Jan 9-25, Monteleone Sabino at Ozu farm

[I plan to write a different post for every farm I visit. More than going to Italy, I’m visiting small parts of people’s lives for 2-4 weeks each. Volunteering through farming is a very different way to ‘travel’ because you worry about money way less, you live with locals, you can treat it as an apprenticeship, and you actually have a relationship with the food you consume, instead of having a typical tourist restaurant experience and seeing sights. The only sights I want to experience are people, for the most interesting thing I have ever done is get to know another person — and I suppose that will always be the case.

I fully expect every farm and family to be different, which makes more sense than trying to make any generalizations about “Italians” as a whole. So I cannot really answer the question “So, how was Italy?”; therefore I apologize in advance 🙂 I find the more I get to know people, the less I can make any final conclusions about them… the more we know, the less we judge; the less we judge, the more we live… ]

***

From Jan 9-25, I was in Monteleone Sabino, working at Ozu Cultural Centre (www.ozu.it)

It’s very easy to fall in love with the olive tree.

carismatica

carismatica

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the field where we work.

Before I realized it, I was swept up, lulled, enchanted — enraptured by her branches, her succulent olives and her graceful leaves. Yes, I believe in the olive tree, and I would be honored to care for her — for better or for worse, through sickness or health — even though she doesn’t need me. But maybe that is what love is: to love them without feeling the need to possess them, without being jealous when they love — or are loved — by others at the same time, for,

“there is more self-love than love in jealousy” – La Rouchefoucauld, Maximes, 324

Monteleone Sabino (‘mount of lions’, ~60 km east of Rome) is quite the quaint mountain town. The houses next to where I am are mostly stone-hewn cabins with chimney and sheds, most situated next to their own olive groves and vineyards. Wild herbs are not hard to find: my hosts pick rosemary,

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bay leaves, chili peppers, and various berries in the spring. When we have to go into the town to buy something, we talk of going “down to the village”.

the view from somewhere

This town was very isolated for centuries, as a road connecting it to another town was just built only in 1970. Before that, there was just one gravel road, that farmers used to get from town to town, by mule, which took around 6 or 7 hours to reach the end of. So, yeah, barriers can enclose us in bubbles if we let them. The surrounding towns share similar fates, so every region has its own distinct character, pride, cuisine, and dialect.

You can see a large swath of the Apennines, the mountain range that runs down the middle of Italy, from my bedroom window, as the fog sweeps over, and snow blankets the summits (when it rains here, there’s snow up there). It’s all very idyllic, really — even more so than you’d imagine. The winds are robust and howling, but the best part is all the birds that you can only find here in the mountains. How they maintain such a magnificent chorus through the entire day is beyond me. Davvero, che fortuna.

It’s almost depressing how difficult it is to capture the natural beauty — the many-sided beauty that you can feel, see and hear — of Monteleone Sabino; no matter how expensive the camera is, some moments and landscapes simply refuse to be captured, even as you beg otherwise.

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romance

i’m not convinced this picture is real

Yet, the desire to capture moments may be totally misguided in itself: the camera can easily prevent us from living in the present, as we try to bottle up the past. Can you even imagine a world without photos? Whether traveling or at a big life event, everyone wants to see the pictures. It almost seems that if you did something and didn’t take photos, it didn’t really happen. “Did you document it?” Everyone else wants to share the experience with you and you want to bottle it up for yourself — which is fine, but a world without photos is well worth imagining, if only because it did once exist, and still does for “primitive” tribes everywhere.

**Do photos make it impossible to live in the present?** (… as I drown in irony…)

Why not just stare and appreciate? I frequently enter spiritual raptures, and feel I can’t fully appreciate certain trees, dragonflies, bees, or pinecones — even after I’ve stared at them for hours. And believe me, I’ve tried. — And I will keep trying, because who ever succeeds at fully appreciating their mother(s)?

IMG_0415

what i see when i wake up

l'amore di nuovo

l’amore di nuovo

***

My hosts are Enrico Blasi and Paolo Simoni, and Ettore, their 6 year old who drags me to watch Kung Fu Panda, Storia del Giocattolo (Toy Story), and I Puffi (he’s obsessed with the smurfs). They regularly hosts artists and writers at their place, a cultural centre where they hold art and cooking classes in the summer. Tracy and Christina, my fellow volunteers were great, too, and it was a privilege to get to know them, and I hope we keep in touch.

i miei amici nuovi

i miei amici nuovi

christina toughing it out

christina toughing it out

Here is their description of the farm:

