subject which is more not only relevant, but more respected. I mean at Boston University, we’re offering our Master of Liberal Arts with a concentration on Gastronomy. I mean that would have been totally unthinkable 20, 30 years ago and even less than that. When I came to America and I worked at the Pavillion, which was considered the greatest French restaurant here. I was part of Local 89, and Local 89 was the dishwasher, the chef, the cook, to everybody in the same basket. There was no difference. And at that point, you know, I have to say that after . . . after the Pavillion I worked for Howard Johnson. I worked with a lot of black people. Black chef behind the stove. That’s where I _______ most into the kitchen. And now that the cooking had exploded and had become very glamorous, and inspired, and even genius-like, you know, then you, for some reason – and I think it’s a loss for the country – don’t have many black who are into cooking now. A couple, you know, but not many. But many young American chefs are in that business now, which as I say years ago they would not even . . . that was considered a low, uninspired type of job which now it’s exactly the opposite. So we have the peregrination of the chef. It’s quite interesting because something happened in the same way in the 17th, 18th century in France. In fact there was a book written by Meneau in the first half of the 18th century which is called Le Nouvelle Cuisine France – the new French cooking. So you see the nouvelle cuisine which erupted here in the ‘70s, but already existing in the 18th century. And it went down and up. Cuisine was at an apex again during the . . . during the end of the 19th century at the time of the belle epoque. Then it went down and up again. So it’s an interesting take, again, to look at this story of cooking.
Question: How has technology changed cooking in the last 50 years?
Jacques Pepin: Well technology certainly has changed a great deal of the cooking. And it’s changing maybe even more so now. There is good and there is bad. Certainly things like the food processor, saran wrap and plastic . . . or rubber spatula are, for me, great innovation of the last 30 years. But it is like this, you know. We always manipulate food. And our ancestors, you know, didn’t have anything to eat. And what we call wheat now was actually a wild . . . a wild weed which through cross-breeding, and changing, and manipulation we end up now with this. I mean not that long ago when I was a child, you could not eat string beans. _________ on one side, and the other side which I tried to do . . . And I had to do a couple of _________ or whatever it was that my mother wanted me to do. My brother and I tried to cut the end of it with a scissor, too, which of course those beans were absolutely uneatable. So now there have always been some manipulation to make it better without the string; or to make the animal fatter, or not as fat, or more tender, or this and that. So those manipulations have existed all the time. Now bio-engineered food is something else, you know, that we get into other areas which have to be controlled. I am not, by definition, opposed to anything. Because I think to feed the world we need that type of improvement. But it has to be extremely controlled, you know? But without any question, if you can do an egg which tastes like an egg for me – as good as an egg – and it has half the amount of cholesterol, why not? You know if you can have a tomato, that because of some manipulation, doesn’t need to be sprayed with an insecticide or pesticide or anything, being resistant to this, why not? That may be a plus. But as I say you have to do that with circumspection. You really have to control it, you know?
Recorded on: 09/04/2007
Food is at the heart of human history.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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