LAKE MACBRIDE— Falling snow whited out the world beyond our driveway. Isolated, it was hard to avoid wondering what was happening out there. The pipeline of data packets delivered to a screen beckoned us to leave our wonder, and engage with society beyond the driveway. At some point, I turned the computer off and set the mobile phone in another room.
Should a writer write what one knows, or what one wonders or imagines? And who is this writing to be about? If it is narcissistic preening, then why not take the whole endeavor off-line, get a paper journal, and write there— because who cares but the individual? Unless we write what we imagine society could be, and how we fit into the greater aspects of it, there is little reason to post on the Internet.
I believe food is a connection to the rest of society and that’s why I write about it. At once it encompasses personal experience, labor, production, the environment, soil quality, botany, chemistry, biology, consumerism, preservation and packaging, distribution, cooking and eating— the whole enchilada of sustaining a life. Since everyone has to eat, food culture has been and remains a fertile field for the imagination, and a practical way to connect with people. That said, why care about what I cooked in the kitchen last night? One needn’t.
If we develop a sustainable culture where we live, we will be better able to survive in a turbulent world. We would be less distracted by media and outside factors, and empowered to act with authority on what we know. One needs a cultural platform to serve as a fulcrum for change. If we don’t make one, social progress becomes difficult.
As the snowfall slowed and stopped, the sun came out. The new fallen snow resembled a blanket over life’s previous markings— a chance to start again. Soon, I’ll grab a shovel and dig a path out to the street and a society with which I was always connected, but from which I took a retreat to work toward sustaining a life on the Iowa prairie.