Feb 202019
 

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published Manifeste du futurisme (Manifesto of Futurism) in the newspaper Le Figaro on this date in 1909. Futurism was an avant-garde movement founded in Milan in 1909 by Marinetti, a poet, and he first launched the movement in an Italian version of the Manifesto, which he published for the first time on 5th February 1909 in La gazzetta dell’Emilia. The French edition, published today, was an expansion of the strictly Italian movement to a wider audience, so I have chosen it as the anniversary. Laying my cards on the table before proceeding, I find most of the stated aims of the movement absolutely repugnant, but it does have redeeming features. Futurism’s glorification of violence, I find especially appalling, as well as its naked nationalism. This is the crucible of Mussolini and fascism. Its intoxication with modernity, speed, and energy, I find more laughable than repellant, and its rejection of the past has good and bad qualities. I’m all for rejecting habit and custom if they simply act as comfortable cocoons, but the wholesale rejection of history is counterproductive. Futurism’s unapologetic misogyny is beneath contempt. As we shall also see when it comes to cooking – which futurists had a great deal to say about – newness simply for the sake of newness has its pitfalls.

Marinetti was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and the composer Luigi Russolo. Marinetti expressed a passionate loathing of everything old, especially political and artistic tradition. “We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that represented the technological triumph of humanity over nature, and they were passionate nationalists. They repudiated the cult of the past and all imitation. Originality, however daring, however violent, bore “the smear of madness.” They dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of all previous art, and gloried in science. Publishing manifestos was a feature of Futurism, and the Futurists (usually led or prompted by Marinetti) wrote them on many topics, including painting, architecture, religion, clothing and cooking.

The founding manifesto did not contain a positive artistic program, which the Futurists attempted to create in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting (1914). This committed them to a “universal dynamism”, which was to be directly represented in painting. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings: “The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places. … The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.”

The Futurist painters were slow to develop a distinctive style and subject matter. In 1910 and 1911 they used the techniques of Divisionism, breaking light and color down into a field of stippled dots and stripes, which had been originally created by Giovanni Segantini and others. Later, Severini, who lived in Paris, attributed their backwardness in style and method at this time to their distance from Paris, the center of avant-garde art. Severini was the first to come into contact with Cubism and following a visit to Paris in 1911 the Futurist painters adopted the methods of the Cubists. Cubism offered them a means of analysing energy in paintings and expressing dynamism.

They often painted modern urban scenes. Carrà’s (1910–11) is a large canvas representing events that the artist had himself been involved in, in 1904. The action of a police attack and riot is rendered energetically with diagonals and broken planes. His Leaving the Theatre (1910–11) uses a Divisionist technique to render isolated and faceless figures trudging home at night under street lights. Boccioni’s The City Rises (1910) represents scenes of construction and manual labor with a huge, rearing red horse in the center foreground, which workmen struggle to control. His States of Mind, in three large panels, The Farewell, Those who Go, and Those Who Stay, is considered a masterpiece of Futurism. The work attempts to convey feelings and sensations experienced in time, using new means of expression, including “lines of force”, which were intended to convey the directional tendencies of objects through space, “simultaneity”, which combined memories, present impressions and anticipation of future events, and “emotional ambience” in which the artist seeks by intuition to link sympathies between the exterior scene and interior emotion.

The Futurists aimed through their art thus to enable the viewer to apprehend the inner being of what they depicted. Boccioni developed these ideas at length in his book, Pittura scultura Futuriste: Dinamismo plastico (Futurist Painting Sculpture: Plastic Dynamism) (1914). Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) exemplifies the Futurists’ insistence that the perceived world is in constant movement. The painting depicts a dog whose legs, tail and leash —and the feet of the woman walking it —have been multiplied to a blur of movement. It illustrates the precepts of the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting that, “On account of the persistence of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations, in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular.” His Rhythm of the Bow (1912) similarly depicts the movements of a violinist’s hand and instrument, rendered in rapid strokes within a triangular frame.

