Skip to content

Is It You or Is It Me? | 2013 | The Pen Is Mightier Than the Moment


If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.  

-W. Beran Wolfe


Delicious Activism

Homemade Cereal  
Did you know that girlfriends make cereal from scratch if you tell them about beenappers?

It started with an article about kidnapped bees. Knowing that Amber covets a neighbor's apiary, I made the now-obvious mistake of informing that that Monsanto had ordered the government to steal a beekeeper’s bees. Monsanto’s stated reasoning was that the bees might have been infected with a fungus, a concept easily disproven by examining them, except Monsanto then immediately killed the bees to prevent the bees from being studied. The beekeeper believes his hive was stolen without recompense because he had selectively bred them to have an immunity to Monsanto’s RoundUp pesticide. As bees presently suffer from colony collapse disorder, threatening the globe with a lack of valuable pollinators, pesticide resistant bees are exactly what we need.

Amber does a few minutes research online and boldly announces that we are now boycotting anyone who would kill bees, then she sets to work eating any candy that should not exist in a Monsanto-free home. I laugh, but she is serious (about her politics, at least. I thinks she just wanted some candy).

I am not sure you’ve checked recently, but genetically modified organisms created by Monsanto are in most food products. Pretty nearly everything I had become fond of drinking is made by a company that affiliates with Monsanto or with abhorrent corporate policies. It seems the Cola Wars of the 80s were ended simply because it was easier to steal water from poor countries and pump the beverages full of genetically modified bromides. Most beverages, well beyond sodas, are owned by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, both of whom donate staggering amounts for politicians to pass laws that would allow them not to label what their products contain.

Seeing that I am to blame for this arm of her social activism, I set some ground rules for the experiment. Outside our home and grocery shopping (where we use the Buycott app on Amber's phone to clear our purchases for not donating money to anti-labeling or anti-gay causes), we do not care about Monsanto. There will not come a time where we decline a meal or drink offered to us by friends or family because of our personal distaste for this company. We will never lecture people about their own diets as a political stance. We are making a change for ourselves alone and no one else.

I am aware that the changes she institutes do not revolutionize the world; I am not a college freshman. My lack of Vanilla Almond Special K doesn't upset Kellogg, Monsanto, and Amazon (who until recently delivered multi-packs of the cereal to our doorstep each month). It is so minuscule a change that it would be easy to say it did not matter. Aside from the industry of Amber gardening, of her plotting how to turn our living room into a greenhouse over the winter, the change would be easy to miss even for us.

She is clear that we do not carte blanche hate genetically modified food. The tweaking of genes is nothing new and can vastly help humanity when done ethically. Her hatred is specifically at the feet of Monsanto, whose corporate policies are atrocious and who treats farmers with contempt and litigation.

Over the course of about a month, our kitchen phases out of containing food. Instead, we have ingredients: four different types of flour, various nuts, whatever vegetables she brings home from the community garden, often kept in a paper bag to finish ripening. Her lunches now often consist of chopped up cucumbers and cherry tomatoes she scavenges from neglected gardens. She endeavors to replace the cereal I have come to love by combining flours and pulverized nuts, along with copious sugars, and baking them over the course of three hours every few weeks, a recipe she has yet to perfect but is getting better (if stickier). She reads up on planting, fertilization, and pollination. Her back grows tan while repairing the fences around the communal garden, for which she received no recompense beyond cucumbers that have not been gnawed on by deer.

I am not complaining about the scavenging, mind you. The vegetables she brings home have flavors. So much of what we had eaten to this point has been homogenized and constructed so we can forget that our food is supposed to come out of the ground. Her tomatoes, especially, do not taste of slightly sour water and nothing else, as is my experience with store-bought examples of the species. Something deep in my racial memory say, "Yes, this is a tomato. Eat more of these."

It was inevitable that she would eventually find a cause worthy of her attention and sacrifice, I know. Her political affiliation as anarchist has extended to further than blogging on the subject, reading extensively, and now listening to NPR in the car on occasion. She is aware of global injustices and it influences her daily life, but it doesn't change who she is. For our anniversary and her birthday, in lieu of jewelry or books, Amber asked for $200 worth of household and gardening materials from We now have an organic bamboo composting bucket on our kitchen counter which, true to claims, does not have an odor. The plastic grocery bags I have used to carry my lunch to work have been replaced by a insulated and recycled one. We have stackable containers meant just for garlic and onions and produce savers advertised to prevent the ethylene that causes fruit to rot. She is not yet to the point where she insists upon composting human waste, but she knows exactly how long it takes for it to become safe to use again (about two years), and then assures me that it should be used on fruit trees rather than carrots. I am not one to complain unnecessarily, since my social activism (slackivism) consists of sharing links and alerting others to injustices they should get on righting, if they have the time. I can do without Diet Pepsi and Special K in order to make ever so slightly less steady the footing of an unethical Goliath and, of course, to support Amber in making a world slightly closer to the own in which she can best prosper.

It does help my ethical resolve, however, that she has become a much better cook than I've ever managed to be, as she seeks to incorporate things she has grown into our diets to replace our staples of fishsticks and Stovetop Stuffing. Politics are so much easier to stomach with they come in the form of fried green tomatoes and Manhattan clam chowder with fresh clams.

Soon in Xenology: Guys' Night Out

last watched: Hard Candy
reading: Good Omens
listening: Härmälän Mimosa ja Vihamielinen Pekka Nummi

Is It You or Is It Me? | 2013 | The Pen Is Mightier Than the Moment

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

eXTReMe Tracker