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Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.” Robert Reich

The ritual of beverages: morning coffee, glass of wine with dinner, champagne for celebrations, hot chocolate for first snowfalls and a lime margarita once your toes hit the sand as you embark on a holiday. Most of us are quite committed to the ritual of our drinking habits, whether it is a ‘grande non-fat chai latte’ from Starbucks at the airport or your favorite brand of beer when watching your favorite sports team.

In this issue our writers explore beverages. Mexican classics such as coffee, chocolate, beer and pulque. I was driving through my village while contemplating what to write about for my editorial when I spotted a six-year old boy I know coming out of the tienda. Barefoot and with a little puppy nipping at his heels, he struggled to hold the 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola he’d just purchased. Ugh how could I have overlooked the most important beverage crisis that Mexico faces.

After the implementation of Nafta on January 1, 1994, Mexico saw a dramatic rise in consumption of sugary beverages and processed foods.

“In addition to dramatically lowering cross-border tariffs, Nafta let billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into Mexico, fueled the growth of American fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and opened the floodgates to cheap corn, meat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods” (New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017).

The rise in diabetes and obesity in Mexico was a huge factor before the pandemic, but has never been more paramount than now, given that these conditions make people at much greater risk.

One of the ways that junk food has infiltrated small communities that have traditionally been very self-sufficent – growing corn, fishing, relying on the vegetation found around the village – has been to offer inexpensive non-perishable products and incentives such as free refrigerators and even low-interest loans for expansion.

A new development is stickers on processed foods warning people about high sugar and fat contents. Whether this will lead to a reduction in consumption of such foods has yet to be determined. The state of Oaxaca did implement a law making it illegal to sell junk food to minors. Enforcement is another beast entirely.

“In the rural Oaxacan town of Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, citizens have physically blocked chips and soda delivery trucks from entering since April, saying they don’t want outsiders to bring in the coronavirus or junk food” (NPR ,September 14, 2020).

I don’t know if that is the answer, but I do know we need to start asking the question.

Cheers,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family.”
Ban Ki-moon

Race, gender, sexual orientation and religion are things we use to identify and separate us. We can now add vaccinated and non-vaccinated into the mix.

I am back in my village and it is a full year since kids here have had in-person classes. As in many places, group gatherings have been suspended until further notice- the future is in limbo. Unlike other places most households have ten or more people living there and there isn’t any internet or cell service so zoom classes aren’t a thing. Nobody wears masks or social distances in my village. When this whole thing first came down the village put up a barrier at the main entrance to restrict entry. However, few outsiders stop here and arguments about whose turn it was to monitor the gate soon caused the villagers to remove the barrier. School is still on hold.

The little boys who live next to me call out while I am making coffee. They can see through the fence separating our houses that I am there. They point to pieces of Mega blocks that have ended up on my side of the fence. I pick them up and pass them through. One of my dogs follows me and when they see him they call out his name with jubilation.

These kids have missed a year of school. As I move through the village and I see kids hanging around the tienda, chasing chickens for sport and sword-fighting with sticks, I feel defeated. While this quaint throwback scene to simpler times is touching, it will leave a mark on them if things do not get back on track. Home schooling via zoom with parents at home is a luxury. Access to getting a vaccine is a sign of privilege. While we lament how our world has changed in past year- the frustrations and restrictions regarding travel and home offices- most of us will bounce back. Much of the world will not.

This issue our writers explore the theme of Migration and Transition. Migration is a part of nature: the monarchs, the geese and now, driven by climate change, animals moving south from the Arctic. We are all trying to survive and for most people migration is about survival.

I heard on the news this morning about how there are many unaccompanied children are arriving at the US border with the idea that a better life awaits them on the other side. Why do we have children walking to find new homes? Why are there 26 million refugees currently living in host communities? Because we allow the things that identify us to also be the things that separate us. We get comfortable on our side of the fence with a feeling of entitlement that in some way we are more deserving to be in these positions. However, isn’t it all random luck or the situation you happened to be born into?

Until next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. … It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

How relevant is the feminist movement today and how pervasive is gender inequality?

I have found myself trying to answer this question often in the past few years. While I was growing up there was a certain amount of what became termed victimization attached to the feminist voice as statistics of domestic abuse and sexual harassment were recounted. I recall the ‘walksafe’ program at my university that it was expected women would call if they needed to walk after dark. And if you didn’t call and something happened, well, then you were to blame. However, the world is also a dangerous place for men and if we relied on data we would see that many men also face harassment and violence. More men than women go to war or join law enforcement or go to prison.