The adoption of Cubism determined the style of much subsequent Futurist painting, which Boccioni and Severini in particular continued to render in the broken colors and short brush-strokes of Divisionism. But Futurist painting differed in both subject matter and treatment from the quiet and static Cubism of Picasso, Braque and Gris. Although there were Futurist portraits (e.g. Carrà’s Woman with Absinthe (1911), Severini’s Self-Portrait (1912), and Boccioni’s Matter (1912)), it was the urban scene and vehicles in motion that typified Futurist painting—e.g. Boccioni’s The Street Enters the House (1911), Severini’s Dynamic Hieroglyph of the Bal Tabarin (1912), and Russolo’s Automobile at Speed (1913).

In 1912 and 1913, Boccioni turned to sculpture to translate into three dimensions his Futurist ideas. In Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) he attempted to realize the relationship between the object and its environment, which was central to his theory of “dynamism”. The sculpture represents a striding figure, cast in bronze posthumously and exhibited in the Tate Modern. (It now appears on the national side of Italian 20 eurocent coins). He explored the theme further in Synthesis of Human Dynamism (1912), Speeding Muscles (1913) and Spiral Expansion of Speeding Muscles (1913). His ideas on sculpture were published in the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture. In 1915 Balla also turned to sculpture making abstract “reconstructions”, which were created out of various materials, were apparently moveable and even made noises. He said that, after making twenty pictures in which he had studied the velocity of automobiles, he understood that “the single plane of the canvas did not permit the suggestion of the dynamic volume of speed in depth … I felt the need to construct the first dynamic plastic complex with iron wires, cardboard planes, cloth and tissue paper, etc.”

In 1914, personal quarrels and artistic differences between the Milan group, around Marinetti, Boccioni, and Balla, and the Florence group, around Carrà, Ardengo Soffici (1879–1964) and Giovanni Papini (1881–1956), created a rift in Italian Futurism. The Florence group resented the dominance of Marinetti and Boccioni, whom they accused of trying to establish “an immobile church with an infallible creed”, and each group dismissed the other as passéiste (backward-looking).

Futurism had from the outset admired violence and was intensely patriotic. The Futurist Manifesto had declared, “We will glorify war —the world’s only hygiene —militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.” Although it owed much of its character and some of its ideas to radical political movements, it was not much involved in politics until the autumn of 1913. Then, fearing the re-election of Giolitti, Marinetti published a political manifesto. In 1914 the Futurists began to campaign actively against the Austro-Hungarian empire, which still controlled some Italian territories, and Italian neutrality between the major powers. In September, Boccioni, seated in the balcony of the Teatro dal Verme in Milan, tore up an Austrian flag and threw it into the audience, while Marinetti waved an Italian flag. When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, many Futurists enlisted. The experience of the war affected several Futurists, particularly Marinetti, who fought in the mountains of Trentino at the border of Italy and Austria-Hungary, actively engaging in propaganda. The combat experience also influenced Futurist music.

The outbreak of war disguised the fact that Italian Futurism had come to an end. The Florence group had formally acknowledged their withdrawal from the movement by the end of 1914. Boccioni produced only one war picture and was killed in 1916. Severini painted some significant war pictures in 1915 (e.g. War, Armored Train, and Red Cross Train), but in Paris turned towards Cubism and post-war was associated with the Return to Order.

After the war, Marinetti revived the movement. This revival was called il secondo Futurismo (Second Futurism) by writers in the 1960s. The art historian Giovanni Lista has classified Futurism by decades: “Plastic Dynamism” for the first decade, “Mechanical Art” for the 1920s, “Aeroaesthetics” for the 1930s.

