What Happened To The American Dream?

Summertime conjures a myriad of visual ideals, some from our past, some from magazine print ads and TV commercials, and some from the clichés of history.   Often times, wanderlust summer dreams are riddled with a sense of disenchantment that lectures gone are the days when the raspberries were always fresh, ripe, red and sweet, when river rope swings heralded the most majestic sun-kissed shallows, when bikes rested on the side of wide open neighbourhood streets without borders or divisions, when mothers mixed pitchers of homemade lemonade and fathers stood grill-side, sizzling chunks of juicy prime chargrilled goodness.  Was it ever real or should the refrain have been: gone are the dreams instead of gone are the days?  What are we lusting after today by way of the family ideal?   While social change coincides directly with economic and political development, we begin to see the emergence of a new-age ideal, a post-modernist social structure, which ironically heralds a return to the simplicities we were so eager to leave behind a century ago.

It is interesting to note that the breakdown of the family structure is not a new phenomenon.  Western society has reported a disturbance within the family model for the past 150 years; a disruption caused primarily by the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and later by the Industrial Age of the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century.  In 1875 the New York Times reported that the corrupting of morals in America, the separation of families and children from any knowledge or participation in family life, bears a direct correlation to the material development of resources, prosperous times and domestic and social ambition, (which inevitably lead to a sense of personal importance over family unity).   In 1916, an essayist in Harper’s Monthly Magazine wrote about the “Break-up of the Family” and in 1947, Life Magazine did a large feature on “The American Family in Trouble.” An opening paragraph divulged that emerging statistics proved a distinctive fact: the American family, stuck in the millrace of social and technological change, was in deep distress.   It is true that a shift from a predominantly agricultural society to the march of industrialization saw the breakup of large interconnected households, whereby family members migrated to booming cities that could support higher industrial wages that allowed for the development of social interests outside the family unit.

So how far have we come since then?  According to the United Nations, some of the major global trends effecting families today are migration, demographic aging and globalization.  Many argue that modern society now embodies an extreme form of individualism, whereby children as young as 2 and 3 years of age, imbibe a sense of early self-importance through technological escapism, (the social media crutch), a mutual relationship that only grows more strongly as the population ages.  It is this recent technological social phenomenon that has become the outward pull constantly threatening what little family unity remains.  Internet, though a fantastic catalytic tool for globalization, has brought the world closer together at the cost of separating us from ourselves.  The forces of social change see families where members do little more than sleep and eat together. They buy everything, yet produce nothing themselves but for the money to afford their purchases.  In many ways, the individual is becoming more atomistic, looking outside the home for his or her interest.  On the other hand, modernization has witnessed a newfound tolerance and acceptance for a variety of social forms and archetypes, which are the outcome of individual choice.

So the question is, what family ideal is more or less realistic? Is the summertime dream of raspberry picking, root beer floats, running through sprinklers, and smelling backyard BBQ alongside immediate and extended family a realistic identity? While most agree the celebrated breadwinner-homemaker family model of the 1950s that many of us tend to reference was a grossly impractical style, (inspired by the preceding depression years and the Second World War), most of us nevertheless want to return to some kind of simplistic harmony, where what we eat, what we say, what we do, how we dress and who we are, are not simply dictated to us by social online media sources.  We want simpler food.  We want our own gardens back again.  We want natural fibers.  We want to wash ourselves with fewer chemicals and ingest more wholesome, nutritious home-cooked meals.  We want books and music.  We want deeper connections with our children, our husbands and wives and our grandparents.  We want to live more synergistically within society.

Alongside our return to simplicity, it seems we must embrace new family forms as part of the expression of choice, to focus on strengthening freedom within the family and those principles of democratic equality.  As the economy gets increasingly difficult, competition for jobs escalates, resources dwindle, population increases and pollution rises, we begin to feel the tense grip of encumbering capitalism and the tight squeeze of globalization.   In strong defiance, families are beginning to band together again, as elements of the 18th and 19th century agrarian society have become the new ideal.  Economic interdependence and common interests that once formed the foundation for close family unity are beginning to have a driving impact once again.   Despite the endless sea of computer code and digital jungles in cyberspace, we are clinging to the soils of the earth and the fleshiness of our humanity.  Leaving our cellphones and IPads, IPods, cameras and technologies behind, we release ourselves into a new state of liberty – the kind that rejoices in the taste of ripe freshly picked fruit, of ice-cream, and cold water running from a tap.  The kind that embraces large family picnics and backyard BBQs, the kind that finds value in all the small, simple, yet beautiful things.