“We have 3,5 hectares of land with 350 olive trees, fruit trees and a vineyard, 60 km from Rome. The land is very steep in places and has been abandoned and is therefore overgrown with blackberries. Help needed with clearing, maintenance and with pruning the olives and vines. The woodland needs clearing… Meals are sometimes organic but are principally made using local produce, and we buy from farmers and the supermarket. We collect wild vegetables and fruit.” ( paraphrased)

We’ve had some interesting conversations so far: concerning different interpretations of original sin, ideological differences between America and Western Europe (someone said, “America has the very best and the very worst of the West”), the distinct cultural and linguistic differences between regions in Italy (it’s really like a bunch of small city-states, similar to India, where every region has its own flavors of cuisine and dialect), and why Monsanto is ruining the world, and i fascisti nuovi in some parts of Italia and many, many more…. If I could list them all, they wouldn’t nearly be interesting enough!

The 6 cats (hard to catch them all at once) gather for warmth most mornings, as they leer at Balu bothering them.

molto freddo

molto freddo

leering

leering

They (not the cats :p) patiently correct my Italian, and I help them with English (though they need less help than me). Even though I understand very little, it’s so useful to just sit there and listen to the intonations and inflections of the language. Accent means so much, especially in Italian. A little Italian goes a long way, and actually trying to make legitimate conversation beyond basic etiquette and ‘standard phrases’ is totally unexpected. It really opens up people who would otherwise treat me as just another tourist (American tourists are notorious for not trying to speak the other language), even if I stumble over trivialities and sound like a total dunce (which I always do). We say we don’t want to learn a language unless we can use it[1], but I really think it’s because we don’t want to look ignorant and awkward, as we are reduced to communicating solely by gestures and facial expressions, and constantly trip over subtleties that are so obvious to the native.

Pride goes before destruction, the Scripture says, and the fear and failure of learning something new is the classic example. We collect excuses in our closets, some have grown stronger over time as we’ve rearranged and redecorated them for new and improved cases, while others sport cobwebs as we’ve matured past them. Or maybe some lose their savor because the situation which supported them has changed, and not us?

“When our vices leave us we flatter ourselves with the idea that we have left them” [La Rouchefoucauld, Maximes, 192]

— and usually we manage to be proud of our excuses, as if they were born from logic, and not cowardice. As if our excuses were always won with hard-earned effort, and were last resorts when we have tried everything we could. I mean, really, what is the difference between an excuse and a reason? [2] Clear questions rarely get clear answers, while unclear questions get none. Certainty dies a thousand deaths, but only if we are honest. I’ve seen people keep certainty on life support; for them, it is more important that certainty live than they flourish.

****

Food

“Oil” here always means olive oil, and we put on everything, which is great for two reasons: healthy and great taste. The olive oil is so good it’s absurd: aroma, texture, etc; I truly felt spoiled and indulgent.  Il pranzo (lunch) is usually some variation on pasta, zuppa o i panini (panino is singular) — and lunch is almost always an event, to say the least. We picked wild broccoletti (totally unrelated to broccoli) for lunch and had guests over. We had espresso before lunch, wine during, scotch after, then another espresso. “Lunch” was from 2-7pm. Lunch at someone else’s house was from 1-6.

In Italiano, “pizza” refers to the style of bread that is prepared, irrespective of what is put on it. I’ve had pizza with le patate e il rosmarino, or with nothing but l’olio d’oliva e salsa di pomodori on it — no cheese or “toppings”.

The main antipasto throughout the day is freshly baked pane con olio e sale. Sometimes we soak fresh chili pepper in the oil, which gives a reddish, succulent hue. Wine is always there as an drink option, so now I’ve had wine for lunch every day, which in the states would be considered irresponsible and eccentric, if not downright alcoholic.

Fruit is the typical dessert: tangerines, mandarins, blood oranges, apples. My kind of people.

On a Saturday, they laid out a big block of wood on the table, spread polenta on it, then poured tomato sauce, sausage, and other meats on it, then gave everybody a fork, then “Cin cin!” (Cheers). That was the Southern style of polenta, then we had Northern style the next day of mixing it all together and eating like porridge.

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Paola laughed when I called this “corn on wood”

pouring the sauce on

pouring the sauce on

Also, I eat a lot of pepper (by my host’s standards), so they laugh at me. We grind the peppercorns by hand with something that resembles a small cudgel (a baby version of the one Cain used to kill Abel) and stone chalice.

the intimate process of grinding pepper with a cudgel

the intimate process of grinding pepper with a cudgel

Work:

The farm mainly produces olive oil, some they sell, but most for themselves. Lesser crops are wine, vinegar, various fruits.

