reede, aprill 06, 2007

The benefits of being in New York

Because my last blog was perhaps too sour for some, I have decided to write about some of the things that make me happy to be back in town.

1) Access to affordable and diverse food. And I don't mean wild varieties of Indian or Thai, I am talking about a country where cheddar cheese is not a luxury item at the supermarket, priced above, and placed separately, from the onslaught of Estonian cheeses which mostly taste the same.

2) Access to music. In Estonia, if I wanted to buy an actual copy of music -- like a CD -- that I couldn't find in the music store, I'd have to order it and pray to the Gods that it would get there. Here, I just have to walk into any large store -- Virgin Records, for example -- and buy it.

3) Anonymity. I think this is a big reason so many people from the Midwest wind up here in New York City. Nobody knows you here, and you are likely not to bump into anyone from your past. As they said in Sex and the City: "who knew an island that small could hold all my ex-boyfriends" or in my special case, I worked for more than a year about 14 blocks from an ex-girlfriend and never once ran into her. With anonymity comes a great deal of personal freedom. In Estonia, if you screw up big, everyone will know about it. Here if you screw up, you can get a job two blocks away, and no one would ever know.

26 kommentaari:

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks Estonian cheese sucks. :)

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

If you really like cheese France is the country. From the Camembert in the Normandie, to Brie de Meaux in Iles de France and the goat cheeses in between North and South France, the Roquefort. There is no other country who offers this diversity.

Aivar ütles ...

To make america 100% to my liking I would take just two things from Estonia - yoghurt and all these blond girls in mini skirts.

Everything else is already here. Then, lose the republicans and it would be the best place on earth. ;-)

Scott ütles ...

1) Access to affordable and diverse food. And I don't mean wild varieties of Indian or Thai, I am talking about a country where cheddar cheese is not a luxury item at the supermarket, priced above, and placed separately, from the onslaught of Estonian cheeses which mostly taste the same.

From your blog to God's ears.

aivar ütles ...

Justin, Scott

Have you guys learned to love kiluvõileib with a ring of onion and a slice of boiled egg yet?

Just curious. ;-)

martintg ütles ...

Access to affordable and diverse food. And I don't mean wild varieties of Indian or Thai, I am talking about a country where cheddar cheese is not a luxury item at the supermarket, priced above, and placed separately, from the onslaught of Estonian cheeses which mostly taste the same.

Well in my experience in US supermarkets, seemingly the only cheese you can get is cheddar, rows upon rows of cheddar, dozens of brands, sliced, diced, grated, lite, full fat, mature, extra tasty, processed, you name it, any cheese you like, as long as it is cheddar. :o)

As for the other advantages, any large city will give you that. Hop on to a Easy Jet to London for your weekend Big City fix, even visit the original Virgin Records Megastore while you are at it.

Kristopher ütles ...

Again way too long a comment and I'll wear out my welcome :) but as someone who is about to live for a few months in the States after five years in Estonia, I had to chime in on the food issue.

With a 18-month-old son, we have been doing a lot of label reading and not liking a lot of what we see.

A lot of the consumer Estonian cheese is loaded with calcium nitrate or worse (kind of like the superfluous benzoates in salted and canned fish -- why is it there?). I think the higher-end stuff is pretty solid and reasonably additive-free if undistinguished -- Saaremaa Ekstra etc.

Just like the States now probably make the best beers in the world thanks to the microbrew revolution, there's no knocking a good Maytag Blue or a Vermont creamery cheddar.

Going to the Pacific NW as we are, it will be nice to have access to wild salmon. I don't even trust the Norwegian fjord farmed stuff completely. And the Baltic...well. If yuou have never had Kapten Grant cod liver, you should have it once in your life -- it really is that good -- but never again. One acute exposure to methylmercury and PCBs won't hurt, it's the chronic consumption.

Buying meat without preservatives in the US also will be nice -- a nice applewood smoked bacon from the local co-op, or chicken andouille..

As far as dairy products and bread are concerned these are areas where Estonia was once way ahead of other countries (kind of it was once way ahead of the States in WiFi). But I've noticed that the market is getting more homogenized thanks to Kalev and Fazer with their dough conditioners and high-fructose syrup, there has been a step back. Ditto in a few other sectors.

The situation with fruit juice in Estonia is abysmal -- yet someone should be able to drive Aura with their sugar waters out of business overnight by offering good 100% juices. And as for the few juices that are available pure, why is there no orange juice in a bottle with that fresh squeezed taste?

