Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Femivore. I can see my brother rolling his eyes. Here it comes, some cross between two of the things he understands least about me - my distaste for meat and my tendency to pontificate on gender issues in the name of feminism.

Close, but not quite. I ran into "femivorism" in a recent NY Times article describing women pursuing "self-sufficiency, autonomy, and personal fulfillment" in orienting their lives around being as involved in their family's food sources as possible (backyard gardening, composting, raising chickens, urban beekeeping etc.) These "tomato-canning feminists" are about more than just tasty, healthy food - their commitment is to reducing their impact on the environment and counteracting materialism as well, to making their homes places of production not just consumption.

It probably goes without saying that I resonate with that vision. When I'm honest with myself, I recognize that some of my moments of greatest contentment and joy have been hanging my laundry in the backyard wearing muddy work boots and an apron over my yoga clothes, taking a break from cooking a meal with ingredients I mostly either grew myself or bartered for at a farmers' market and trying to keep my curious hens out of the laundry basket. I love all the things I'm learning - how to maintain a compost pile, harvest onions, make cheese, cook with turnips and yes, even kill a chicken.

To back-pedal a little bit - I still love books and ideas. I will go to grad school (eventually). I confess that I often use a couple of hours of my day off to go to the library and read the Economist, and that one of the biggest thrills of the last few months was attending a local city council meeting. But it's also hard to picture myself being satisfied in the world of journal articles and computer screens and academic conferences without an equal measure of fresh air and growing things and recipes modified and embellished until they're unrecognizable. I want to honor the education I'm getting right now, and the skills of my mother and aunts and grandmother, all of whom were raised with some experience of feeding and clothing themselves and their families.

Wendell Berry writes
The callings and disciplines of the...domestic arts are stationed all along the way from the farm to the prepared dinner, from the forest to the dinner table, from stewardship of the land to hospitality to friends and strangers. These arts are as demanding and gratifying, as instructive and as pleasing as the so-called fine arts. To learn them, to practice them, to honor and reward them is, I believe, our profoundest calling. Our reward is that they will enrich our lives and make us glad.

So here I am, an equally avid student of the domestic arts as I was of the liberal ones. Living in Cambodia taught me that as a member of the most affluent, materialist society ever, one of the most important things I can do with my life is pay close attention to what I consume - to start living simply and maybe help others like me do the same. And I'm finding Berry's words to be true - not only is this a profound calling, it has enriched my life and made me glad.

Thanks to Sarah and Amy for doing photographic justice to life on the Farm!