Women hold more political and economic power than in the past – not all over the globe, but in many developed countries. It has been suggested to me in social situations that gender inequality is hardly a main global concern. And yet I still believe it is. I believe it because of the women I know in rural Mexico who struggle to go to school. I believe it when I browse the internet and see women’s bodies sexualized in advertising and popular cultural.

Is all fear and danger equal? I recently read a wonderful short story called “The Wind” by Lauren Groff about a woman running away from her abusive police officer husband. The narrator is the daughter of one of the children and the final paragraph was so moving and poignant that I cried because I recognized this fear that I had been unable to put into words.

“The three children survived. Eventually they would save themselves, struggling into lives and loves far from this place and this moment, each finding a kind of safe harbor, jobs and people and houses empty of violence. But always inside my mother there would blow a silent wind, a wind that died and gusted again, raging throughout her life, touching every moment she lived after this one. She tried her best, but she couldn’t help filling me with this same wind. It seeped into me through her blood, through every bite of food she made for me, through every night she waited, shaking with fear, for me to come home by curfew, through every scolding, everything she forbade me to say or think or do or be, through all the ways she taught me how to move as a woman in the world. She was far from being the first to find it blowing through her, and of course I will not be the last. I look around and can see it in so many other women, passed down from a time beyond history, this wind that is dark and ceaseless and raging within.”

So let us not compare our heartaches and tragedies, gender inequality isn’t a men vs. women debate. It is about making the world a place where all of us can feel free. Until the wind that Groff writes about is a thing of distant memory, the feminist movement will be relevant.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“We have a chance to do something extraordinary. As we head out of this pandemic we can change the world. Create a world of love. A world where we are kind to each other. A world where we are kind no matter what class, race, sexual orientation, what religion or lack of or what job we have. A world where we don’t judge those at the food bank because that may be us if things were just slightly different. Let love and kindness be our roadmap.”
― Johnny Corn

If there was ever a moment to make us reevaluate our choices and values, it is now. The pandemic situation is showing us that we need to take into account the welfare of the collective and put our selfishness aside. We need to protect those in our global communities: the vulnerable, the less fortunate, those who lack many of the privileges we take for granted. An attitude of “me first” will only ruin us all.

While I tend to have a Darwinian approach to survival, I also want to be the type of person who values collective needs above my own. As people continue to bicker about guidelines and restrictions – touting the importance of personal rights and freedoms – I question what is the best course of action and I don’t have a firm answer and I value aspects of each argument.

The pandemic has not only affected the world’s medical health but the economic health of the majority of us. I wonder how we will bounce back if we allow our individualism to dictate our choices.

With the beginning dispersal of the Covid-19 vaccine it seemed like things were starting to improve and yet this has only served to show how delineated the line between the have and have-nots is. With wealthy countries stockpiling vaccinations, I have to wonder if it’s not the fittest that will survive but the fortunate.

While ‘love’ may seem like a schmaltzy solution offered up by a greeting card, it actually may be the only real solution. We need the term “globalization” to refer not only to our economies but to our compassion. Even though we have been encouraged to stay home and isolate physically, we cannot isolate ourselves morally.

This situation is teaching us that none of us lives in isolation. Let us fight this moral malaise with love. If a virus can spread across the world at such speed, imagine what we could accomplish if we let love and kindness be our road map?

Stay safe and loving.
See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.”
Thomas de Quincey

Hello 2021!

As we have done for the past four years, the theme for our January issue follows the Chinese New Year. We are entering the Year of the Ox, which hopefully will be better for humanity than 2020’s Year of the Rat.

When I was in India last year, cows wandered the streets as stray dogs do in Mexico. They would approach me and nudge my hand with their head to be petted. These encounters filled me with a strange combination of bliss and sadness. When I returned to Mexico, I went to see some land with a man from my village. There were three cows there and, fresh from my India experience, I approached one and placed my hand on its forehead. Our eyes met and the cow responded to my touch by moving its head towards me. The man who had brought me there looked on quizzically; it was clear he thought I was ridiculous.

