A couple weeks ago I received a call from a woman who helps organize farmer’s markets. She had been given my name as someone who might be interested in promoting local food production in our area. The same day I received this email:
How does one go about encouraging a “local” movement? Here on the Eastern Shore (the birthplace of industrial animal farming), everyone is proud of local things without buying local ingredients and without realizing that the new Walmart doesn’t really help the local economy. A local sentiment is native and strong, but not very reflective. The economy here is self-destructive. But with less work, farmers here could make more money selling locally and people would have better food. Even if the local food is bad, it’s better than bringing other bad food across 1500 miles. How can this be encouraged without offending 60-year farmers or a public who is excited about a new Walmart?
Only a week before, I gave a talk on Wendell Berry to a group of bright and ambitious university students. I find that Berry’s ideas consistently confound and intrigue young people, and I am constantly impressed with how many seriously rethink their lives and values after encountering
Berry’s work. He offers a coherent and stunning challenge to many of assumptions that they have simply adopted without reflection. A young man approached me after the talk with a serious question: “what is to be done?” Since a good deal of my talk was devoted to Berry’s vision of a properly constituted life, it was obvious that this young man was asking a public policy question: beyond living a life committed to one’s place and community, what can be done politically to advance this vision of life?
These anecdotes are suggestive. Americans from a broad array of places and backgrounds are asking probing questions about how to bring fundamental change to their local economies and communities. The present economic unrest and political uncertainty provide a unique
opportunity, for such times induce reflection and can prompt action. I am encouraged by the possibilities and believe that FPR is uniquely positioned to serve as a forum for exploring the contours of the localist vision and a means by which individuals can connect with each other as
they promote sustainable and human scale institutions where they live.
FPR isn’t an academic exercise. We want to bring together thoughtful men and women across this great land to promote human-scale institutions and the rebirth of community. We want to help them resist the dehumanization that seems to threaten us from every quarter. This is, of course, a long term engagement. The world our grandchildren inherit will be the measure of our success.
~ Mark T. Mitchell
Christmas Reading Suggestions
In our home we celebrate the arrival of months and seasons with literature and food–preferably both. October is Poe and pumpkins, Hawthorne and (unpasteurized) cider, but let me suggest two short stories to go with the meatball cookies and spiked eggnog of December: Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” and “Christmas Jenny” by Mary Wilkins Freeman. The former is a lovely remembrance of a 1930s Alabama Christmas spent with a beloved and eccentric aunt; the latter is a portrait of a “love-cracked” New England spinster by a great and unjustly forgotten 19th-century local colorist. (I use the term not to diminish but as high praise: the local is more human and humane than the national, and color is superior to its absence.)
“Happy holidays”? Bah. Merry Christmas!
~ Bill Kauffman
The Second Sunday of Advent
In the warm circle of lamplight, my daughter
Reaches up toward the pocket stitched with “8”
For silver wrapped chocolate stowed there. As I’ve taught her,
She may eat one each night, and each night waits
For my return from work with hungry eyes.
Her joy is regulated thus: a prayer,
A story, and a candy. Then she cries
To get but one when there are others there.
St. Augustine, knowing the greed of babes for
Their mothers’ breasts was violent and abyssal,
Confessed that infant innocence was made more
Of helpless limbs than grace, less rose than thistle.
My daughter takes the unwrapped sweet and chews
With a slow-smackled ritual I admire.
The past had little purity to lose;
And we have only discipline and desire.
~James Matthew Wilson
A Christmas Joke from the Bar Jester:
An FPR Agrarian hears a tremendous clatter outside his farm house on Christmas Eve. He gets up and looks out his drafty window. There atop his outhouse he sees Santa’s wrecked sleigh and several disheveled reindeer. The agrarian opens his window just enough to hear Santa saying to Rudolf, “No, damn you! I said the Schmidt house! The Schmidt house!”
