shuna lydon

looking for something particular?

  • Google


Become a Fan

Bookmark and Share

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 03/2005

« Pie Off 2008, The Recap at KQED... | Main | Chihuly at the de Young Museum, San Francisco »

14 August 2008


Sorry, can't argue with anything you said. But in support of what you and other artists do, I believe that we need music, paintings, and desserts to sustain our spirits.

A brilliant and insightful piece of writing Shuna. =)

I'm heading out to work in Saudi for a year.

A Professor working for the Law Society of England and Wales has announced there are twice as many lawyers as the industry can sustain.

I've spent two years going to nightschool taking exams in Chemistry and Biology so I can apply to University and become a pharmacist. The money I will, fingers crossed, earn should help me towards funding this life change.

The Law Schools know there are not enough jobs for graduates.
They don't tell you that at open days though.

Much of education seems to be a money making scam for the Universities. When you're preying on 17-18 year old kids it seems a little distasteful.

I have been close to the edge.

Clinging for life.


Nobody is safe.

Hi Shuna -

I'm surprised to see you say that SFN has no corporate sponsorship. Or maybe I'm misreading what you're saying?

From their site FAQ's:

"Slow Food Nation is funded by ticket sales (20% of revenue), corporate sponsors (50% of revenue), foundations (25% of revenue) and philanthropists (5% of revenue)."

amazing, truly amazing post. lots to digest, thank you. needed to get out of my head at work and restart. thanks for this, just incredible.

Shoot, if your writing skills is any indication of your cooking then Sister, YOU ARE A BADD ASS!

Go on with your Badd self!

Fab look very very very young. Careful you will be carted in bars! (smile)

Shuna- Your post is tough, beautiful and heart wrenching. If I changed a few specifics? I could have written these words- switch out pastry chef for artist. Our stories co-mingle.

And now I'm past 50 and weighed down with everything. I lay in the dark and struggle for some sense of direction amidst all this mishegas. People mock the motto Yes We Can. But I get scared when I hear it. Because it stirs me to hope.

And hope is dangerous.

I know from talking to people here and even contemplating myself what Would I do if this happened. (AKA a family.)

I know hotels generally are 8hrs and pay really well, but working in a a hotel... Just something about it, I don't know. I've been inside helping people with their competitions and its a weird feeling in hotel kitchens.

Teaching is another good option, but you need connections to get into that.

Other then that, I have no idea. I know I love cooking and sometimes the way you get treated from the financial side of things sucks.

I know people who complain when they have to work OT, and they get paid the OT! Hah. I think to myself, work in a kitchen.

I just spent 12 hours working on some documents for my job and can't address these interesting and important issues now. But I do always find what you say interesting and substantive so I will ponder this and leave some thoughts later.

And I want to throw myself out of the window because I keep reading about all the people in California who are making wonderful things with stone fruit, and what I can get here in New York is horrible. I can't get anything good that's local. I went out of my way to buy some NY State apricots so I could make the Zuni apricot tart, and they were mealy and inedible. The white nectarines from California I got at Fairway last week were maybe okay. Any advice, Shuna? You've been here. Can I score at Union Square? I'm not so sure. Is the only thing I will ever get to eat her Italian prune plums in September? Do I have to move? Yikes.

Victoria, I feel your pain. I feel like I remember there being good stone fruit being grown in NJ and on LI, but it is extremely hit or miss because the fruit travels so far. You might need to pay top dollar at Dean & Deluca or Balducci's to mimic anything close. If you can move, yes, you should... ~ Shuna

I'm going to try and keep myself hopeful. I'm trying to think that maybe a door closes and another opens. Although the economy is seeming to falter at the moment and there are some casualties, it seems that many people's attitudes towards food are changing, and the labor intense practices are becoming more widespread again.

The food program on radio 4 on the bbc gives me hope as they always have uplifting and true stories, albeit mostly british ones.

Many professions are feeling the pinch, not least mine. Our industry is slowly trying to move to china and india.

