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Down the hill, lettuces and root vegetables grow in neat rows decorated by tall wildflowers, long-necked squash dangle down from trellises, and near the bottom of the hill, basil, chard, and strawberries grow in towers that look like mini-skyscrapers. I find Stephanie Coughlin, the farm’s owner, near a bed of lettuce. She is taking photos for her weekly CSA — short for community-supported agriculture — by which individuals pay $40–$60 a week in exchange for a delivery of fresh produce harvested that very day. Although her farm is less than two acres, Stephanie supports about 130 families.

“This is a completely independent small farm,” Stephanie tells me proudly as she pulls her red hair back from her face. “I don’t take anything from anyone.” She steps away, tending to her vegetables, peering at leaves and flowers. She moves constantly. “The deck is very stacked against the small farmer.” She takes another photo. “I tend to be blunt, but the consumer is really pretty hypocritical. They pick up one book and expect perfection from this beleaguered farmer who’s been doing this for years and years.”

Oh jeez, I think, I am such a fraud. Me with my Prius and turkey-free holiday, moaning that my CSA doesn’t have cranberries. Stephanie’s right. I just want what I want when I want it, seasonality be damned. Really, I’m about as sustainable as a plastic bag.

Buck up, I tell myself as I leave the farm. At least grapes grow in San Diego. And if I’m not serving turkey on Thanksgiving, we’re going to need a bottle of wine on the table. I head east, towards Orfila Vineyards and Winery, which stretches out in front of the rocky detritus of the Escondido mountains. The tasting room is in an old building covered with ivy, and inside, it smells like the inside of a wine barrel.

Scott Ledbetter, the tasting-room manger, sets up a generous flight of Orfila’s Rhone-style wines for me to taste, including one that he assures me will be perfect with lobster: The Estate Viognier, “Lotus.” I also come away with a Merlot that will pair well with roasted vegetables, and the 2006 Estate Petite Syrah, which I know my husband will love. Scott assured me that it could make a wonderful sauce for ice cream (sigh) when reduced.

Rain clouds are rolling in as I drive away, and there’s a chill in the air. For the first time this year, it feels like fall, and I realize I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, to my unconventional feast. As the wine bottles clink in the seat next to me, I chastise myself for being so gloomy about what I can’t have this year, instead of focusing on what’s right in front of me. The food that comes from our land and ocean is truly incredible. Lobster and sea urchin. Potatoes, pumpkins, and beets. Olive oil and wine. It will be plenty. It will be much more than enough.

— Pamela Hunt-Cloyd

Eat What the Politicians Feed You

This Thanksgiving, some Americans will be eating turducken, a turkey stuffed with duck that is in turn stuffed with chicken. It started commercially in Louisiana’s Cajun country about 25 years ago, spread to much of the Deep South, and now, in what may be a precursor to Civil War II, is invading the North. Why don’t they call it ducturchic? Or a “multi-bird roast,” as the prissy English do? I will state right now that I will never eat turducken, and if Turkey and Dubai merge and become Turdubai, I shall not invite the Turd ambassador into my home for dinner.

Alas, turducken is being rammed down our throats. For example, while the U.S., Germany, and France are finally trying to thwart their upper-crust citizens’ tax evasion via Swiss tax and secrecy havens, the head of Switzerland’s oldest bank laments that these countries want to “criminalize the elite,” who do the stashing. I say that if the elite commit crimes, they deserve criminal penalties. What’s so radical about that idea?

In the U.S., the Republicans attack President Obama as a socialist because he wants to set up a government health insurance option. But among many repugnant things, the U.S. government, while Republicans were in the White House, took on ownership of American International Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and part of Citigroup during the fall of 2008. Big business is promoting — and profiting from — corporate socialism. In San Diego it’s called “public-private entrepreneurship.”

During last fall’s crisis, Wall Street’s big investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, officially became bank holding companies, so they could get cut in on the juice that the Federal Reserve was pouring out. Wall Street investment banks should not — repeat, not — be able to get cheap money from the central bank. In capitalist theory, investment banks are supposed to take on risk. The more we bail out financial institutions whose stupid and corrupt risk-takings backfire, the more we guarantee that such behavior will recur. Last year, an angry congressman asked Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke and former Treasury chief Hank Paulson if Wall Street should apologize to American taxpayers for the mess it created. Neither Bernanke nor Paulson would comment — a clear indication of whose pockets they resided in.

Now banks are taking big risks again while official Washington applauds. Banks are still considered “too big to fail.” World governments, including the U.S., should have told the banks that “too big to fail” is “too big to manage,” and not only that, but “too big, period.” There should have been moves to break up mammoth financial conglomerates and unwind the trillions of dollars of derivatives that brought the world’s financial system to the brink. But it’s now clear that any financial reform will be modest.