So often we overlook the charms of animals that have been domesticated for consumption. As we do with humans, there is a definite hierarchy when it comes to how we dole out our concern for animals. Afterall, I have often made the sassy comment that when people come to a Mexican village and ‘rescue’ a dog, why do they leave the chickens behind? I am being facetious, of course, and this is not a plea that everyone should stop eating meat and welcome chickens into their living rooms (don’t- they are very messy!). I just find it interesting to contemplate how we collectively seem to decide on this hierarchy, and also how it differs from culture to culture.

While I was growing up my mother had a painting that hung in the kitchen of a woman with her hand extended to a cow. Perhaps that is where my fascination came from.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Putting out the magazine has been such a gift during this season when we are separated from so many of our loved ones.

Thank you to the amazing writers, contributors, advertisers and readers who make this possible!

See you in February,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

Bertrand Russell

The Christmas/Holiday season always presents us with an interesting dichotomy. It is the time that we are encouraged to be generous and think of others, especially those whose needs are not being met, yet it is also the time of the greatest and most decadent consumerism and gluttonous excess.

While this year may be different, with Covid lockdowns restricting mall visits, I am sure online shopping will be there to pick up the slack. If you are anything like me then you have a roof over your head, food at the ready and plenty of things to entertain you. What more could any of us possibly need?

The key to happiness is to stop wanting and finding the balance between what we need more of and what we need less of. It is simple. Stop wanting a new car, more vacation days, your political party to win, your leaders to provide you with more, your neighbor’s dog to stop barking, your kids to get jobs, and whatever else it is you find yourself complaining about or ranting at. There is nothing you can buy that will take away your frustration.

Just stop wanting and instead focus on having less; a smaller house, less responsibility, less clothes, less screen time, less information. I am guessing that you are free – that you are not reading this from prison or a refugee camp. What do you want your life to look life? You have the power to make it happen.

Let this be the season of getting rid of stuff and simplifying. Let us be prepared to face 2021 with a clear head and not the rose-tinted glasses of the past. Let us appreciate the time we have and not waste it on the accumulation of more stuff.

In this issue, our writers explore trash and the obvious conclusion is that we are creating too much of it. Even though we have given up using straws and plastic bags it has barely scratched the surface of how much waste we create.

I know it has been a challenging year for everyone – health concerns, economic restraints and political worry. I am not sure that 2021 will be much better but we can prevail freely and nobly.

See you in 2021!

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquility, as if eternity lay before them. It is a lesson I learn every day amid hardships I am thankful for: patience is all!”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Mexico is a palette of vibrant colours and emotive energy that make even the smallest moments in the day feel like a living canvas. Perhaps that is why it produces so many accomplished artists.

What is the thing that propels someone to pursue art? To want to capture a feeling, a thought or a moment and make it static so others can experience it as well. Most of us were first introduced to drawing and painting as children to help us make sense of the world around us … “Draw a house, a family, your dreams, your summer vacation.” Somewhere along the way, when it became clear we weren’t going to be the next Claude Monet or Mark Rothko, we put down our pencils and brushes and moved on to the next thing.

This has been a difficult time for almost everyone I know: health concerns, financial insecurity, fear, loneliness due to self-isolation and a general sense of dealing with the uncertainty of the future. After all, a year ago we would never have been able to predict where we are right now.

Art and creative pursuits are more important than ever to help us make sense of the world. Art is born out of conflict and struggle – it will be interesting to see what is produced during these times. To understand the world around you, look at the art that people are creating.

Rilke writes of the quiet tranquility where you become an artist. Turn off the TV, put down your phone, close your computer and just listen to the hum of your refrigerator. Feel your heart beating in your chest, look at the tree outside your window … What is going on in your life? If you could capture one moment or feeling or thought and share it with the world or even just one person, what would it be? Maybe you don’t know … maybe you think that you have nothing to say.

Pick up the pencils and paintbrushes you discarded long ago and be patient. It will come and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.”
— Sterling Hayden

I am writing this month’s editorial from an apartment in Athens, Greece. While this may seem like the worst possible time to leave your house, I am seizing the chance to be a global pandemic traveler.

I embraced the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown by taking an online class in Greek mythology, learning German with Duolingo, writing, cooking new dishes, reading the pile of books on my bedside table, biking in Huatulco’s National Park and meeting up with only a few friends. My daughter was home from university and it was wonderful to be able to spend time together without having to schedule it in and rush off to work.

If this pandemic has shown me anything it is that the time for living is today. No longer can we count on putting off our dreams for a later that may not come. So when the opportunity to do a little jet-setting came up, I didn’t hesitate.

