04 Mar '12, 5pm
Our Unhappy Meals via @tomphilpott
McMillan's first forays into farm labor don't go well. She learns quickly that this menial work actually requires skill and care: you try getting up at 4:45 in the morning and spending your day snipping grape bunches, paring them down to look perfect, and stacking them carefully enough to avoid damage yet rapidly enough to make up for a crushingly low piece rate. Withering under the excoriating heat of California's Central Valley, doubled over in the bathroom of a public library and unable to work anymore, she asks, "Whose f***ing idea was it to grow food in a desert?" Whose idea, indeed? As McMillan makes clear, the main asset of the Central Valley as a produce-growing region (beyond long, sunny days) turns out to be the power of its landowners to import and consume cheap labor and water from afar. It would be no stretch to describe their treatment of labor as criminal. C...