I want to talk about something a good deal more basic: the awkward fact that the food you can produce in your backyard garden, or acquire in any other way likely in a deindustrializing world, does not magically appear in the forms that most Americans are used to consuming. A nation used to eating factory-breaded chicken tenders and JoJos to go is going to face some interesting traumas when food once again consists of live chickens, raw turnips, and fifty-pound sacks of dry navy beans.
It’s easy as well as entertaining to poke fun at America along these lines, but the difficulties involved are very real. A very large fraction of today’s Americans, provided with a plucked chicken, a market basket of fresh vegetables, and that fifty-pound sack of navy beans, would be completely at a loss if asked to convert them into something tasty and nourishing to eat…
You may be thinking that it’s all very well to praise home-cooked meals produced from raw materials, but cooking that way is a very time-consuming process, not to mention one that involves a vast amount of hard work. You’ve seen the gyrations that actors in chef hats go through in cooking programs on TV, you’ve glanced over the forbidding pages full of exotic ingredients and bizarre processes that make today’s gourmet cookbooks read like so many tomes of dire enchantment out of bad fantasy fiction, you’ve seen racks of women’s magazines that treat elaborate timewasting exercises disguised as cooking instructions as a goal every family ought to emulate, and you’ve unconsciously absorbed the legacy of most of a century of saturation advertising meant to convince you that cooking things for yourself from scratch is an exercise in the worst sort of protracted drudgery, and probably gives you radioactive halitosis and ring around the collar to boot, so you really ought to give it up and go buy whatever nice product the nice man from the nice company is trying to sell you.
If all this has convinced you that you don’t have time to cook, dear reader, you have been had.
Some good news for Michigan:
Dave Kober carves extraordinary fish decoys. Edmund Whitepigeon passes on his basket-making technique to his daughter-in-law. And Edna Harbison sells her hand-sewn quilts at her Ontonagon store.
What do these people have in common? They are part of the rich heritage of an under-the-radar group of Michiganians: craftworkers.
From the state’s 35 weaving guilds to an East Lansing-based store that is the nation’s leading seller of a high-end Swedish sewing machine, craft production is big business, according to a study released today by Michigan State University Museum and the state Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Study authors think there could be tens of thousands of crafters in Michigan.
… nor to anyone’s berth on the archery team in 2008, either.
BUT, after a twenty-year break (give or take a bit), I am finally shooting a bit again. [Thanks to an incredibly generous neighbor with an extra bow.]
So, after tuning the sight, and tuning the shooter, I have gone from “not reliably hitting the backstop” at ten yards to “reliably hitting the target bag, some evidence of shot clustering” at ten yards. (Bullseye? What’s that?)
Deer have no reason to fear … yet. It’s a good thing my family is not relying on my marksmanship to put meat on the table.
And my neighbor’s trick of bagging bear this way? To quote Larry the Cucumber: “Nope. Not gonna do it.” (“Aw, c’mon. It’s for the kids.”)