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Foodies' Names and Foodies' Faces

Where are the foodie stamps?

July 14, 1999|EMILY GREEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thursday, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee meets in Washington, D.C. The group, led by a historian, convenes every three months to deliberate what fresh images might grace our postage stamps. According to the U.S. Postal Service, every year it receives 50,000 suggestions from the public about who and what to commemorate, and why.

Make that 50,001. This is another. With all due respect to those who so successfully lobbied for the recent stamp series, "Aquarium Fish," "All Aboard Trains" and "Extreme Sports," where are the cooks?

In all this "Celebration of the Century" that the postal service is getting up to, where are the food inventors, the horticulturists, the winemakers, the restaurateurs and the distillers who forged the American table? Where is Asa Candler, creator of Coca-Cola, or Fred Waring, bandleader and inventor of the blender? Where, good committee, are the comestibles?

Consider the possibilities--a process best begun with a drink. There could be a bourbon sequence, starting with Jack Daniel and Dr. Crow of Old Crow. One could even flavor the gum on the back of the stamps. There could be cocktail stamps for the martini, the mint julep, the boilermaker. And what of our winemakers, such as Agoston Haraszthy, who imported countless grape varieties, including, apparently, Zinfandel?

Granted, the recent series on unfermented fruits was lovely. But there is more to fruit than a strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry. Where is the watermelon, the cantaloupe and, oh, yum, the honeydew?

Certainly, it is trickier to honor people than things. Foodies with ardent followings such as Julia Child, Alice Waters and Ben & Jerry are automatically disqualified. They're alive. Evidently, you've got to be dead to be on a stamp.

Moreover, the late, great M.F.K. Fisher and Pierre Franey aren't dead enough. A postal service spokesman explains: "One of the guidelines is that a person cannot be honored on a stamp unless they have been deceased for 10 years." Surely Fannie Farmer and James Beard qualify. But it might surprise you that Trader Vic, Vic Bergeron, the restaurateur who also introduced limestone lettuce, just squeaked in. He died in June 1989.

Given that Daffy Duck has a stamp, it seems likely that fictional cooks, such as Betty Crocker, could slip by the rules. And then there are people who seem like inventions but were real, such as Col. Sanders.

Wince, if you must, at the idea of a fast-food purveyor on stamps, but think about it: better the face of chicken in a bucket than Emily Post. The latter actually has a stamp in her honor. According to the postal service, it features a china place-setting.

How fitting that there were no grimy humans to take the shine off the cutlery. Post has much to answer for: She and her prissy protocols made the prospect of fine dining in America about as appetizing as going to a funeral.

No, give us upright, not uptight. Put out stamps commemorating the founders of Meals on Wheels, food stamps and school lunch programs. Celebrate the inspirational life of Cesar Chavez, the champion of farm workers. And what of our farms? Most of us only glimpse farm life in images on cereal boxes and in TV ads for hay fever cures. Show us roosters, hens, black-and-white milking cows, and big, fine porky pigs (not the kind that talks and thinks it's a collie dog but the sort we eat). Bring on Maine lobsters, Dungeness crabs, Alaskan salmon. How about a munchie series, with pretzels, chips and nachos?

The recent stamps with Roller-blades and skateboards were all very sporty. But, how about it, ye great stamp image selectors on high? Throw us a crumb.

Suggestions for stamps should be sent to: U.S. Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 4474E, Washington, D.C. 20260-2437

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