Capitalizing on an Apple Tarte
It seemed apropos to go see Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” during Thanksgiving weekend, when being a “gourmand” (French) is synonymous with “greed.”
Thursday evening we were “gourmands” in the English sense of the word — “a person who enjoys eating large amounts of food” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). I cooked up a 4.5 kilo French turkey (that cost 36€, or $54), made the best stuffing I’d ever made (without a clue why this year’s creative concoction worked better than any other) and everyone brought their favorite dishes from sweet potatoes to Brussels sprouts and the biggest apple tarte I’d ever seen.
In fact, by sheer coincidence, our friends visiting from the States, whose only job was to come up with an apple tarte, managed to stumble into one of our very favorite bakeries — Le Bon Panneton on rue Saint-Charles in the 15th arrondissement (number 105). It is there that they purchased an enormous tarte sliced into 10 that would have fed 20. It is also Le Bon Panneton that makes the best chocolate tarte in the city, if not the world! (Perhaps you remember a Parler Paris Nouvellettre® from October 2004 raving about this “gourmet’s delight,” or should I say “gourmand’s delight?” (See parlerparis.com/issues/pparis27-10-04.html if you want to seriously drool!)
When you stop to think about the tradition of the Thanksgiving Holiday, which is purely an American celebration, it’s really all about “capitalist prosperity.” That’s the true meaning.
Some Americans want to turn it into a religious experience, by ‘spinning’ the basic economic prosperity of the Pilgrims into their devotion to God as does j2999eph Farah in WorldNetDaily.com: “But it wasn’t just an economic system that allowed the Pilgrims to prosper. It was their devotion to God and His laws. And that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about. The Pilgrims recognized that everything we have is a gift from God – even our sorrows. Their Thanksgiving tradition was established to honor God and thank Him for His blessings and His grace.”
Perhaps this provides some solace, but this is a celebration Capitalistic prosperity with a Capital “C.” In this same article, Farah himself wrote: “As a result, the Pilgrims soon found they had more food than they could eat themselves. They set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London much faster than expected. The success of the Plymouth colony thus attracted more Europeans and set off what we call the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'”
And so our culture of capitalism began in simple roots and we celebrate it to this day with “gourmand” gusto. I’m every bit as guilty as the next one and have loved this holiday above all others…mostly because of the lack of guilt one can have while being a downright “gourmand” and eating an extra piece of apple tarte the waistline doesn’t need.
But let’s look at the French meaning of “gourmand” and consider it isn’t about eating a lot, but about being “greedy.”
Whether you like Michael Moore or not…and it’s easy to be critical of his film(s) or any of his points of view on American life, but there’s one thing anyone must admit about his tactics: he holds up a big mirror and says “Hey you guys, have a good look at yourselves and then judge if you like what you see or not.”
Guess what? The system of Capitalism developed in Europe in the 16th-century, although capitalist-like organizations have existed in the ancient world and flourished during the late Middle Ages. So, the Pilgrims came by it quite honestly and naturally. And nothing about capitalism says one must be “greedy.”
The truth is that capitalism itself may not be ‘evil’ as Moore clearly states in his film, but it’s the ‘greed’ that it has ‘civilized’ that could easily be the ‘fall of the American empire.’ In the opening of the film he juxtapositions ancient Rome against current America with just that tumbling of power in mind.
Meanwhile, we capitalist Americans who have made their homes in socialist democracies such as France, constantly see the push-pull of the two ideals and how the extremes of each create an imbalance of a kind of ‘greed’ by both opposing parties. There can be turmoil within us as we wrestle with those parts of socialized living we enjoy (universal health care, high quality free education) compared with those parts we don’t (high taxation, stiff regulations). Still, we choose to give up being ‘gourmand’ for more equally distributed benefits without much complaint, keeping our waistlines a little slimmer.
It’s all ‘food’ for thought, and makes one a ‘gourmand’ for new ideas, if not for apple tarte.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(photo by Harry Hamburg, holding the Apple Tarte in its box)