Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

Detail, "Still Life With Cheese", van DijckAs I mentioned in an earlier entry, I’ve been working one day a week at a dairy on the Eastern shore of Maryland.  I’ve had some experience with rural living, and I’ve definitely been interested in food for many years, but before working at Chapel’s Country Creamery, I hadn’t had a glimpse of what it takes to make food for a commercial market.  (Selling a bucket of rhubarb to a pie-making neighbor doesn’t really count as “commercial”.)

It’s both easier and harder than I would have guessed to produce cheese on a small, artisanal scale.  Making cheese is certainly complicated, and if I had to figure it out without the benefit of owner Holly Foster and the other women who work in her dairy, I’d be lost.  But the steps we take aren’t difficult.  In terms of what we’re physically doing, making cheese is about as hard as making biscuits.  You need to put in the right ingredients—culture and rennet in the case of cheese—in the right order at the right time.  You need to stir the curds and whey properly, not too much and not too little.  You’ve got to pour the curds in the molds, flip them when you’re supposed to, and put them into a cave with the right humidity and temperature.  It requires care, but it’s not rocket science. (more…)

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When I started Harvard College, we were still fighting the Cold War.  It was the fall of 1989, right before the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  I remember walking through my dorm that November: a friend had his door open and was telling everyone who passed the latest about the crowds spilling through the Berlin checkpoints.

Most of that autumn is a blur.  I vaguely remember doing homework in a random, slightly manic way.  I wrote papers.  I asked questions in class.  I faked being a college student until I could figure it out.  My course selection was equally jumbled.  I took 18th century French literature, modern political theory, and economics—I was trying to cover as many disciplines in as few classes as I could.

To fulfill a requirement, I also took a geology class called “Changing Surfaces of the Earth,” nicknamed “Rocks for Jocks” because it was supposedly so easy.  At the time, the nickname was accurate—the class was a fairly painless walk through plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, rivers, oceans, and sediment.  I actually liked studying how grains of sand moved over the sea floor, a process with the lyrical name of saltation.  Every time I’m in a plane watching the way the rivers below meander and twist in their channels, I think of that class. (more…)

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Yesterday, I read Bill McKibben’s stark new piece on climate change in Rolling Stone.  I’m still reeling from it, still feeling the urgency of his terrifying and uncompromising message.  I’ll have more to say about it–including the way I think I’ll use the piece in my course, the (to me) startling reaction to it in comments, and a thoughtful piece in the New York Times that helps explain why such a simple message is so hard for people both to hear and to act on.

Meanwhile, as apocalyptic visions of the year 2030 whirl through my head, my mother and I have decided to fly to Kansas City in a couple of weeks to see my grandmother, who is 94.  I haven’t seen her in several years, so the trip is very important to me–but I was still cringing about pouring God-knows-how-much more carbon into the atmosphere when I’m really pushing myself and others to make changes in behavior. (more…)

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