Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dear Whitney......

I got a call today from my friend Whitney of Chef's Garden in Ohio. Chef's Garden does designer micro greens, baby lettuces, baby vegetables and herbs for the whack-job restaurant crowd. We found them by swiping some labels from boxes of Bull's Blood Beet micro-greens at the Masters of Food and Wine last year.

Whitney has a very sexy voice. This had nothing to do with my order of last March. Really. Chef's Garden has some crazy, cutting edge stuff. And lots of it. Fifty kinds of micro-greens. Crazy heirloom carrots. Six kinds of cauliflower. Insane, designer lettuce. Secret, proprietary Aztec herbs.

We bought from them once.....for Friend AJ's wedding/birth announcement/50th birthday party/whatever last March. AJ is one of four or five friends and clients that I know that would possibly notice the difference between Bull's Blood Beet micro-greens and say.....alfalfa sprouts. I don't mean to denigrate all my other friends and is just that AJ pays attention to this kind of stuff. He is an accountant....with a literary degree from Trinity College in Dublin. Like that.

We were fresh from a week at The Masters, working with David Kinch and the wacky, cowboy-boot wearing twins from Jardin du Sens. Micro-greens were de rigeur.....and actually gave height, spice, texture and color to the hors d'oeuvres.

Hence my order with Whitney.

Last March.

Those of us who know us at AMF and Cachagua Store understand that we are not an economic and industrial powerhouse. One of my more dynamic business friends from Cornell analyzed our business once as a favor: "You are a lead balloon.....just enough gas to get over the major obstacles, but never going to soar to the heights."

I have had that translated into Gaelic, and tattooed on my ass.

When business gets slow, we rejoice. We walk the dogs on the beach, double-dig the herb beds in the garden.....and send the more annoying people, and our friends, actual invoices for our services from the last year or two. Or three.

At Chef's Garden, when business gets slow....they comb their orders of last year: "Whitney, call these clowns in California. Maybe they will buy something. We need it."

Poor Whitney. She had done her preliminary research, and googled "Cachagua Store".


She finally got me on the phone, and gave me the "hey, bud....where you been?" routine. I instantly remembered her...and Chef's Garden. That voice.

They are in Ohio.....Battleground for The New Tomorrow.

My friend and blog-buddy Paparosen had recently been so fired up about saving America that he has flown to Ohio this week to work for Barack.....and struggle against the Forces of Darkness in the Battleground for The New Tomorrow.

And possibly expand his dating pool.....But mostly his trip was about saving America. Really.

Still, in my role as Cachagua Pimp Daddy and in my continuing secret campaign to breed more liberals....I thought: "Whitney. Sexy voice. High end food shill. Twenty-something. Paparosen. Saving America in Ohio. High end food appreciator.....Aesthete. Lover of Bull's Blood micro-greens."

Stranger things have happened. Plus, there is the possibility of future engagement parties, showers, rehearsal, wedding, baby showers, baptisms, renewal of vows, graduations, divorce parties, second marriages.......The lead balloon always needs more air. Where there is life there is.....


"So, Whitney....are you registered to vote?"

"No.....I feel bad, but I am too busy selling great food!"

Wrong answer.

Whitney....there are 500 restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula. Maybe twenty have chefs that even recognize your products. Of those, maybe fifteen have clients that would even be able to tell the difference between your stuff and Safeway. Of those, maybe five would be interested in flying your stuff across the country.....and you have a competitor in San Diego. Admittedly without the sexy voice, but still...

This pattern is repeated across America and Canada.

And.....given your phone call, everyone must be cutting back. I mean, I am not calling up old clients to see if they have any spare daughters that need the pinch must be being felt if you are calling a guy who once bought from you once a year ago.

Where does this pinch come from? People are cutting back on micro-greens. Who is it that is cutting back? The super-rich one tenth of a percent of America who benefit most from George Bush's tax cuts?

