It wasn’t east Tennessee he missed, anyway. Not the physical place, in other words. It was something about the life he’d known there, the feeling of your everyday reality being in sync with the natural world in a way that went beyond daytime/nighttime. He found himself thinking a lot about his grandparents’ farm. His grandmother had been “a pretty active preserver,” he said, meaning of fruits and meat but more than that, too. “She wouldn’t have thought of herself this way,” he said. “Part of farm life was ‘putting up’ food.” She had a pantry full of hams and bacon. “That part of Tennessee didn’t get electricity till the forties,” he said, “so within living memory you had a food culture that went back to the pre-industrial age.” He had nice memories of his grandmother’s pickled beets. “Fourteen-day pickles—a fermented pickle. Also, she made this strawberry freezer jam that was really delicious.” The canning and jarring moved with the seasons, and within the seasons—you had to pick the fruits and berries at the right time. Every batch was a new little chemistry experiment. Things could go wrong. You were always monitoring some jar in the kitchen, observing its changes. It gave the whole house a clock to go by.
Ask almost any Appalachian how to eat beans and you’ll get one answer: in a bowl, with cornbread. Some people might tell you to add chopped onion… Beans lack the breathless, canvas-tote allure of heirloom tomatoes, those divas of the farmers’ market; really, they’re a workhorse crop. So why does Best get orders from Washington to New Zealand? Why do people send him seeds in elaborate packages, unburdening onto him their adolescent memories and family lore?
“Here is a video of a cat playing the theremin. You see the instrument has a vertical antenna that controls pitch. As the cat moves its paws closer to the antenna, or bites it, the sound gets higher. There’s also a horizontal coil, which the cat has elected not to use, that controls volume.”
“Why are you sighing?” one asked, noticing that I’d laid back and deflated rather gloomily. I answered: “She’s not of sufficiently high social status to have domesticated rabbits in Northern Europe in that century. But I guess it’s not fair to press a point since the research on that hasn’t been published yet.”
“The idea that Medieval people drank beer or wine to avoid drinking bad water is so established that even some very serious scholars see no reason to document or defend it; they simply repeat it as a settled truth. In fact, if no one ever documents the idea, it is for a very simple reason: it’s not true.”
I recently had the opportunity to go to SXSW, something I’d wanted to do for as many years as I could remember. There’s a good part of me that was just as curious to visit Austin, as I’d always heard of it’s amazing music scene, and in the past few years, food and drinks scene. But there was one…
“The MONIAC was approximately 2 m high, 1.2 m wide and almost 1 m deep, and consisted of a series of transparent plastic tanks and pipes which were fastened to a wooden board. Each tank represented some aspect of the UK national economy and the flow of money around the economy was illustrated by coloured water.”
“By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL [Do What You Love] distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.”