Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fish tostadas, a political discussion, and a nursery rhyme

Here is what the Neffs ate tonight. The bottom layer, which does not show, is a homemade corn tortilla. Next comes a handful of wild arugula ($1.99 for 8 oz. at TJ). On top of that, 1/2 of each of three bell peppers (red, yellow, green) sliced and cooked in olive oil with a sliced onion. Next, six TJ fish sticks. After that, a hearty handful of grated feta cheese. On top, a mixture of diced tomato, avocado, and lime juice.

Here is what the Neffs talked about while eating. Mr Neff was interested in this article by Helen Alvaré, the Catholic church's poster girl for intelligent non-feminism. She is concerned that some initiatives by some governments seem aimed at forcing, or at least strongly nudging, mothers out of the home and into the workplace, and she writes approvingly of governmental programs that subsidize homemakers.

All very high-minded, said Mrs Neff to Mr Neff, but an odd situation has developed over the last hundred or two years. Once upon a time, if the man was an agricultural worker, so was his wife. If he was a servant, she probably was also. If he was in the leisure classes, she had servants waiting on her too.

But since the industrial revolution, there is often a social-class divide between husband and wife. While he is off, say, editing a magazine and running a department, she is at home, say, cooking fish tacos and doing the income taxes.

In such a hypothetical situation, Mrs Neff persisted, the man is part of the upper-middle-class intelligentsia, and the woman is his servant. Perhaps some of the governmental initiatives that worry Ms Alvaré are simply trying to move the man and woman toward parity.

But no, Mr Neff countered:

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.

When you were working on taxes, quoth he, you weren't doing a servant's job. You were doing the work of a king!

Never argue with Father Goose.

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