Green Man – Grocer Man

12 06 2017

I’ve just finished reading two books, one a novel, one an in depth look at the buying and selling of food. Krampus, the Yule Lord by Brom, and Grocery written by Michael Ruhlman. While on the surface, these books might not seem to have much in common; the dualism of reality was essentially the theme of both. Krampus, being a fictitious account of how Krampus, having been captured by Santa Claus, escaped and set about bringing the Yule Spirit, or honoring the cycles of nature, back to the people in Boone County, West Virginia. Grocery, which obviously involved more research, crosses into honoring the cycles of nature as well, from interviewing a third generation family of grocers, the Heinens, and the quite dedicated group of people who help them run their Cleveland based stores, in an eco-friendly manner, as their customers become environmentally conscious regarding food sources.

There are of course, immediate archetypal correlations. The returning of life, as Krampus observes the Yule, and the greenery of earth providing all that eventually finds a space on the grocery shelves, as well as Santa Claus, and the goodness/convenience brought about by modern day markets. Curiously, though each of these story arcs don’t cover up the ‘bad’ actions brought about by the green side of the arc, they both also describe intentional debasing of nature for the ‘betterment’ of society, i.e. furthering specific behaviors, or creating profit.

Brom, sets up quite an interesting story in providing a background on why Krampus has developed a full fledged feud with Santa, essentially, because he is in fact Baldr, one of Odin’s sons, who Krampus believes has deceived the Norse gods and brought about Ragnorok. The generosity of spirit is one of the unifying points of Baldr and St. Nick in the novel, and while Baldr is recovering from his first ‘death,’ the words of Saint Nicholas become his guiding principles. Since St. Nick is from an entirely different era of thought and myth, Baldr-Claus feels it necessary to develop new symbols and uses alchemy to transfer the flying power of the goats of the Norse gods to reindeer, which he then uses to pull the sleigh which he has stolen from Krampus.  A very real example of this ‘sleight of hand’ is the article ‘How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat,’ in the New York Times September 12, 2016, demonstrating that in order to continue profit, the sugar industry initiated and paid for experts to deceive the public with the connection between sugary drinks and obesity.

There are still more connections between the time it takes to make a marinade or stew, and it’s flavor characteristics. Essentially, by the third axiom in Boolean logic (commutative), the stronger something’s character, the more time it takes to develop. Ruhlman asks at the end of the 18th Chapter, entitled ‘The Cooking Animal,’ ‘At what cost convenience?’ What is the trade off of giving up preparing food with family and friends, the memories, the dialogue and the aromas? What is the cost of transferring properties of nature into another container for the purpose of profit, control, or from ignorance? While Ruhlman’s book invites essential dialogue, with the example of Heinen’s stores hiring a Chief Medical Officer,  Todd Pesek, it seems that Dr. Todd and Brom’s Krampus have an inherent understanding of health and environment, as they both recognize that it is through engaging with environment in a respectful way that restores balance to our diet, and creates a culture of sustainability, or as it was referred to in simpler times while ‘dressed in the fruits of the wild,’ life.