. . . and a Recipe:
The Pomegranate Martini
This recipe contradicts somewhat—okay, entirely—the piece I wrote on the teleology of vodka, but you must understand that this is for the distaff—aka my favorite—side of The Porch (plus Kauffman, Deneen, and Beer, who more than any three men I’ve ever known try very hard to maintain contact with their “feminine sides”).
To make this martini really Christmassy, you need a stainless steel martini glass. I think I paid $7 apiece for the two I own, and those were among the best seven bucks I ever spent (if you ignore the scratch I dropped for hex flies at Gates’s fly shop in Grayling the last time I went up to the cabin to fish the hex hatch).
If you don’t have a stainless martini glass, try to procure a glass the stem of which is interestingly configured. A stem in the shape of a treble clef is the best substitute I know of, especially if you’re listening to the Manhattan Transfer Christmas album, but there are, I’m sure, other substitutes almost as good.
Chill the glass in the freezer for a minimum of thirty minutes.
Dig two spoonsfull of pomegranate seeds out of a local pomegranate. You’re going to use these as your garnish. Special Bulletin: do not use for your garnish olives, lime wedges, or lemon twists. They are strictly verboten!
You’ll need a two-to-one mixture of citrus vodka and Cointeau (or a cheap substitute, such as Triple Sec). Two ounces to one will do the trick if you or your beloved is a lightweight, but your mileage may vary. That mix goes into your shaker. The rest should be straight pomegranate juice and three ice cubes.
Shake shake shake—shake shake shake—shake your shaker.
Repeat. Repeat again.
Remove the chilled glass from the freezer. Dump the pomegranate seeds in. Pour in the shaken (not stirred) contents of the shaker.
Present the drink to your Sweet Precious (or, if your name is Kauffman, Deneen, or Beer, present it to yourself), and, remembering the alleged War on Christmas, say, “kala Xristougena!”
Drink up! Here’s to the Incarnation, without which we have no life in this incredible world.
~ Jason Peters
P.S. If you like armpit hair in your pomegranate martini, follow the advice of this heretic
A Thought for Christmas Feasting
Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.
~ Wendell Berry, What are People For?, 152.
Front Porch Conversations Online
Patrick J. Deneen – Good Work: The election offered us false choices – again.
Caleb Stegal – The Infinitesimal Fraction, or, the Swindle of Consent: Where does that leave us? With the difficult job of recovering the sturdy Jeffersonian virtues of the freeman—virtues of thrift, being rooted in one’s place, hard work, pride of ownership, the orderly use of time, fierce independence of spirit, self-sufficiency, charity towards one’s neighbor, a refusal to bend the knee to any master, membership in a communal identity, and a return to family economies that place a strong incentive on having children.
Jason Peters- Out-of-Squareness, Saint Augustine, and our Sweet Unrest: We’ve got no real choice but to be competent workers, from the first stone to the last shingle.
Mark A. Signorelli – What is it Like to be a Man? And nowhere, not in so much as a page of this literature, does one discover even the beginnings of an answer to the question, “what is it like to be a man?”
Peter Haworth – Thanksgiving, All too Unhuman: Thanksgiving, which may initially seem like a practice that is all too foreign to our second nature, can become an activity that realizes our more original human nature-i.e., the nature given to our species at its creation.
Mark Mitchell – The Gift of Good Work: What if every day was given to rest, eating, and relaxation?
Front Porch Conversations face-to-face
To connect for face-to-face conversations with readers near you visit our Porches page at the FPR website
If you would like to bring an FPR author to speak at your event, please visit our Speakers’ Guild page at the FPR Website
Our Future and Our Need
Plans are underway for an FPR conference that will bring together a collection of creative and thoughtful individuals to discuss concerns central to FPR’s mission. We hope that gatherings of this sort can be a regular part of what we do. Currently, groups of FPR readers meet in an array of cities to enjoy the kind of conversation and friendship that only face-to-face encounters provide.
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~ Board of Directors, Front Porch Republic
Questions? Feedback? Contact Ashley Trim, editor of Front Porch Monthly at firstname.lastname@example.org