Monday, June 02, 2008

The Jewish Vegetable

My cousin posted an excerpt on his blog of an article in Vanity Fair by a college classmate of his. The author writes the story of her becoming comfortable with being a Jew in America after being raised in an assimilated environment. Food had nothing to do with it, but because food is my genetic, ethnic, and national priority, I was especially taken with this paragraph near the end of the article:
The last stop of this meditation is Zagorsk, Russia, where, troubled by the anti-Semitism he encountered there, my friend Andrew Solomon asked a local peasant why, in his estimation, there was such antipathy everywhere against Jews. Without a moment’s hesitation, the peasant answered, in Russian: “It is because the Jews have a secret vegetable they eat so they don’t become alcoholics like the rest of us. And they refuse to share that vegetable with anyone else.”
The peasant's belief is not quite as ludicrous as it seems: whenever I become fed up with living in Israel for one reason or another, I argue with myself: "But the vegetables are the redeeming factor" and immediately relax and move on. However, I'd happily share the secret vegetable with anyone who takes the trouble to visit here (and that includes you, cousin!)

Coincidentally (is God sending me a message?), I attended a lecture on the genetic engineering of plants last week, and learned a lot. I didn't know that the reason Europe has banned genetically engineered plants is not because genetically engineered foods are dangerous for health - au contaire! - but rather to protect its own farmers and to avoid granting Monsanto, which owns key patents, more power over the world's food supply. In fact, third world countries, who don't mind (or in some cases don't honor) Monsanto's patents, are developing rapidly precisely because of their improved nutrition thanks to genetically engineered food. This may not be news to you, but it was to me. Leaders in this research now are India and China. Israel has plenty of plant engineering know-how, but cannot export genetically engineered food to Europe, which is our main close customer.

6 comments:

Fred said...

I would most definitely be in trouble...or an alcoholic at least. I despise most vegetables. Tomatoes and carrots are about the only thing I'll even try once in awhile.

Savtadotty said...

Fred, You've picked two of Israel's best: tomatoes and carrots. Technically, tomatoes are a fruit - not being a plant scientist, I can't verify this - and our carrots are so sweet you'd think they were a fruit too. Of course if you despise fruit, I guess alcohol is your only alternative. Unless you can tolerate avocados and cucumbers. (Imagine that - cucumbers with actual flavor!)

Greg said...

"...but because food is my genetic, ethnic, and national priority...."

As a Louisiana Cajun who has just had a breakfast of a link of boudin and a crawfish omelot (albeit with lots of paprika & garlic), I have to say I love the way you've expressed this priority of yours.....:-)

Greg

Savtadotty said...

Gregg, Thank you. I've never been to Louisiana, and consider it a flaw in my background that may still be remedied.

Karin said...

Israel does have a lot of genetic know how, but uses much of this knowledge to selectively breed, which is different from GM. But much more needs to be written on this topic for sure...

Here's a super cool thing the Israeli geneticists are doing with beef:

http://greenprophet.com/2008/11/14/4250/bactochem-barcodes-organic-beef/

- Karin

Savtadotty said...

Karin, Thanks for the link and for the correction. My knowledge of genetics is roughly at the same point where it was when I studied for the High School Biology Regents Exam over 50 years ago, so your expertise is most welcome!