Heart the Capitalist Machine

You never know, when you move to a city, what it is about it you’ll fall in love with. I moved to Berkeley in 1982 because I wanted to go to graduate school at the university. I didn’t know it would smell so good because of a combination of star jasmine and eucalyptus, or that the fall would be hot and beautiful and seem to last forever and that summer would be a so-so season of fog so heavy you think it’s raining. Nor did I have even the slightest inkling that this is a place where people have strong opinions about food.

The other thing I didn’t know is that the kids who work in places like the Star Grocery, which is a few blocks from my house, would have strong opinions about pie crust, and pie crust makers. One thing I should have guessed is that Nick, the guy who owns the Star, would be totally fine about little expressions of disgust with the world as it is, which is to say the world outside Berkeley.


16 thoughts on “Heart the Capitalist Machine

  1. I would so laugh if I saw this sign in a grocery where I live. And then I would wake up because this would never happen in the Midwest. Sadly, we don’t even have any independent groceries, although a few speciality shops are beginning to gain some footing, so maybe there is hope.

  2. I think people in L.A. are just as passionate about their pie crusts and other parts of their desserts. The only difference here is that if a Nancy’s devotee saw this sign, he/she would immediately rush to the therapist for help in dealing with this trauma. I’m not sure what would cause greater agony; the disappearance of the crusts or the inability to understand the last three words of that sign. Cheers.

  3. Mari, I wonder if it occurs to anyone in northern or southern California that it’s not actually that hard to MAKE pie crust, thus really sticking it to the capitalist machine. The trouble is that you have to practice it for a while to get the hang of it, which means that you EAT a lot of pie crusts, and, well, there’s another trip to the therapist involved in that whole problem.

    Cam, There’s hope! Specialty food shops are the beachhead of the whole independent food movement. It’s like Starbucks. Once people get a glimpse of how much better something can be, well, the next stop is a coffee roaster like Peet’s, which is a Berkeley institution (and now in a lot more places than just Berkeley). In fact, I once asked a guy at Peet’s how he felt about the Starbucks opening down the street. He said something like, “it’s good starter coffee. After a while, they’ll be ready for Peet’s.”

    Genie — it is indeed true. And now I need to go over to your blog and see what east bay things you’re up to!

    Jade — The litkit lives in our neighborhood too. It’s very dense with writerly people, isn’t it?

  4. Waaah! *I* want to live in your neighborhood, too!! I LOVE the smell of eucalyptus and star jasmine…and it’s 95 limp, horrible, humid degrees here in the east today, and I so remember those cold, foggy summers on the California coast. I don’t think I truly appreciated them during the years I lived there…but now I want another chance.

  5. I’m just glad someone will say “out loud” what they think…the capitalist machine indeed. There are few protesters on street corners anymore but as long as “statements” continue to pop up and get posted, we’re OK, we’re standing up.

  6. I had to read a book by the starbucks CEO guy for an essay I wrote earlier this year and I gather they trekked down to SF and studied Peet’s. The book itself is a whole pathology but…

    Anyway, back to piecrusts. We had a store in our little district of Inner-London that probably would have done the same thing. Then ‘they’ put the rent up, forced the owner out and someone opened another posh deli instead. So far, no sarcastic signs but then half the young people around here serve the capitalist machine with all their might. As opposed to the likes of me who merely serve it second or third hand. Sorry, I’m rambling now…

    Is pie crust a particularly American thing?

  7. Your description of the air (eucalytus and star jasmine) is so right on, I had a momentary sense memory. I, too, went to Berkeley (undergraduate), and your post got me missing it!

    (I grew up in the Bay Area, too.)

    I don’t get down there often enough, which is a shame. My sister lives in Orinda these days, but even so…I gotta get my tooshy down there this year!

  8. I’ve always wanted to visit, but your description (and the message in your grocery store) makes me wonder if I should maybe be thinking about moving there?

  9. bloglily: we live in the Park Slope, Brooklyn (isn’t that were all the writers live in NYC?) of the SF metropolis!

    nova: you are more than welcome here. 🙂 you know that.

  10. When I was the pastor of a small church in Gonzales, down in the Salinas Valley, our only bank in town was Wells Fargo. Then Wells Fargo decided to consolidate it’s branches. They closed the Gonzales branch and posted a sign that read “Dear Customer,in order to serve you better, we’ve moved the operations of this branch to our Salinas branch.” I wish some of those wise-cracking employees at the Star grocery had been around to leave some snarky sinage.


  11. Cole, Me too on the pie and propaganda.

    Ben, I’ve been to Gonzales! We ate at the Dairy Queen once. Maybe it’s merged with Taco Bell. Anyway, aren’t you glad they’re all working so hard to serve us better, those capitalist monkeys?

    Jade, Does Park Slope have a lot of people wearing healthy shoes? Women who let their hair go gray? Volvos? Kids in private school because people are a leetle bit nervous about the public schools? Guilt about that decision? Yup. Berkeley’s sister city. Oh. Except Berkeley’s sister city is in Nicaragua.

    Nova, I’m with Jade. MOVE HERE NOW.

    Hey Lisa, Go Bears! I mean, I didn’t know you grew up here, or that you went to Cal. That’s cool.

    U-Dad — Don’t the british put meat and potatoes in a dish with some gravy, slap on a crust (pie) and then eat it up with a beer? Or something like that? Maybe there are peas in it too. And pasties! Those have pie crust. I’m going to go out on a culinary limb (one made out of really, really bad pie crust — very stiff), and guess that pie crusts come to us from England. Many thanks, dude.

    Oh, We’re standing up — exactly!

    Dear Sandi, I kind of envy you those New England summers — the whole thing is very real. The absence of weather is not always the best thing. Okay. I’m just trying to make you feel better. You need to move back. xoxo, L

  12. I think it’s more that the thing we slap on top of pies is kind of that thing which is actually the pie crust. But very much in a lower-case way. Whereas you’re definitely painting a picture here of a much higher achieving Pie Crust. In fact pies and their crusts may well be the fundamental under-pinning of our respective national stereotypes. And the beer works better in the pie in a number of contexts. However, the crust (sorry, it’s been a long day) is definitely 90% of the game with a Cornish pastie.

    Is this a good point to apologise for exporting Gordon Ramsey TV shows?

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