Political celebrations past and present

Photo of American flag chocolate trufflesOn election night in 1992* — the year that Bill Clinton won his first term and Barbara Boxer was first elected to the Senate — I made the flag-adorned chocolate truffles pictured above as part of a celebratory dinner. If I remember correctly, they tasted much better than they looked, made even better by the excitement of the night.

Although I wouldn’t have said no to a chocolate truffle on inauguration morning 2009, a friend and I went in different direction. We brought the red, white and blue theme to breakfast, bringing plenty of Ethicurean elements: blue cornmeal crepes (using heirloom cornmeal and local milk, flour and eggs), white yogurt (from Straus Family Creamery in Marin County) and red plum jam (homemade by me using fruit from a backyard tree and local honey). Although I couldn’t have known it when I pulled it out of the refrigerator before the ceremony began, we also had homemade Meyer lemon marmalade with a color that almost matched Michelle Obama’s dazzling garb.

Photo of Obama \As I’ve been reading commentary on the upcoming presidency of Barack Obama, I keep thinking back to two items. The first is something attributed to FDR, “You’ve convinced me. Now make me do it.” FDR realized that even with his enormous executive power and abilities of persuasion, he needed help from his supporters to bring Congress around to his thinking and to convince his staff. The second is a speech by candidate Obama, in which he said a similar thing (and which I can’t find right now): that he would need our help to enact his agenda and that he needs to know when he has gone off track.

President Obama’s Rural Agenda, now posted at WhiteHouse.gov, outlines some potential changes near and dear to our hearts, such as regulating CAFOs and encouraging organic agriculture and young farmers, and I am optimistic that progress can be made on some of them. But if positions in the USDA are filled by hacks from Big Ag or when unpleasant policy balloons float out of an executive agency, we will need to think of creative ways to influence the ultimate leader of the USDA, DOE and EPA (President Obama), the people that fund the agencies (Congress), and those who carry messages (the press). It won’t be easy, but the alternative — sitting back and hoping that Obama and his team will do the right thing — is not going to lead to the change that we need to see in our food and agriculture system.

On this Inauguration Day in 2009, let us celebrate what we have witnessed. Let us remember the crowds, the glorious views of the National Mall, and a certain plane on a one-way trip to Texas. Tomorrow will be the time to inaugurate a new era in food and agriculture activism.

*I initially couldn’t remember whether I made them in 1992 or 1996 and the photo was not dated. Fortunately, one of the photos included a New York Times Arts Section with the headline “Time to Change the Clock on Times Square” that enabled me to find the date in the New York Times database: November 1, 1992.

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