Naturally this isn't just griping -- I'd love add to food quality in Estonia when I come back, and not just by imports or overhyped things like astelpaju. There's a lot of restaurateurs and magazine publishers who have created demand for organic, niche, and good products in general.

Andres ütles ...

Kristopher, woow, you seem to pay way too much attention to what you eat...

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

What to eat? I have been with my 'spouse', a Korean, more than 10 years ago to the Baltics. We survived while spending most lunches at the Ariran in Tallinn. There are many mutual experiences between korean and estonian history but food was an inbridgeable link between the two continents.
Though the Koreans we've met had moved to Estonia earlier cause living in Soviet Russia was not easy. They were treated bad as Asians or half Asians in Moscva or other regions.

martintg ütles ...

Kristopher wrote:
Just like the States now probably make the best beers in the world thanks to the microbrew revolution, there's no knocking a good Maytag Blue or a Vermont creamery cheddar.

I think the Czech Republic or Belgium would disagree with your view on the best beer in the world.

Also I don't think US labeling laws are as rigourous as those in the EU, so your Vermont creamery cheddar is probably as loaded as any European cheese with calcium nitrate, except US manufacturers aren't required to label it. Btw, I heard Estonian water contains dihydrogen monoxide. ;)

Besides, your American milking cows and applewood smoked bacon pigs are probably fed genetically modified frankenstein food, something thankfully not permitted in Estonia.

Kristopher ütles ...

Martintg, are you sure? I know that if an Estonian (possibly EU) manufacturer uses a product within its product, it does not have to say what is in it. It can just say "moos", for instance. Not so in the States.

I know from pushing some papers for a dairy that the "certfied organic" labelling laws are quite strict and enforced. It is possible that the pigs who wemt into the bacon I am fantasizing about were fed bone meal from other pigs or even GMO -- but not very likely. The potential for huge lawsuits and fines is too great. I think most people who go through the long certification process are not the kind of people who are looking to make a buck.

Whole Foods wants to leave the impression that its food is as wholesome as back in the 1940s when the milk came straight from someone you knew. In reality it isn't, and some corners get cut, but it is paranoid to think there is outright fraud.

It is true that the FDA is not tougher than European agencies. There are certain additives that are banned in some countries, like BHT in Sweden, which are just fine in the States. Things get approved that probably should not get approved.

In any case, I don't think you can pay "too" much attention to what you eat and what is in the environment, especially when there are small kids in the house. It's one of those ounce of prevention deals, I think.

Tiina ütles ...

Kristopher. Ka Eestis tuleb juba mõnda aega kõik täpselt välja kirjutada. Kui on moos jogurti sees, siis võib sõna moos kasutada küll etiketil, aga sulgudes tuleb ära seletada, et mis täpselt seal moosi sees on.

aivar ütles ...

Never mind the ingredients when shopping for gorceries in Estonia. The first order of concern in my experience has been the freshness of foodstuffs. It's complete "buyer beware". Keeps you on your toes and alert, though. So it is good for your survival reflexes that one might easily loose when shopping at the Whole Foods or Balduccis.

Flasher T ütles ...

There are many mutual experiences between korean and estonian history but food was an inbridgeable link between the two continents.

Oy, don't make me start with the kimchi jokes! ;)

Kristopher ütles ...

Tiina: Then the Estonian labelling law is being broken on a massive level. Even a salad I just bought says only "hapukurk" -- is this an elemental pickle? From a pickle tree? In the States it would say at least say pickles (cucumber, vinegar, salt, natural flavorings).

Anonüümne ütles ...

Labels on many imports seem to be poorly translated. Stockmann often confuses "hydrolyzed" and "hydrogenated".

Now I think New York's law banning all trans fats was a little too much...but I had a health problem, I would be extremely pissed off to be eating hydrogenated (trans fats) when I was led to believe it was something hydrolyzed (water added molecularly, eg to proteins).

Anonüümne ütles ...

TO: MARTINTG:

Besides, your American milking cows and applewood smoked bacon pigs are probably fed genetically modified frankenstein food, something thankfully not permitted in Estonia.--

What is Frankenstein food???
If a piece of known DNA is inserted into an exact genomic location of a plant (or other organism), it suddenly becomes Frankenfood, whereas with conventional breeding a huge number of unknown genes are being passed from one organism to another yet this is better? Why the double standards? Oh or do yopu think that only GMO contains DNA? Like 2/3 of respondents in EU?

notsu ütles ...