The Futurists had a great to say about cooking and dining. The Futurist movement recognized that people “think, dream and act according to what they eat and drink” so cooking and eating needed to become subservient to the proper aesthetic experience that Futurism favored. Revolutionary in its expectations of overturning set patterns, some of its more interesting ideas for the realm of cuisine were:

  • No more pasta, as it causes lassitude, pessimism and lack of passion
  • Perfect meals requiring originality and harmony in table setting, including all implements, food aesthetics and tastes, and absolute originality in the food
  • Sculpted foods, including meats whose main appeal is to the eye and imagination
  • Abolition of the knife and fork
  • Use of perfumes to enhance the tasting experience

The Manifesto of Futurist Cooking also proposed that the way in which meals were served be fundamentally changed. For example:

  • Some food on the table would not be eaten, but only experienced by the eyes and nose
  • Food would arrive rapidly and contain many flavors, but only a few mouthfuls in size
  • All political discussion and speeches would be forbidden
  • Music and poetry would be forbidden except during certain intervals

A multi-course meal featured in Marinetti’s The Futurist Cookbook he called a tactile dinner. Pajamas have been prepared for the dinner, each one covered with a different material such as sponge, cork, sandpaper, or felt. As the guests arrive, each puts on a pair of the pajamas. Once all have arrived and are dressed in pajamas, they are taken to an unlit, empty room. Without being able to see, each guest chooses a dinner partner according to their tactile impression. The guests then enter the dining room, which consists of tables for two, and discover the partner they have selected.

The meal begins. The first course is a ‘polyrhythmic salad,’ which consists of a box containing a bowl of undressed lettuce leaves, dates and grapes. The box has a crank on the left side. Without using cutlery, the guests eat with their right hand while turning the crank with their left. This produces music to which the waiters dance until the course is finished.

The second course is ‘magic food’, which is served in small bowls covered with tactile materials. The bowl is held in the left hand while the right picks out balls made of caramel and filled with different ingredients such as dried fruits, raw meat, garlic, mashed banana, chocolate, or pepper. The guests cannot guess what flavor they will encounter next.

The third course is ‘tactile vegetable garden,’ which is a plate of cooked and raw green vegetables without dressing. The guest eats the vegetables without the use of their hands, instead burying their face in the plate of vegetables, feeling the sensation of the greens on their face and lips. Each time a guest raises their head to chew, the waiters spray their face with perfume.

Here is a video to give you some idea:

 

Feb 212017
 

On this date in 1848 The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was first published (in German) in London. It is a much misunderstood document, as is much of Marx’s work in general. I don’t have the space here, nor time, to redress all the misunderstandings, but I’ll make a start. The Manifesto was itself written to correct misunderstandings of what communism is/was, but it was itself misinterpreted badly by European revolutionaries and in points beyond. Marx was not envisaging dictators such as Stalin and Mao, but that’s the model of Marxism that has stuck in the general consciousness in the West, largely as a result of the Cold War.  Marx was addressing the radical divide between the people with all the money (hence power) and the rest of the population that was the model in his day in Europe, and which continues unabated. In my opinion his analysis of the situation (then and now) is generally sound, but his historical analysis is not.  The most important misunderstanding is of the world Marx envisaged – not the oppressive regimes of the likes of 20th century Russia and China, but a world in which the common people (proletariat) were not controlled, mind and soul, by the desires of an oligarchy of very few, very rich people (bourgeoisie), but, instead, controlled their own destinies.

I should probably start with a critique of Marx (and Engels) to demonstrate that I am not some kind of doctrinaire Marxist myself. Marx wrote in an era when very general ideas of the evolution of things were just beginning to catch hold, undoubtedly because Europe was radically changing under the pressures of the Industrial Revolution. A world that had seen precious little in the way of technological change for almost a thousand years was gripped by rapid and constant change and this had an effect on the intellectual world because change was in the air. The Grimms, for example, developed hypotheses concerning the evolution of languages, Lewis Henry Morgan proposed a theory of cultural evolution, and, of course, Darwin was interested in biological evolution. Marx stepped in with his own theory of historical evolution. My “simple” task here will be to try to separate the wheat from the chaff in Marx’s thinking, and will, obviously, end up being simplistic.

Where Marx has proven to be most blatantly wrong is in his hypothesis that capitalism would collapse of its own weight. Over 150 years later it is still going strong, the ultra-rich still hold all the power, and there’s no sign of collapse even though the disparity between rich and the rest is, if anything, greater than it was in Marx’s time in developed countries. The two major countries where a simulacrum of Marx’s ideas led to violent revolution in the 20th century, Russia and China, were not capitalist cultures at the time of their revolutions, but experiencing the last vestiges of feudalism that were ripe to be overturned — and have since adopted capitalist ideals on a large scale (including the huge disparities between the rich and the rest).

