Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Criticizing Cultures

Elizabeth S.D. Englehardt’s A Mess of Greens was a well written and accessible book. Many in class have related that friends not in food or academics have read and enjoyed this book and it would be one that I would recommend. Perhaps because I still feel like a teenage girl, I most enjoyed the chapters about them. Although I have not participated in illegal activities and never brewed beer, let alone moonshine, I felt that the chapter on Moonshine shed a light on much of what was going on in the South at the time and pop literature reflected that. At a time of jazz, flappers, migration from rural towns to urban metropolises, and teenagers and leisure, fear of all this change could be wrapped up into a want and need to tame a young woman, especially a moonshiner. Female moonshiners in literature also shine a light on how could one provide for oneself if the main provider died or was no longer in the picture. Lack of opportunity and skills for a woman made the prospects dismal. So dismal, that to empower young women and in hopes of keeping them home instead of heading off to the mills, tomato girls clubs were formed. These clubs helped keep girls at home but enabled them to earn money, help supplement the family income and in some cases, save money to go off to school and become teachers and librarians. These clubs were the foundation and precursor to 4H and I wish that the chapter had taken that further step to explain and paint of picture of the transition from boys corn clubs and girls tomato clubs to 4H’s beginnings. Of some interest to myself today is how many urban schools and areas are taking youth and funneling them into urban 4H competitions and projects. The book also talks of educated women heading to the hills to help educate the women of Blue Ridge to move from corn bread to “cleaner”, more “sanitized” biscuits. This triggered the first time I ever saw a debate on placing ones ideals and criticizing another way of life. Surprisingly, I was 25 and in grad school and I walked in on a girl who was talking before class about how inhumane rodeo was...odd since the class of Cinema Against the Grain and we were viewing avant garde films. A brave kid in front turned around and calmly stated that one should be careful on criticisms like that, and that this girls was taking on a whole way of life where animals are an integral part and that rodeo is a celebration and competition and gathering of farmers and ranchers. I guess because my father had grown up on a farm and visited the grandparents there, I was always interweaving and navigating between different cultures and ways of life. Although I knew I didn’t fit in there, I had enough respect and enjoyed things like auctions and fairs and rodeo. It may have been this moment, that I realized thinking before speaking is important and trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a saying that goes a long way. It is perhaps the basis to why when I started teaching technology, I decided to try something new every year so that I could remember what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes and also how hard a new skill can be. It also made it less of a “bucket list” and more of an active adventure to look forward to and now I can say, I’ve traveled alone to a country, not knowing any of the language, I’ve learned to skeet shoot, I’ve barreled raced and I’ve rowed crew- to name a few. All these experiences have created eye opening moments that have helped me to avoid criticizing other cultures. _______________________ _________________________________

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