Laura Weil whipping up magic burritos on handmade tortillas at the Saratoga farmers' market
Last week, The New York Times ran a piece suggesting that Brooklyn is turning into Berkeley, a place full of young, hip food entrepreneurs setting new standards for culinary adventuresomeness and exquisitude. And I had a thought I've been having a lot lately: I was born 20 years too early.
Let me tell you about my generation. We grew up in the suburbs on jarred Ragu spaghetti sauce and Swanson TV dinners. Not me, of course, because my mother is European and thought the way Americans ate was insane. But everybody else, and it's not as if there were vegetables being grown in my backyard, either, or anybody was getting very dirty or living in some natural fashion at my house. We lived like the neighbors, among extremely pale wall-to-wall carpets and velvet couches and gold-leafed mirrors. Nature was a lot of inert Japanese evergreens that bloomed once a year in toothache-inducing colors.
We were late boomers, out on the street riding our Schwinns when Woodstock took place. We were serious in college. The few earth-loving types among us ate blunt and gluey vegetarian fare that converted no one to the cause. We were too stupid to notice the glorious Gothic architecture and lovely plantings surrounding us.
We went to work on Wall Street or as waitrons supporting some vaguely artistic dream. We either wanted to be Exene Cervenka of X or Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, before she gets to Vermont, and mainly because she looked so good in those sharp suits.
No one dreamed of farming. No one thought much about food, except for finding someone who'd take us to the latest fashionable restaurant. (My best friend's boss, 40 and male to our 24 and female, happily obliged.)
There were no farmers among my cohorts, no cheesemakers, no handmade tortilla geniuses. Even those of us who always liked to cook and really, really liked to eat, never saw food as much of a career.
No, we drove SUV's and did jobs that felt important or lucrative and ideally both, until one day some of us woke up and thought, is anything really more important than food?
But by then, it was too late!!! There were mortgages to pay and children to feed. The time for experimentation had passed. Oh yes, we could be backyard farmers. But actual farmers? That was best left to people with the muscular firing power of youth.
Fortunately, we useless and abstract late boomers will soon be replaced on the stage by the young farmers and ice cream makers and tortilla geniuses I see at the Saratoga farmers' market. They are my people, though I missed being one of them by a simple twist of fate. I am glad they will inherit the earth.
People say that what these college-educated craftsmen are making is food for elites. I call it food that's actually worth the money. Sustainable, life affirming, a sign of a culture that is finally growing up. It's at least as important as anything that's happened on Wall Street in the last 20 years and a lot more benign.
If I were an echo boomer or a Gen-Xer, I might very well be the hyper-opinionated manager of a CSA today. No, we are not planting that rubbery lacinato kale instead of the frilly stuff that's so sprightly in a soup! But
as an actual boomer, what can I do? Nothing but plant my greens in
lonely fashion and rue the narrowness of my world several decades ago.