-Elizabeth Cucnik

An Evolution of Okanagan Wine…

The evolution of the Okanagan wine industry takes us back over 150 years, to the more humble beginnings of what is now an oasis of wine, cheese, fresh organic fruits and veggies, farms and more.  The Okanagan Valley, Canada’s second leading wine producer next to the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, consists of approximately 4,000 hectares of vineyards, and accounts for more than 90% of all wine produced in British Columbia.  Buffering the clay cliffs of Okanagan Lake and its adjacent Osoyoos Lake, Skaha Lake and Vaseux Lake, are hundreds of kilometers of vineyards, fashioning an extraordinary world-renown panorama.

The unique location of the Okanagan Valley lends to the sensation of its quality. Situated between the 49th and 50th parallel north, the Valley runs on par with the latitudes of the renowned European wine regions of Champagne and Rheingau.  Here, where it is comfortably nestled between two lakes, (that moderate its continental climate), the Valley can boast a distinctive culmination of microclimates that appeal to different vineyard soil types and grapes.  Perhaps one of the more exceptional features of our “Napa Valley of the North” however, (as the valley has been nick-named), is the region’s northerly latitude, which allows Okanagan vines to experience longer hours of daylight, a clear advantage over it’s southern counterparts of California.

The Okanagan Valley’s history of wine production humbly began in 1859 with the first vineyard planted at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna by French Catholic priest, Charles Pandosy. With the sole purpose of producing sacramental wine for the celebration of the Eucharist, this small vineyard was simply the flint that sparked the fire.  Soon thereafter other small vineyards sprang up, dotting the landscape, and more continued to expand and develop until the start of prohibition, in the first half of 20th century.  While the prohibition managed to wipe out most of the Okanagan’s commercial wine industry, wine production was later successfully revived in the 1930s.  It is interesting to note that for 40 decades following, until the mid-1970s, the Okanagan wine industry was built entirely on the production of fruit wines made from berries, apples, cherries and even table grapes and those produced from hybrid grapes, rather than the French-American hybrid grapes and vinifera, we have grown accustomed to today.   One such winery, Calona Wines, which was founded in 1932, remains one of the oldest continuously running winery in British Columbia, (an true testament to the historical roots of our culture).  The very first commercial plantings of vinifera varieties is in fact accredited to the Osoyoos Indian Band with their establishment of Inkameep Vineyards in 1975, now known as Nk’mip Cellars. 

Today one can experience a myriad of wine and grape types throughout the Okanagan Valley, while almost every style of wine is produced across a wide spectrum of sweetness levels that include sparkling, still, fortified, dessert and ice wines.  There are over 60 grape varieties grown in the Okanagan, which includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Marechal Foch and Cabernet Franc.  Many German varieties can also be found throughout the Okanagan, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Bacchus, Optima, Ehrenfelser, Kerner, and Seigfried Rebe.  Likewise, more recently, growers have been planting warmer climate varieties not typically associated with the Canadian wine industry such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Pinotage, Malbec, Barbera and Zinfandel.

The evolution of the Okanagan wine industry is just as rich and diverse as it is unique and extraordinary.  Perhaps one of the more distinctive features of the Okanagan wine industry today is its authenticity – there is a sense that the Okanagan wine industry strives to maintain a sense of integrity, character and personable appeal, which in combination, make for a distinctive experience over the larger, more commercialized and industrialized wine regions throughout the world.  Visitors can rejoice in both the personal, intimate experience of the wine region itself, as well as its diversity and unique personality.  From the Valley’s modest beginnings with the Mission, to its growth during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, to its struggles and ultimate survival throughout the Prohibition years, the Okanagan Valley wine region is truly a marvel – one to experience, savor and share!

-Elizabeth Cucnik