8 hr. days as a pastry chef? Ha! When I find that job I'll let you know... I do have the honor of cooking on a 24 sq ft. wood fired oven on a daily bases, which is a challenging 10-12 hr sweat dripping, scorched milk cursing,ashen, smoky, wouldn't change it for the world kind of experience, so the pro's and con's of the industry are always in counterbalance. At my current gig,a local, seasonal, organic bistro, the owners (generous, inspiring folks from the SF Bay area) would never claim "sustainable". Cause no matter how many carrots we buy from the guy down the street, Sysco, UNFI, DPI, OGC etc. (all whole sale, out of area purveyors) still make their weekly rounds.
I think the best we can do as a restaurant is spread the inspiration and knowledge of what we're eating. By putting the farmers name on the menu, we connect a person or family to the food our customers are putting in their mouth, and that spreads the awareness of local possibilities...

That's my positive thought on the matter, it makes me feel better about what I love to do.

P.S... It's blueberry season! ! ! YAY! I experimented with a blueberry apricot frangipane today... the bee's knees I tell you... the bee's knees :

shuna, this is the third time i have come over to read this post. i can't seem to be able to find the right words but i couldn't just pass by and not comment. i feel your pain. sustainable? nothing is sustainable forever because everything is everchanging and cyclical. it's easy to get buried and overwhelmed with the problems of this world. trust me, i'm also the hyper sensitive kind. hang in there. there are people in this world that are in need of your talent.

Eggbeater said (among other things): "Who would we be if we gave up a part of our paycheck every week not at the bar, but gave it directly to the dishwasher at our favorite restaurant?"

I like that. I like it a lot. (It's the little things. Most of us can only do little things. It is overwhelming, that bigger picture, and often it overtakes the smaller, more meaningful stuff. But still, it always comes back to those little things.)

To the NYer who can't find decent fruit: join a CSA!! What are you waiting for??!! I have never tasted anything like the peaches I get from my CSA. I am transported physically and mentally every time a take a bite. And those plums! Oh, my.

I think this post should be read by more people-- try to submit it to the Chronicle or New York Times-

It's true, if you are over 40 and been in the business for awhile your working harder and longer and making the same pay if you factor in cost of living.

The newer kids on the block want to work a lot less, become a superstar or a celebrity chef instead of really cook the food for the masses. In some ways they are smarter than we were they think business and home instead of just passion for a career in food.

Everyone I know who is serious about being in the food business for career and not just the money works a lot. More than any of our nonfood working friends would.

How to find the balance? Us food people like to do what we do but how do we afford to do it? Especially when everyone thinks the job is manned by unskilled labor who can't get other good jobs. How do we make our job a profession or a trade and not unskilled labor?

Keep spreading the word and making us all think.

me challenge you? right......there was some casual comment you made last year while we were shopping about did I think it was possible to forego using all disposable plastic and paper bags. I'm still TRYING to figure out how I can make that work 100% of the time.

LIfe is messy. People are messy. We just gotta find that balance between creativity, love, grace, healthyness, and compassion. problem!


Your post spoke to me. I have often faced the same struggle. My parents worked 5 jobs between them to give my brother and I a better life. My brother went onto become an attorney and one who makes no money working in the public sector for those less fortunate, those like our very roots.

I had a chance to go to medical school with a great financial package, but opted to get my MFA in poetry, which was also on a fellowship. I felt guilty about this for a long, long time. Doctors save lives, after all.

One day I told my father and he said to me that yes we need doctors but what for? If life is not enjoyable, if it does not have its sweet side, then why save lives?

Coming from someone who grew up poor and now lives modestly (though compared to my relatives the face I have my own place all to myself is a sign I've made it!) believe me: you ARE sustaining life. Even when I was a kid and getting a surprise treat to the usual pintos y arroz, that one cookie never tasted sweeter, and it made me appreciate things more.

I'd also like to point out that you are a woman doing this on your own, and as a woman myself, I understand that comes with challenges all its own. But I won't go there for now.

RE: purity - how tedious it all sounds. My response to any of that? Shut up and grow something and then eat it.. nothing more, nothing less .. thats pure. Dont tell me what you think about what some other person has done.

