Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lose Yourself to Life

Time to get back in the game. The question is, given my life, why did I take myself out?

There was a time when Richmond wasn't cool enough to have a Farmer Speaker Series, but that day is long gone and when I saw that Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms was coming to Ellwood Thompson to share his thoughts on "You Can't Study What Isn't," I immediately bought a ticket and advised a friend, knowing it would be a (sorry) hot ticket.

That ship sailed within a week and I heard they had a waiting list for anyone who might drop out, not that that was likely.

Arriving at ET in time to score an enormous dark chocolate-iced gingerbread cookie (my Proustian reverie) while my date went for wine (sorry, grape overload after the past two days in wine country), we snagged seats in the second row behind an earnest-looking young man with a book on farming under his seat.

Joel's topic addressed the anti-meat culture that's become more and more of a thing, his point being that so much of the research is based on the kind of farming we shouldn't be doing anyway (and not the kind he's been doing at Polyface since 1982) that's it's irrelevant.

Maybe it's because he has an English degree and does so much writing, but he was a wonderful speaker, prowling the floor at the front of the room and and frequently asking in a rising voice, "What if...?"

But he also had a wicked smart sense of humor, sharing that he names all their bulls after philanderers - Don Juan, Teddy (as in Kennedy) - and pointing out the brains of the operation, his wife of many decades, as, "Behind every great man, there's an amazed woman. There's mine."

He was full of obscure information as in 500 years ago, this land that's now the U.S. produced more nutrition than it does today, solely because the Europeans arrived with their "progressive" methods and disease. Or, how about this one? 70% of all the drugs used in America are used on agricultural livestock.

"Who's been drugging your dinner?' he joked.

He'd already told us that he was not here to try to convert us to vegans or even vegetarians (ha, fat chance), but instead to point how too much farming was being done in ways that hurt the earth, depleted resources, provided a larger carbon footprint than necessary and produced poorer-tasting food.

All I can say to attest to that is that the first time I ate a "happy" pig - one raised on the kind of farm Joel runs and espouses - it was a revelation and as different a taste as any piece of pig I'd ever put in my mouth.

With me, he was preaching to the choir because I've tasted how right he is about proper farming.

After sharing scads of information and referencing a half dozen books that would probably make excellent food reading, he closed by saying, "May all your carrots be long and straight, all your radishes fat and not pithy," and went on from there.

Basically, Joel food-blessed us in closing.

Moving on to our own food needs, we trekked down the street to ZZaam, the new Korean grill, a place with all the ambiance of a betting parlor, with multiple screens, bad music playing and endless blackboards of food and drink info (is there any cuisine that hasn't adopted tacos as their own?) as patrons are herded along a counter to order and await sustenance.

A constant state of confusion reigned as people waited to order, waited for food, considered  options and milled about.

Crab pancakes, golden brown with egg, onions, carrots and even boasting a discernible crab taste were the best of the lot, which included mandoo - steamed pork dumplings with barely a hint of pig - and fat chicken lettuce wraps.

Home by 9:00, it was pretty obvious that I needed more. More everything that I'm not getting enough of. More reasons to be glad that this is my life. More reasons to enjoy right now instead of stressing to the point that a giant zit erupts on my face.

I put on some lip gloss and walked over to Balliceaux, my first time there since we rang in 2016. Overdue, long overdue.

The 13-piece Brunswick was getting set up. The guy on the bar stool next to me welcomed me, saying he was taking a load off because he'd walked over from Carver near Sugar Shack, touching off a discussion of my walk over and how he used to live in Jackson Ward.

One of the trombonists came over to order a drink, instrument in hand, and apologized when it ran into me, leading to a discussion of his Monette mouthpiece, apparently a Winton Marsalis favorite.

Oh, and by the way, it was made of gold and named for a yoga term.

A trumpet player I know looked especially dapper in a striped shirt, bow tie and jacket, having just come from VCU Jazz Orchestra's performance.

Everyone's favorite percussionist/trombonist told me he'd been playing in Europe and with Sufjan Stevens and asked what was new with me. An elementary school teacher friend told me her Spring Break plans, which were essentially non-plans for Spring weather. The brewery queen complimented my jacket and invited me to her pig event.

Brunswick knocked the collective socks off the room with an assortment of original material for ten horns, bass, drums and percussionist, along with covers of artists as diverse as Pedro the Lion and Daft Punk. Near the bandstand, a DJ danced alone, eyes closed, to practically every song.

Note to self: You're not getting any younger. Do more, dance more. Be open to everything at least once. Change things that need improving. Maybe it's time to lose the blog and put my abundance of energy elsewhere.

Maybe it's time to grow radishes fat and not pithy, and, yes, that's a euphemism.

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