A battle is quietly brewing. Job hunters outnumber job openings six to one — an unprecedented ratio. Main Street wants the economy to recover briskly. But if it does, inflation is likely to erupt, because the Treasury and Fed have created so much liquidity. Ergo, Wall Street wants a soft economy so the Fed will keep distilling korn likker to buoy the stock market, even as the economy wilts and Main Street suffers. Washington DC is owned by Wall Street. Whom will our politicians accommodate? Silly child.

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Altius Nov. 24, 2009 @ 4:11 p.m.

Thank you, "Various writers" for your takes on Thanksgiving.

It's kind of sad to read how little of a true Thanksgiving feast originates in San Diego County. But I guess that's the point. We're all celebrating a feast based on New England foodstuffs. San Diego food SHOULD be different. Still, you'd think we could get bread from locally-grown grain. Then again, it hasn't rained here in eight months -- not ideal grain growing conditions.

John Brizzolara, your piece was touching. We all really need to start with gratitude for the most basic things: shelter, clothing, the ability to draw breath. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you're feeling grateful.


David Dodd Nov. 24, 2009 @ 4:36 p.m.

While I'm partial to Brizzolara's style, I enjoyed the comparative nature of the different narratives. Grimm's conventionality, Lickona's slant on obedience, Barb's rebellious nature, and so on. A few weeks back, you guys took a couple of consecutive issues printing out a combination of stringer stories and blog entries/comments. If you could have focused that like you focused this, it would have been a smash hit.

I have a suggestion, based on all of this, but you'll have to act fast. Invite your bloggers and commentors and stringers to submit, say, three hundred words about Christmas, along with the staff. Pay any of the contributors, say, 30 or 40 dollars so it comes out similar to what you pay for a cover story. If you can put it together right, it would make for a wonderful read in the differences and similarites in how or why we celebrate Christmas.


Fred Williams Nov. 24, 2009 @ 7:46 p.m.

Don Bauder is funny...but the kind of funny that makes you grit your teeth.

Gringo's idea is interesting. Though it sounds like a lot of work for the editor.

Altus, only if you believe in rain dances would you think growing grain in San Diego is a good idea...oh wait, you're a Creationist so you probably do believe in divine intervention upon request to change the weather.

Silly me. Never mind...


David Dodd Nov. 24, 2009 @ 8:03 p.m.

Fred, I think the key is in simply accepting the right stories. They should, for the most part, be different. A bunch of people are probably going to write in with, "We get up and open our presents and then mom cooks the Christmas ham and then we say grace...".

You take one or at the most two of those, and then throw in the, "First, at midnight, we all get naked and dance on the roof, shouting out the names of the reindeer while waving torches at the moon...".

Buffer that with some of the other neat and crazy stuff. I have absolutely no doubt that Christmas celebrations are so much more different than traditional Thanksgiving one's. My own habits have changed very much, I combine my mother's traditional Christmas Eve with my wife's traditional Mexican Christmas, and I cook a HUGE meal for Christmas evening and invite people without family to participate.

I would love to read about what other people do.


Fred Williams Nov. 24, 2009 @ 8:31 p.m.

GringroRefrito...we have been accused elsewhere of using a translation engine to write in tongues.

Can you prove them wrong? Jak je tradični vanoční večeře? Ktera jidlo? A od chud je mama tvuj - jestě žije? Omlouvam že čestina psani je uplne hovno, ale jsem blb, Amik že vubec nemluvil ani slovo před je mi byl 23 let.


rickeysays Nov. 25, 2009 @ 5:08 p.m.

Pamela you're a well-intentioned idiot. You burned up more gas trying to buy local then you would have been responsible for the consumption of if you'd just gone to the store. Look up two basic economic principles: economies of scale, and comparative advantage. They both apply to what you're trying to do.


David Dodd Nov. 25, 2009 @ 5:36 p.m.

Ricky, according to the story, Pamela drives a hybrid. While your statement concerning economics is certainly valid, it doesn't seem that Pamela over-harmed the environment attempting to deliver a home-grown Thanksgiving spread.


rickeysays Nov. 26, 2009 @ 1:14 a.m.

So she wasted less gas than she would have otherwise. It still illustrates the goofy decisions the "environmentally conscious" sometimes make in the name of saving the planet. I gave her credit for good intentions. But sometimes a little more thought, maybe spiced with a little more knowledge, is called for.


David Dodd Nov. 26, 2009 @ 1:21 a.m.

Fair enough, rickey. When you live in what's basically a desert, it's a little tough to expect that butter is readily available, home grown. But I do admire the spirit of the attempt.


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