RE: career and unsustainability - try going to school for, like EVER, get your PhD and then have the president of the US essentially outlaw your field. Try working in an industry that is flooded by PhDs from across the globe and you know there are just more and more coming every day. We each are likely experiencing a serious negative effect on our careers and expectations. The middle class is crumbling from underneath us. Its up to us to decide how we will react. Turning it all inward isnt productive.

What you are experiencing is a paradigm shift.. you have crossed a rubicon and you are VERY fortunate that you do NOT own a house, have debt, have children, etc .. you are free in the grandest sense of the word to choose your next step.

Dont let yourself be tied down to some outmoded expectation.

If sustainability is really a truth for you then apprentice on an organic farm, skill up. Then form an enclave with fellow friends and start your own refuge.

As with much of the US and the world, you are vaguely aware and uneasy with this sense of unsustainability.

Learn about peak oil, peak food, take the next step.

One huge step you can take is to release the inhibiting attachments (we all have them).

If I were in your place I would go volunteer my skills and learn new ones at Green Gulch .. it may be your first step toward a greater peace with life.

I have a mortgage, a job I loathe, three children and a husband who count on me to bring home the bacon. We all have our own special challenges.

RE: Peak oil and peak food .. I try to lead by showing - - its not about me talking or preaching or purity so much as it is about self-sufficiency for me and my loved ones, thats all you can ever really hope for (and its hard)

Your sensitivity to struggle wtih balancing it all is one I experience everyday, whether it be food, work, love, adult responsibilities and expectations. My grandfather writes everyday in a little agenda, one different each year, in which he records the weather, brief account of the day and at the end of each page he writes "have I done all that I could do today?" He has 80 of them (he started at 18) that's a lot of "did I do my best?" but asking himself the question made him pursue the quest day after day. I know he has struggled with the same issues, different jobs and times, but same crap essentially. The trick is to never drop the ball but to keep aware and do the best that you know how.
Your writing skills are beyond phenomenal :)

Hi Shuna

Wonderful thought provoking post. And you are right - it isn't sustainable and I would argue it SHOULDN'T be. We are still living in the mindset of how we were brought up in the oil-rich economy where transportation is so cheap that it can be discounted.

Go back as little as 60 years. The commenter above wouldn't have thought to try cooking a dish with fresh apricots because htey would have KNOWN that there weren't any. They would have changed to plums or a fruit that is available in a cold Northern climate.

Limiting choices actually stimulates creativity - it doesn't have to be a bad thing.

On a personal note - owning property isn't what it's cracked up to be. I think we'd have been just as well of or nearly if we had just rented.

And what goes around comes around. For years, our neighbours sneered at our garden as it looked scraggly and unkempt and undergrown. Now they are envious as it has grown out and we have apples and cherries and blackberries and strawberries and apricots (yes - we ARE in California) and also roses. No - it still isn't neat but it is lush and always flowering and growing and occasionally we get nice fresh fruit.

But it isn't all perfect - our apples are just about ok for cooking. It is too hot for them here. Further North we would lose the apricots, maybe the cherries but would get much better apples, maybe pears, etc.

Anyway, my point is that you are right - what is happening now is not sustainable. But if we all scaled back to a 1915 level of consumption and lived out of local watersheds, and moved on to a post oil energy economy (solar, wind, even wood) I think it could be sustainable - and better.

You have a wonderful vision of a future I would like to be part of. Yes, I know your rant wasn't utopian, but if one reads between the lines you were saying how you believed things could be better. I agree, they could be.
Have you ever thought of moving to Buffalo, NY?
Perhaps, living in SF, where everything is so costly is a way of limiting your options.
Here, you can still get a great house in the city for a fair price--just check the MLS listings.
Buffalo is the country's best kept secret. If you want to know more, feel free to email me. I'll give you my number and we can talk.
Either way, I wish you every goodness.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • eggbeater

Find Me Elsewhere ~

Chef Resource

  • Chef & Restaurant Database

Eggbeater Archives