What cannot be denied is that the vast majority of people living in contemporary capitalist cultures are, by and large, comfortable. Of course they are exploited and controlled by a tiny minority of very rich people, but their lives are comfortable enough that they are hesitant to seek change, and so they continue as is. We still have plenty of poor people living in horrendous conditions but the Western world does not look like the Victorian London or Manchester of Marx’s day. The bulk of the electorate in Western democracies have food on the table, drive cars, have stable (if tedious) jobs, and aspire to owning their own homes. They have the time and money to go on vacation to exotic places, and they wear decent clothes. Discontent these days centers on the evident slowing of what was once a steady improvement in these comforts, not in the system itself.  Hence the capitalist system will endure unscathed through the rest of my lifetime and beyond. I have no idea what will cause its ultimate demise, but it will end – one day.

1848 was the “Year of Revolutions” in Europe. No country emerged untouched, although not all participated in overt revolution. Marx certainly contributed to the general revolutionary fervor with the Manifesto. But the revolutions were fueled by a lot of forces, notably nationalism, apart from the desire for social change.  Marx’s rhetoric was inserted into the revolutions, but socialism of a different sort, led by social philosophers such as Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, and Robert Owen, was also on the horizon, leading in a different, non violent, direction.  They were called “Utopian Socialists” by detractors (including Marxists) because their visions were viewed as naïve.  What is frequently missed is that Marx’s socialist aims were the same as theirs, only the vision of the methods of achieving it was different.

Beneath the revolutionary rhetoric Marx was a humanist. If you read his works prior to the Manifesto  you get a much clearer sense of his underlying humanistic social philosophy. He imagined a post-capitalist world in which farmers collectively owned the farms, workers collectively owned factories, and so forth, and they would inevitably benefit because they would keep all the profits and make all the decisions. We can argue about the validity of this hypothesis, but there is no question that Marx envisaged a brighter world for everyone when the workers were the masters. He did not imagine Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. Perhaps he should have. Revolution from the bottom up begets tyrants.  Marx should have known this; the French Revolution produced Napoleon. The American Revolution was different because it was not from the bottom up, but from the top down. The first rebels in the North American colonies were the rich who wanted less taxation and less regulation on their businesses (times don’t change much !!).

Marx was spot on when he pointed out that capitalism commodifies labor so that workers see themselves in terms of their earning power rather than in terms of their inherent human (and individual) traits. Workers thus take less pride in their work and more in their pay check. Work becomes a means to an end (house, car, vacations, etc) rather than an end in itself. In consequence all other social activities, such as education, are judged in terms of their ability to increase earning power and not for their intrinsic merits. I’m absolutely sick and tired of reading article upon article that charts the universities with the graduates who earn the most, the college majors with the best earnings potential, and the careers with the highest salaries.  So what????  I became an anthropologist, a teacher, and a writer because I love doing that work. I can look back on a long career with pride and happiness because my jobs have made me happy, not because I have stacked away piles of money. My riposte to the ages old barbed question, “If you are so smart why aren’t you rich?” is simple. “I am not rich because I am smart; I have other goals in life.”

I am not a doctrinaire Marxist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am enough of a Marxist to believe that people should live in a society where they are free to choose their own destinies, and not shackled by the dictates of the system.

Some apt quotes from the Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.

The bourgeoisie . . . has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The proletarians have nothing to loose but their chains. They have a world to win.

 

I’ve never wanted to be a chef because I’ve never wanted to debase my cooking via the profit motive.  I cook because I love to cook – end of story.  I hope this blog makes that point loud and clear. Today of all days you should cook something that you most love to cook, and cook with passion – not with an eye to time, cost, or any other variable other than devotion to the task itself. That means that you should choose today what recipe best suits you.  You are the master. For lunch today I had braised rabbit with wild mushrooms in a sauce seasoned with red pepper, garlic, onions, allspice, and ginger, with boiled new potatoes and broad beans on the side.  I’m not going to give you a recipe because (a) I invented the dish as I went along, and (b) today is your day to cook what you choose, not what I have decided for you. My braised rabbit took me 2 days to prepare because I like my dishes to rest overnight when they have complex sauces. I loved the preparation – and it was delicious.

