Dining on Sacred Cow
Much has been made of the coming once-in-a-lifetime “Thanksgivukkah” convergence, an apotheosis of Jewish assimilation complete with vile turkey-and-latke creations for all. Last time it happened—1888, I’m told—Hanukkah wasn’t even much of a thing, and it won’t happen again until the year 79,811. This of course means that it won’t ever happen again, because for however much I love America and love Jews, I don’t expect either to exist on such a timescale (and if you do, I suggest that you get over it). So if it’s your sort of thing, enjoy it: it’s the only Thanksgivukkah there will ever be.
I will not deny that the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah serves my interests, narrowly speaking: That is to say, my mother will have no choice but to prepare a flavorful brisket instead of the ever-unpopular, but culturally perfunctory turkey. But beyond the alimentary upside, Thanksgivukkah does absolutely nothing for me. To put a finer point on it, this chimera of a holiday epitomizes much of what has always alienated me, a proud Jew and proud American, from the culture that is Jewish America. This season, I would rather celebrate the two concurrently than be dragged into the morass of cranberry sauce latkes, Hallmark bastardizations, and what I can’t help but imagine of Adam Sandler in pilgrim garb.
“He’s making this country into the best machine he can,” goes the upbeat, silvery refrain sounded thousands of times a day on trains, trams, and television sets across the country. And speaking of trains (and speaking of across the country!), a network of maglev tracks, vaguely late Victorian in appearance, crisscrosses the landscape, its trains running perfectly on time as they barrel from city to city.
“Craft!” whispers another, smaller voice from your corner lamppost, giving testimony to a national ethos whose name, shared with the currency, derives from the suffix of the president’s surname. Not quite president, but “director,” he reminds foreign correspondents. That was his title when the family business acquired the hard-hit national government on December 31, 1996, and as far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed.
For quite some time, I’ve been dabbler in what is broadly called “the bioanthropology blogosphere.” It’s one of the Internet’s strangest most provocative corners—abounding with intellectual polymaths, ideological singletons, and, very disconcertingly, more than a few unreconstructed racists. Its cast of characters, endowed with a flair for the interdisciplinary, have supplied me with both an obsession with historical population genetics and a thesis topic in intellectual history.
What binds together a good majority of bioanthro writers, from the sloppiest to the most precise, is a cultural-political identification with the secular Right. Their atheism and belief in evolution sets them apart from their fellow conservatives (only 37 percent of whom admitted in 2005 to believing in evolution); their wariness of universalistic humanism and persistent consideration of evolution as an explanatory variable in human behavior sets them apart from secular liberals.
“When I was 17, I had wrists like steel / And I felt complete,” croons Ezra Koenig in “Giving Up the Gun,” a song to which I was particularly given when I was seventeen myself. To this day, I think it a good mantra for intellectualized seventeen-year-old maleness in all its invincibility and unbridled individualism.
My initiation into pure, triumphalist classical liberalism did to some degree have its roots into the spirit of my age: “You can’t tell me what to do.” But more than anything, it was a rebellion against longstanding, self-imposed order.
We’ve all been to yogurtland. The neon-and-antiseptic walls, the nave-like proportions; the blessed infinity of choices. The soulless negative of a charming, family-owned ice cream shop, but less likely to stop your heart. Self-serve frozen yogurt is the undisputed “in” dessert of the global bourgeoisie—but nary a good enough yogurt joint for the job in Harvard Square, the fermented dairy delight’s ideal market.
Until now: enter Yogurtland—capital Y—perched tastily between Maharaja and Bon Chon, its all-glass storefront beguiling the crowds of Winthrop Park. Its product—some dozen flavors of take-however-much-you-want, top-how-you-like, weigh-by-the-ounce yogurt—knocks the daylights out of vaunted neighborhood incumbents Berry Line and Pinkberry, which dispense yogurt behind the counter in fixed, unfree increments. No better place to throw my lactose intolerance to the wind, I remark to my roommates almost every other night as we round the corner to the coolest new place this side of Beat Hotel.