The practicalities of the travel part have been quite painless with almost empty airports, mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and temperature-taking. My first stop was Switzerland where I was required to quarantine for 10 days. I got a studio apartment in the countryside and was able to take short walks with views of cows and even a couple of deer one early morning. After quarantine I was able to hike, go to a concert on the Stockhorn mountain, attend yoga classes and float down the Aare river in an inflatable boat. I have never valued these freedoms more than now.

With rising cases and restrictions being softened and then tightened, in almost every country, it makes it impossible to know what the future will hold. But did we ever really know? Even before the world came to a standstill, wasn’t each day a gift and the concept of the future just a comforting illusion? For myself, I will not stop making plans, they may change, but I cannot sit still waiting.

There has never been a better moment to set sail for the unknown, the entire world is poised alongside you, filled with uncertainty, and time is ticking away at the same speed as before. I am approaching each day with wonderment at the variety of possibilities it holds.

This month our writers share their stories of learning and growing during these times. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been. Stay physically safe; wear your mask, wash your hands and listen to your heart.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

This month at The Eye we have much to celebrate! When we put out the first issue in early 2011, I could not have predicted that almost ten years later we would still be going strong and putting out our 100th issue.

This is also our annual Food Issue and, as a restaurateur, it is one of my favorites to put together. However, this year feels a little bit different for me.

The unprecedented worldwide COVID situation is affecting how we relate to one another. We are reevaluating social norms; shaking hands is verboten, let alone the hugging and kissing which is so common in Latin culture. Standing too close to someone is no longer just rude but is seen as a form of aggression.

The restaurant experience as we have come to know it is changing quickly, with disposable menus, plastic-wrapped cutlery, having your body misted down with disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and of course there are the masks. Suddenly staying home seems a lot more fun.

With this in mind, we return to comfort foods. This is not a time for molecular gastronomy or expensive cuts of meat. It’s a time for eating close to home with seasonal ingredients. Make extra and send it to your neighbor – in sterilized Tupperware, of course!

And we need to evaluate these changes through a wider lens. Yesterday 4,158 people died from COVID while over 21,000 died from hunger. I do not say this to diminish those affected by this virus, but to encourage us to remain focused on the fact that many humans do not have the basics for survival. This ‘new normal’ makes providing those basics even more difficult. There are currently 70 million displaced people across the globe and half of those are women and children. Many are living in one of the various immigration detention centers or refugee camps around the globe. As the world came to a stop, they have not had the luxury of self-isolating. In addition, caseworkers, courts and immigration services came to a standstill, making the already long process they face, even longer.

The world has come to a halt to protect human lives. But why have we not stopped the world for the hungry when their numbers are so great and their power so little?

Thank you to our readers for being on this journey with us!

See you in October,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
Herman Hesse, Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte

What a challenging time this has been! Circumstances have made many of us reflect on our lives. Perhaps you have questioned how you spend your time and what really matters. What changes will you make? What is the intention of your life?

This month our writers explore the theme of trees.

As you read this, what is the tree that is closest to you? Contemplate it for a few minutes. How long has it been there? Was it planted by someone or did it spring up by the grace of nature? Run your fingertips along its bark. How do its branches reach- extending out like open arms for a hug or like a child on tiptoes trying to touch the sky? What is the shape and color of the leaves? Press one to your check and feel its texture.

Now imagine its roots reaching underground and connecting to the next closest tree. What information or secret are they sharing?

You don’t need to me to tell you how necessary trees are to our survival- we all learn it as children and yet we seem to forget. We are an entire species hell bent on self-destruction. We are literally cutting down the very things that allow us to breathe- somewhat ironically as a virus that affects the respiratory system fills us with fear and has us staying indoors and wearing face masks.

Last week when we had the alarming earthquake that made our homes sway and, dishes and mirrors crash to the floor, I couldn’t help but notice that the trees remained sturdy. From the tallest leaning palm along the boulevard to the giant guanacastles that are peppered through Huatulco, their roots held firm and they stood.

I opened this editorial by commenting on what a challenging time this has been. I should have added… for humans. The world is actually ok. It is humanity that is out of sync with nature. During quarantine I have been thinking about a whale. I imagine him deep in the ocean, large and magnificent. I think of the ships that have stopped crossing above him and I hope he is enjoying the brief respite from our symphony of industry.

Go to the tree closest to you. Touch it. Listen to it. Learn from it.

See you next month,

Jane