Here’s a small gallery of things I have cooked recently.  In each case I cooked what I wanted without any recipe, just following my heart’s pleasure:

May 052014
 

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Today is the birthday (1818) of Karl Heinrich Marx, German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Marx’s work in economics laid the basis for the current understanding of labor and its relation to capital, and has influenced much of subsequent economic thought. He published numerous works during his lifetime, the most well known being The Communist Manifesto (with Friedrich Engels) and Das Kapital (Capital).

Marx was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Trier in the Prussian Rhineland and studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin, where he became interested in the philosophical ideas of the Young Hegelians. After his studies, he wrote for a radical newspaper in Cologne, and began to work out his theory of dialectical materialism. He moved to Paris in 1843, where he began writing for other radical newspapers and met Friedrich Engels, who would become his lifelong friend and collaborator. In 1849 he was exiled, and moved to London together with his wife and children where he continued writing and formulating his theories about social and economic activity. He also campaigned for socialism and became a significant figure in the International Workingmen’s Association.

Marx's daughters

Marx’s daughters

Marx’s theories about society, economics and politics hold, famously, that human history is the history of class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class that controls production and a dispossessed laboring class that provides the labor for production. He called capitalism the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” believing it to be run by the wealthy classes for their own benefit; and he predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism. He argued that class antagonisms under capitalism between the bourgeoisie and proletariat would eventuate in the working class’s conquest of political power in the form of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and eventually establish a classless society, socialism or communism, a society governed by a free association of producers. Along with believing in the inevitability of socialism and communism, Marx actively fought for their implementation, arguing that social theorists and underprivileged people alike should carry out organized revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic change.

Following the death of his wife, Jenny, in December 1881, Marx developed a catarrh that kept him in ill health for the last 15 months of his life. It eventually brought on the bronchitis and pleurisy that killed him in London on 14 March 1883. He died a stateless person; family and friends in London buried his body in Highgate Cemetery in London, on 17 March 1883. There were between nine and eleven mourners at his funeral.

Several of his closest friends spoke at his funeral, including Wilhelm Liebknecht and Friedrich Engels. Engels’ speech included the passage:

On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep – but forever.

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Marx is justifiably considered one of the most influential figures in human history. Revolutionary socialist governments espousing (their interpretation of) Marxist concepts, took power in a number of countries in the 20th century, leading to the formation of such socialist states as the Soviet Union in 1922 and the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Many labor unions and workers’ parties worldwide are influenced by Marxism, while various theoretical variants, such as Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, and Dengism were developed from them. Marx is typically cited, along with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science.

Rather than attempting to summarize Marx’s theoretical work here, I am going to give a short personal appraisal based on my own reading and teaching of his work. For years I taught Marx both in general education classes for freshmen and in advanced social theory classes for sociology and anthropology majors. Here I am going to summarize a few of my major themes.

I will begin by saying that there is a wide gulf between Marx and Marxism, the latter coming in a kaleidoscope of colors. There is a wide gulf between all profound thinkers and their followers: Freud was not a Freudian, Darwin was not a Darwinian, and Jesus Christ was not a Christian. Marx himself is reported to have said that he was not a Marxist. The problem with all original thinkers is that their works are voluminous and complex, and their ideas can sprawl all over the place. Frequently earlier thoughts are revised, and sometimes even contradicted by later ones. What happens, though, is that disciples narrow down a dense and complicated body of work into bumper stickers. What is, in reality, a nuanced and detailed set of reflections becomes distilled into a set of “core principles” which become identified with the original thinkers as the totality of their philosophy, whereas such principles are always simplistic, and sometimes outright mistaken.

As a social scientist myself, I’m given to believe that this distillation into “core principles” is inevitable. Anthropologists have written a great deal about the process of moving from the first generation (the original thinkers) to the second generation (the followers). The first generation is full of free flowing ideas that tumble out every which way; the second generation has to make sense of it all and put the ideas into practice. Quite commonly second generation thinkers are more rigid than the first generation, and do not always understand the message of the first generation. If you want to understand Marx, read what he wrote and not what Marxists have written.