In my experience, possibly one tenth of a percent of the one-tenth of a percent of the super-rich are even noticing whether there is Bull's Blood Beet micro-greens garnishing the hors d'oeuvres. Mrs. Hatfield. Betsy Ortlip. One or two others who pass in the night, usually at Mrs. Hatfield's or Betsy's.

For the super-rich...the micro-greens are not an issue. There is so much social and business pressure involved in dining situations at this level that no one gives a shit about the micro-greens.

The ones who care about this stuff are the middle class. The much maligned bourgeoisie. People with just enough income, just enough education, just enough free time and just enough esthetic sense to bother to care about tiny details of culinary minutae like the kind and quality of the micro-green. This is why in Spain....the center of culinary minutae....there are no dress codes in fine restaurants. The middle class is the engine that runs the whole Spanish culinary, artistic and industrial renaissance.

And the American middle class...the bourgeoisie..... have been fucked silly and sideways by every Republican since Ronald Reagan. The jobs are gone, the health care is gone. Education for the kids is crazy expensive. Gas prices are through the roof. Insurance is nuts. Retirement is no longer the Company Pension......Social Security..... it is Smith and Wesson.

Moving on, Whitney. You are in the agricultural business. You grow lettuces, vegetables, herbs, are an ag-chick, basically. You and your employer are struggling because you are holding a fine line and pitching to a specific clientele a gorgeous, but abstract product.

Meanwhile, do you understand that your government just passed a Farm Bill that gave BILLIONS of dollars to other ag-chicks that are following a stupid, deadly, unsustainable path to nowhere? One of my old friends in Colorado runs a family farm of 25,000 acres. He has two employees, one of them his wife. He is not growing micro-greens. The Farm Bill just passed had no love for small farms like yours. The Farm Bill Philosophy is that your company would be better off closing, sending the workers on to welfare, and outsourcing the micro-greens to China....and the sales of the micro-greens to "Jane" from Mumbai. FedEx goes there, too. These South Asian chicks have sexy voices as well.

Moving on, Whitney. You sound like you are in your twenties. How is your health plan? You are young, so probably not worried. Young folks are bullet-proof. You probably make....I am guessing.....two grand a month. This comes out to a take-home of $350 a week, max. Then there is your health insurance. My guys your age pay $120 a month, $30 bucks a week for their share. You are down to $320 a week in the take home department.

Except that...... one of my guys your age crashed his bike last year, and had some other problems....despite being preternaturally fit and hardworking.....a hundred hour a week type guy. Fully insured....he was able to work out a deal with the local hospital that he only pays $700 a month for the next five years to them, on top of his monthly insurance premium. That second job he works takes care of that. No worries.....But..... 8am on your day off from your 60hr a week first job....the alarm still goes off.

So, Whitney....what is it like, living with your parents....only because of our health care system?

Moving on, Whitney. You have one of the better jobs at Chef's Garden. You work inside, on the phone. Who are the guys outside in the greenhouses? How many speak English? How many local guys your age can afford to work for the wages that the Latino guys are paid? How many of your high school friends have opted for the "sell some meth, sleep on mom's couch, drink some beer, pick up the odd job" life plan? What is their health care situation? Any good future husbands in that crowd?

Moving on again, Whitney. Have you noticed that the roads around Ohio are fucked. Potholes everywhere. Remember you had to replace a brand new tire last year when you hit that rut? And your Mom's apartment got robbed, and no one even came to take a report? And, after Grandma's stroke, she is in a home two hours a room with four other old ladies with Oprah blasting all afternoon....and she is the only one not drooling into her lap? And those dickheads you might date if they had a clue..... can't afford the $25 per credit at the local community college, or the gas to drive there....or the insurance on the fifteen year old car that is the only wheels in their budget.

And are not fucking registered to VOTE? What is it in your education and background that makes you think that you have to put up with any of this? This is WHY we are allowed to vote, goddammit!

Do you even remember the definiton of "Hope"?

I emailed her the voter registration form for Ohio.

She is calling Wednesday for my order.

Those Bull's Blood Beet greens are looking pretty good.


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