“The most technological thing isn’t necessarily the most futuristic,” states Paul “Strategy” Dickow, musing on food and politics in between pausing to buy sprightly fennel and picking through pyramids of peaches. Dickow is a local music champion–a member of Nudge and Smoke & Mirrors, he also runs the Community Library label and records percolating rhythms and ambient symphonies for Kranky, Audio Dregs, Orac, and Dreck, among others. He’s also a staunch champion of the wild individualism of the Pacific Northwest biome, a quality reflected in everything from the music he makes to the food he buys to the bike he rides. And what better place to talk Cascadian philosophy than a typical Saturday trip to the PSU Farmers' Market?
Back to the Soil
Food is one of the things that defines a culture. Supposedly, there is a farmers' market within walking distance of almost everyone in Portland; something like 25 total. Some of them are in co-op or church parking lots, or at colleges; they’re all on different days of the week. They’re a popular place to take kids and out-of-towners. This market used to be more haphazard but it’s gotten more upscale and organized over time. One day food co-ops may even take the place of, or be as important as, regional governments. It’s so cool to see these heritage vegetables. It harkens back to the past before vegetables were bred to be perfect in size and form.
This stand is super-cool. It’s got all kinds of mushrooms, from shiitake and oyster and morels to ones you’ve never seen. I’m going to get some of these for my dinner tonight. [A conversation ensues with the vendor about how they are best prepared. The vendor recommends them with eggs; another patron suggests sautéing them with garlic and butter.] Some friends of mine are amateur mycologists; they go out in the woods around here and find the craziest mushrooms, and sometimes they bring us some.
Myself and David Chandler (Solenoid) are really into this idea of a free Cascadia. We first got into it through discussions with Randy from Orac Records in Seattle. We were starting to release records and nobody felt good about putting “USA” in the artwork text. Cascadia really refers to a biological and geological region, west of the Cascades and east of the coasts, going from Oregon up to southern B.C., but it’s also become symbolic of a separatist movement, of symbolically detaching from any association to empire.
There’s a lot of regional science fiction pertaining to Cascadia and this whole Northwest region, mostly inspired by Ernest Callenbach’s [1975 novel] Ecotopia. A lot of it is really cheesy, but Octavia Butler, who wrote Parable of the Sower, is essential. One of the few black women in sci-fi, she died at age 58–a really important woman, gone way too soon. She also wrote this weird vampire novel series that’s pretty cool.
Favorite Portland artist:
David Chandler (a.k.a. DJ Brokenwindow/Solenoid/Mr. Pharmacist)