Sunday, November 1, 2009

Texas House of Representatives

Today was the second and final day of this year's Texas Book Festival. And that can mean only one thing, lounging like el jefe, el gato gordo del Tejas in an oversized, obscenely plush, too-big for it's equally oversized antique desk, reclining chair on the floor of the Texas Capitol House Chambers.

The highlight of the Texas Book Festival is the moderated author panels. This afternoon, after lunch at Casa de Luz, my cousins and I headed up the Capitol steps to hear Jonathan Safran Foer. We got there early enough for the plumb representatives' seats and found we'd also hear from Novella Carpenter, James E. McWilliams and Jason Sheehan. The moderator was Atlantic Monthly senior editor Corby Kummer.

Of course, before I can even get to the Book Festival, we saw JS Foer dining at Casa de Luz and I naturally added to my ever growing list of awkward celebrity moments.

So, JS Foer's newest book is Eating Animals and Novella's is Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer and James' is Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly and Jason's is Cooking Dirty.

Okay, that's a lot of info, but the location and titles matter here. My cousin Henry pointed out that we were sitting in the capitol of cattle country. Texas' house of representatives in fat leather couches surrounded by the gilded oil paintings of wildcatters and ranchers and big-buckled businessmen, each with an implied cheekful of rare steak. And yet, the floor and balcony were packed today with Texans to hear these authors expound on the evils of factory farming and the virtues of vegetarianism.

During questions, some charming, high-waisted fossil got up and asked pointedly whether eating meat isn't virtuous because it perpetuates species that otherwise couldn't survive and wouldn't exist. He was all but boo'd from the panel for his "bizarre logic." The old sorehead must have wondered who let all the hippies in the henhouse. Of course, Farmer in the Dell was quickly followed by someone wanting to know how he could do more than simply being a vegetarian and voting each of the panelists for president.