The most damaging delusion concerning what Marx wrote is to equate his philosophy with the governing principles of communist states that emerged in the 20th century, such as the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Marx most emphatically did NOT advocate totalitarian, repressive regimes as a replacement of capitalism. This is a hideous distortion of what he wanted from social revolution. When he talked about “the dictatorship of the proletariat” he was not suggesting that one form of tyranny, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, should be replaced by another. He was suggesting just the opposite: his vision of communism was a state of affairs in which workers were free and happy. Because the word “communism” has taken on such a perverted meaning since the 20th century it might be better to find a different word to denote Marx’s vision of a new order.

My second summary point is that because most people do not read Marx, but think of him in terms of bumper stickers, they not only misunderstand what he wrote, but as often as not agree with him even though they think they don’t. When you feel as if you are oppressed by your job and that all you are doing is enriching others, you are thinking like Marx. When you decry the crass materialism of Christmas, you are thinking like Marx. When you lack a sense of self esteem because your worth as a person is dependent on your place in a system you do not control, you are thinking like Marx. What is more, the economic theories of the left AND the right use Marx in one way or another. A colleague of mine specializing in political economy once said “I don’t know of a Wall Street banker who is not a Marxist,” meaning not that Wall Street bankers believe in the redistribution of wealth, but that they use Marx’s principles – unknowingly – in their economic dealings.

I am not a Marxist (or any other kind of “-ist”), but there are many ideas he proposed or espoused that I am sympathetic to. Perhaps chief of these is his notion of “value,” more specifically the difference between “use value” and “exchange value.” The use value of an object is its value to YOU. A chef’s knife is a critical tool in the daily work of a professional chef; but may be an object that lies unused in the drawer of an indifferent home cook. Their use value is quite different to the two owners, but the two knives cost the same amount at the store. Their cost is their exchange value – or market value. Or take a different kind of example. You may own a piece of costume jewelry that means worlds to you because it was owned by your great grandmother, so its use value (emotional use) is extremely high, yet it is virtually worthless in the market place. A major social problem arises, according to Marx, when we confuse use value and exchange value – or, rather, when we believe that the ONLY value of an object is its exchange value. The deepest tragedy of all is when we come to believe that our personal worth is determined by what we can sell our labor for in the marketplace, and that what we can afford to buy is the measure of our worth as human beings.

I’m not in a position to teach you much about Marx in a few paragraphs. All I can hope to do is to motivate you to want to know more about his works. If you read Marx with a fresh eye, and not in the shadow of history, you will undoubtedly find words that inspire and engage you, words that make you think more deeply about the world in which we live, and about yourself.

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My researches revealed that Marx was partial to fish, but his favorite dish was pickled beets with hollandaise sauce. You have to be a little skeptical of such pronouncements, but I’ll work with what I have and suggest a dish of poached salmon with pickled beets in hollandaise as a side dish. My photo shows pejerrey (Argentine smelts) as the fish because salmon is rather pricey nowadays in Argentina. I gave a recipe for hollandaise two days ago (3 May 2014), so I do not need to repeat it, and poaching salmon (or other fish) should not raise any issues. So here is the basic method for pickling beets if you don’t want to buy them. If you happen to be close to a good kosher deli, I’d get them there.

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Pickled Beets

Ingredients:

1 large red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
1 cup tarragon wine vinegar
1 ½ tsps kosher salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup water

For roasted beets:

6 medium beets
2 large shallots, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Scrub the beets well and cut the tops off. Mix them with the rest of the roasting ingredients so that they are lightly coated with oil, and then place them in a tightly sealed foil pack and roast for 40 minutes in the oven.

Let the beets cool slightly and peel them. The skins should just rub off. Then slice them.

Layer the beets and sliced onion alternately in mason jars.

Bring the vinegar, salt, sugar, and water to a boil. Pour the mixture over the beets and seal the jars.

They can be eaten after 3 days, but 7 is better; and they will keep for up to 1 month.