If we are to believe the labels, then all Saaremaa cheeses I know about are additive-free. Nopri sõir, or if you live in North Estonia, Saidafarm products should be safe too.

martintg ütles ...

The problem with Frankenfood is that piece of known DNA is often a totally different species to the genome it is being inserted into, something that could never happen in natural breeding.

Transgenic cows with human DNA to produce human protein enriched milk? Spider genes in the cells of lactating goats? No thankyou, I don't want this real Frankenstein food.

Anonüümne ütles ...

martintg said...
TO: MARTING:

The problem with Frankenfood is that piece of known DNA is often a totally different species to the genome it is being inserted into, something that could never happen in natural breeding.

Transgenic cows with human DNA to produce human protein enriched milk? Spider genes in the cells of lactating goats? No thankyou, I don't want this real Frankenstein food.

With conventional breeding sometimes genomes of different species are mixed together, like a certain Finnish variety of commercially used blueberry.
One 'foreign'-produced protein, eg human growth hormone produced in bacteria has been used for over two decades. No ill-effects whatsoever. Your fear is based on the assumption that foreigness of DNA is bad A PRIORI. Well, consider this, we may harbour certain viral (foreign!) genes -e g most people are infected by papillomaviruses that does often not cause any symptoms (but can lead to warts and c ervical cancer), sometimes the viral genome may integrate into the human genome (in certain cells, ie not all over the body) and thus, genetically speaking, become apart of us.
In nature, lo and behold, interspecies DNA transfer does occur, eg Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil bacterium, may integrate a part of its genome into a plant host's genome. So these issues are noit as black&white as they seem. And I am not advocating foolhardy use of novel technologies but an even-handed saftey regulations for GMO-s as well as 'naturally' (if man-made crops can be deemed natural) bred non-GMOs.

martintg ütles ...

There may well be viral and bacterial genomes being incorporated into the genomes other specied naturally, but this is a result of millions of years of evolution that results in a balance. But that balance can be disturbed. The impact of anything artificial created by humans can never be considered benign. There is always some downstream impact that is somewhat unpredictable, whether it is burning fossil fuels resulting in raised sea tempuratures leading to bleached coral reefs, loading the soils with fertilizers leading to algae blooms in our water ways, to genetically modified plants cross pollinating with natural plants 10 kilometers away leading to a reduction in biodiversity.

Sure, GMO organisms used in a secure industrial setting to manufacture drugs is okay, but GMO organisms in an open agricultural setting? Why do we need it? So corporations can patent it and then require us to pay licence fees so we can grow grain and make bread?

In my view, I think Estonian agriculture would be better served by focusing on the niche market of organic GMO-free agriculture, rather than scrambling to introduce GMO.

Miina ütles ...

Abouth cheese, have you tried caucasian smoked cheese braid, sold in Tartu Kaubamaja? Must-have for cheese-addicts :D

Derek ütles ...

I just recently moved to kuressaare after living in manhattan on the upper west side for 10 years with my wife and 2 kids where a full 70% of our budget was spent on eating.

we had every possible choice of food at zabars and fairway supermarket and citarella's. Organic everything and macro biotic at times. international restaurants within our 4 block radius.

well, here in saaremaa, I can say that the bread is better than anything I had in new york, the local beers are tastier than what I used to buy in new york (guinness and boddingtons) and the yogurt and kefiir is so tasty that I stopped eating ice cream completely. plus there is a growing mahe / organic movement that is insuring quality - I get eggs and honey from a friends organic farm - and they are excellent...

Elagu Eesti!

plasma-jack ütles ...

Hmm, I thought that keefir would be very hard to sell to foreigners. I've seen the Finnish turn away in disgust. I really love the white thick substance myself.
But how do you feel about kiluvõileib, that was mentioned before? (suggestion - try it with vodka. or keefir.)

Aivar ütles ...

IMHO no-one can really call themselves fully integrated into Estonian life until they develop "neelud" for kiluvõileib, verivorst, mulgikapsas, sylt, suitsuangerjas ja kali.

Personally, I've gone through a divorce where these things should have been mentioned in court papers. ;-)

somebody ütles ...

I like Estonia precisely because of its size. I know that by learning Estonian I will meet my ex girlfriend sooner or later, even if I am hundreds of miles away from that tiny spot called Eesti. The circle of people who speak Estonian is so small that I will stumble upon her one day in one European capital or in a short visit to Tallinn.

I lived in New York State two hours away from Buffalo and the first thing I had to do if I wanted some cheese was to walk three miles through a snowstorm (yes, I don't drive).