I have to write this: I feel a little silly keeping a food blog while all those people are dying, or near it, in New Orleans. I find it almost impossible to believe that 20,000 people or more are huddled in a major American city, or trapped in hospitals for days on end, with no food or water. I just don’t understand.
Early this morning, I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. I’ve been watching television, in spite of myself, and I’ve had a hard time not crying. Small children slipping into stupors in front of the television cameras for lack of food. Older men with glazed eyes no longer able to sip water. Women sitting along sidewalks, sweating, swearing, wondering where the hell is help.
And every glossy advertisement for beauty products and new cars, interspersed between the shots of raw suffering, makes me even feel even sicker.
And all I can do is sit here and take it in.
I take everything in. I don’t have much of a veneer. Other people’s suffering sometimes devastates me, because it should. We think too much of our own small selves. We worry about the minute details of our lives and blow them up in our minds. Meanwhile, we’re all bound together, all of us. And keeping this food blog has made me even more aware of hunger and how deeply human it is.
I know that there are good people in this, working hard, desperately trying to save other people. Doctors trapped in hospitals with no electricity or running water. Individuals fording through fetid water up to their chests, trying to find more stranded neighbors. Helicopter pilots flying into the area in spite of safety concerns. Times like this really can bring out the best in people. And I believe in people.
If you haven’t gone there already, here’s the website for the American Red Cross. Or, the Salvation Army. Harry Connick Jr, a lovely musician from New Orleans, has been walking among the people trapped near the convention center, and in a voice hoarse with emotion, he told the cameras how desperately upset he is that so little is being done. He’s a good man, and his website has some suggestions too.
But what I don’t understand is this: if a celebrity with a camera crew can walk among those thousands of starving people, dehydrated in 90-degree weather, why can’t the police get in there? Why can’t they just bring in trucks with bottles of water?
I just don’t understand why it is taking this government so long to bring food to starving people.
It’s not enough to survive 100 mph winds or fifteen-foot storm surges, or flooding throughout the town, or living in one’s attic for three days, without water, hoping that someone might hear your plaintive voice. But then, you gather in front of the Convention Center, just in front of the water, assuming that someone will recognize your plight, and that of the 10,000 people around you. After all, people all over the world are watching you and your neighbors on television. Diabetic women in insulin shock. Pregnant women going into labor. Handicapped women in wheelchairs having seizures. Old men who cannot breathe anymore. The government’s going to come, aren’t they?
Oh, that’s right. The Louisiana National Guard is in Iraq.
I can’t be the only one who’s thinking this: if all those thousands of people weren’t black, and poor, would they just be allowed to languish there? Would the police refuse to enter into the area for fear of their own safety if the masses of people, starving, hysterical, and naked (to quote Ginsberg, in a way he probably never intended) were white? If this had been Malibu, California, and all the victims had been movie stars, would they still be there, four days later, with no hope of rescue?
Would this happen in Seattle?
So I can’t really post what I planned to post today: a loving, luscious record of my favorite childhood food memories, including passages about sipping mint juleps, in New Orleans Square, at Disneyland. I’ll be back tomorrow with luscious descriptions of food and exuberance over finally feeling well, cooking with unusual grains and organic foods. But it just feels wrong today.
Later today, some dear friends are coming into town for the weekend, so I’m preparing a feast this afternoon. Quinoa salad with smoked salmon and capers. Fresh pesto with brown-rice pasta. Grapefruit salad with picholine olives. Marinated pork tacos with homemade corn tortillas. And chocolate sorbet, made in the ice cream maker that Carol gave me yesterday. Again, it feels decadent.
But I’ve decided that what I can do is this:
I’m going to savor every bite of food I’m lucky enough to be able to eat today.