Recently my sister Meggan and her boyfriend John decided to become homeless. They both had jobs in one of the most beautiful places in America, Jackson, WY; but alas, the food and farms of Europe came calling. They are currently living on the generosity of others on farms in France. They pass their days weeding and gardening for no pay, but in return, they get a place to sleep, food to eat, but most importantly, the ability to truly experience the life of a farming family in another part of the world.
In her blog, Chow Gypsy, Meggan details their experience Wwoofing. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. People who own farms all over the world put opportunities up on the website for travelers to get their hands dirty for room and board. This sounds like a more intense version of Crop Mob, where teams of people volunteer on a local farm for the day in return for lunch. She writes about the families she meets, the food she eats and the recipes for some of her favorite dishes, and information on their travels.
In our family, I have always been the one good at math and science (hence a blog dedicated to energy) while my sister is the better artiste. She is an excellent singer and may be the better writer. I went to Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering, she went to University of Georgia to study international business and Spanish. I'm more career oriented while she is taking her time finding the career that she loves. In short, she's a hippie and a local food fanatic (although she can't claim to owning her own compost pile like I can).
The reason Chow Gypsy is so exciting for me to read is not because of the fact that my sister writes it, but because it allows me to live vicariously through her experiences. It lets me think about what life would be life if some of our genes were changed around a bit. I would lie if I said the idea of working outside all day while feasting on cheese and wine around the dinner table at night wasn't appealing to me. But alas, my left brain takes over while my right brain indulges itself in dreams of the French countryside.
Some of my favorite comments from the blog:
"Then the wonderful Muriel showed up and graciously pretended to ignore the fact that John and I smelled like trash. I made a mental note to remember to kiss both cheeks on greetings and farewells so as to avoid making my foreign interactions even more awkward. I then promptly forgot the mental note."
"Since getting to France a month ago, John and I have visited SIX different locations, skipped not one meal (ohhh quite the contrary), and gotten to thoroughly visit the real France while covering a distance of over 1,000 miles. We have spent less than $250 each. To expound on the beauty of having spent so little money, I would like to also add that I have literally (literally) eaten cheese 33 out of the past 33 days."
"We finished the night off surrounded by French friends and family animatedly talking into the wee hours of the night. John and I understood little, and we spoke like 12-month-old babies, but somehow it didn't seem matter. This random wwoofing experience had brought us up close and personal to the real France, and it was wonderful. Sometimes I wonder if my life is actually happening, or if I'm still in my cold winter Wyoming bed, dreaming the dream of France. "
"There are times when I get so caught up in the excitement and anticipation of planning out the places that I intend to visit within the next few years that I forget to take notice of where I actually am. And like a slap in the face, I wake up and realize that I'm knee-deep in lavender trimming a crawling rose bush on an 18th century French estate. "
"This is one of the things that I find most fantastic about France--the deeply-felt presence of its own past. The average Dick and Jane live in homes that have stood for hundreds of years. There's not a maniacal eagerness to tear down the old and build over with the new; people exist with time here, not against it. Cracking walnuts, making jams, raising chickens--it's the natural way that simply hasn't been left behind."
"I can foresee aligning myself with the mischievous grin of hers. Not only because she is the model of what a fun and strong and carefree French woman should be, but also, the woman can cook. It's not the type of cooking skill that is honed simply through the years of raising three children (which she has done). No, it's the skill that is found innate within a lucky few. She doesn't need to taste her creations as she goes along--she simply knows. I call it the ability to taste food in one's mind, and when you find someone who can do this, you better come hungry."
"I fear that many for many Americans, these sentiments have been sadly lost, but thankfully, with help from the Slow Food Movement, we are slowly regaining consciousness. Locally-grown and/or raised food, apart from helping your community and reducing your carbon footprint (among other things), just tastes better."
And the last quote sums everything up. If you think this blog post is just me trying to help my sister's cause out, you're only partially right. When I think about why I spend so much time dedicated to energy conservation and clean energy it's not just because I hate spending money on high energy bills and it's not motivated by climate change. It's ultimately because I love sustainable living. Saving energy and producing clean energy is one method of preventing pollutants from entering the environment that allow for fresher food and cleaner food and water. Something the Chow Gypsy would surely toast with a nice glass of local cheese.