Friday, November 05, 2010

An Explanation

I suppose at some point I should explain the name change and general overhaul on here.

For the longest time, since this blog's inception, its title was "Waiting for Inspiration to Strike." In a lot of ways that really is what I was doing— throughout my college career I struggled to narrow my interests as directed by various academic advisors. I considered plenty of majors: journalism, political science, agricultural economics, history, sociology... As an incoming freshman I signed up for classes that sounded interesting in hopes of finding that one subject that really sparked my interest. That one career field I could really picture myself in. It had to be out there, right?

Well, as it turns out, I may have been looking for a field all along. I grew up obsessed and consumed by all things horse, as many little girls do. Longing to have been born in the days of the cowboys, I'm still remembered by some of my elementary school peers as "that horse girl." I dreamed about horses for years, and had one to call my own for a time. But the social demands of high school caught up with me, and I made the decision to give it up. My horse retired to a local therapeutic riding center, I sold my tack and hung my helmet up, and considered it in many ways the end of a chapter in my life [decisions made in high school seemed so final!].

One of MSU's requirements for graduation is an Integrative Studies in Biology course, and I think that is likely the origin of "the rest of it." The course I chose, "Insects, Globalization and Sustainability" was taught by a fiery, sarcastic and inspiring professor [hey Dr. Besaw!]. Even though I'd grown up in a fairly "green"-friendly family, his class laid a solid foundation for thinking about the problems of sustainability and the environment in an academic way. From there, I think food was a natural step. Everyone eats. But how do we eat?

After receiving a threatening letter from MSU telling me to pick a major already or we'll kick you out! [my summary], I stumbled into the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. I used to joke that they created the college just for me, but in any case, finally I didn't have to focus all my scholarly energies on narrowing what seemed to be impossibly broad interests. They also allowed me the opportunity to finish my degree in a roundabout way, by first completing a life-altering internship at Spannocchia. As my anticipatory writing reminds me, I had no idea at the time how I'd feel about farm work, callouses, and the whole lot. I thought there was a pretty good chance I might hate it.

If someone had told me, when I was in high school, that I would end up on a pig farm... Italy, West Virginia, ANYWHERE... I would probably have been immensely disturbed. But here I am again and I'm loving every minute of it. There's a lot of mud, and poop, and hay in uncomfortable places... but also dynamic shifts in weather that we're starting to be able to identify, the tiny thrill of sweet new piglets, the satisfaction that comes with the end of a day. The solace that darkness brings, knowing that everyone's settled for the night. It feels good, as Wendell Berry would say.

Next week starts our harvest, when we bring pigs who have been fattening up on acorns [and the occasional unlucky turtle] in the woods to a local slaughterhouse to fulfill their porcine destiny. The next generation of hams [and shoulders and chops and sausages] is already being born. Today, with the patient help of my fellow intern and friend Chelsea, I made a loaf of bread. First time ever, and it was real, and hearty, and oh-so-good.

I suppose at this point you may be trying to figure out where the high heels come into play. Well, I was home for about 48 hours a few days ago. It was a last-minute trip, and the 4th call as I got out of the holler and back into cellphone range was to see about getting my hair cut. I like to shop [sometimes]. I like wine and cheese and impossibly tall sleek shoes. My time in Europe last year definitely did a number on my sense of style, and I'm sort of one of those obnoxious iPhone-using, scarf-wearing, farmers-market-shopping hipsters even I can't stand. But I think what that may show is that it is possible to have a foot in both worlds. Maybe a work boot in one and a stiletto in the other.

Food right now is a hot topic, and it's intensely personal for each of us. What and how we eat is an intimate experience as well as a boisterous one, tied up as much in memory and senses as it is in nutrition. I want to learn more about it, to understand better the ways in which each of us thinks about it [or doesn't], and how the system works [or doesn't]. Being here, hands to earth, is one of the most moving ways I have ever experienced my food— I look at the bad sow who has, to date, killed 12 of her 13 piglets, and all I can think is, I cannot wait to eat you. What a strange way to look at an animal. But I also look at the group of pigs slated for cutting and curing in the next two weeks and I see them individually, as characters. Pieces of a puzzle. They interact with their world, test things, run, play...

Truth be told, I have never been closer physically or personally to my food. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. But once the harvest is over we're going to have a celebratory dinner. I can't wait to change out of my muck boots and mud-covered jeans and into a pair of heels and a dress, and join the rest of the people here in raising a glass to the inimitable... pig.


Gregory Oberle, Elizabeth Guilmet said...
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Gregory Oberle said...

I'm excited to see what happens with the NEW saddle!