Picking olives is quite peaceful and fulfilling. The raw olives are not usually eaten, but can be, and are spicy and bitter; the flavor is not at all what you would expect. They taste nothing like olives on American pizza or salad; I brought up the subject of olives in America and my hosts laughed with derision. With ebullient contempt, Enrico describes American pizza as ‘something on top of something else’.

If the olives are not pressed immediately for oil, they are cured. Curing the olives is a way to make them edible by placing them in salt for ~20 days to drain the bitterness, and then soaking them in olive oil, in a tightly sealed jar.

Pruning, the strategy of removing and shaping branches to alleviate the task of picking, is more of an art than a science. 50 different people can prune the same tree in 50 different ways, and they can all be “right”. Pruning is also related to health of the tree and quality of the oil, but mainly is done to make the picking process easier. At its best, pruning is a highly strategic and refined process that takes a while to get used to, because it seems counterintuitive: you’re killing parts of the tree to make it healthier. It seems another case of humans doubting that nature has its own intelligence. — But as I have more experience with it, I learn more about it, so I will keep an open mind.

I used a shovel to dump our firewood ashes around each of the trees. Apparently, forest fires are a natural occurrence, and have been discovered to increase plant and animal diversity through regenerating the soil — so we pour ashes as fertilizer to imitate nature. It seemed weird, but it made sense.

***

How some tried to talk me out of this:

I was warned repeatedly that “farm work” would be tedious labor that I would quickly become bored with. I needed a higher quality of intellectual work to sustain my brain! Farming is not for the illustrious ‘Stanford’ graduate! I shouldn’t sell myself short! I deserve better! (And obsession with money and social status hovers in the background of all these retorts and concerns). I don’t know what I want to do as a career, but it’s telling how many people seem repulsed and startled by the idea that farming would even be considered as a worthwhile career choice. We have so little regard for those who produce our food because most of us have no knowledge or experience concerning the process — we just want the result. We treat our food like we treat our internet browsing: we want a friendly and seamless user experience with little regard to who makes that experience, and how they work their magic. We want our food affordable and in a convenient location down the street, but we can’t (or don’t want to or know how to) grow it ourselves — the local supermarket has many of us in a chokehold, unless we can afford the farmers’ market.

In a way, knowing everything you can about your food is so basic, because your diet literally makes and sustains your body. Only the healthy are rich.

What a tired, false distinction between types of labor: that physical labor is less skilled than labor that pays well and needs a ‘degree’. Nearly all physical labor is consistently degraded as ‘unskilled’ labor, and farming is no exception. Sustainable and organic agriculture, for yourself or as a business, requires an extraordinary amount of strategy and patience: so much can go wrong, and you have to foresee all of it, or bear the brunt of the consequences — just like any other highly-touted, well-paid job.

On the contrary, the work is rewarding and stimulating. And even when the days are rough and long, it’s such a bonus to be outside in the fresh air. My body may be exhausted, but being outdoors and doing work that matters is a great combination.  And what could matter more than food? Work for food — not for money to buy food, but work directly for food — is the only essential work there is. — And so there is nothing more important than the quality of our food and the relationship we have with it.

***

On a side note, Balu is having a terrible day:

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So, yeah, I miss this place and the people, and already thinking about returning.

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Next? I’m going north to Tuscany region, but I am in Roma from 1/26-2/1.

Tell me your thoughts.

[1] Since when did practicality mean so much? Everyone enjoys things that are “useless”. But enjoying is the point! Usefulness is only useful in moderation.

[2] Maybe, the difference is that an excuse is something that neither party accepts as a valid reason. And we only concern ourselves with our excuses for failures and not successes, which, tangentially, reminds of something Mill said, “… success discloses faults and infirmities that failure might have concealed from observation…”

13 Comments

Filed under Food

13 responses to “Jan 9-25, Monteleone Sabino at Ozu farm

  1. I really like this sentence: “We treat our food like we treat our internet browsing: we want a friendly and seamless user experience with little regard to who makes that experience, and how they work their magic.” One of the biggest problems with our consumer culture is how little we know about the production of what we buy. The world would be a much different (and better) place if we made all our buying decisions with the labor, material, environmental, and social roots of our purchases in mind. Companies spend a lot of energy trying to make us link their products with a brand idea and dissociate them from their production lines for a reason – most of us wouldn’t buy products from large businesses if we knew the true societal cost of those products.

    • Yes, I agree. In the States at least, supermarkets are all about convenience, all about the customer: the same types and colors of fruits and vegetables are always available, regardless of whether they are in season or not, because people want mangoes, apples, and pineapples year round. People don’t understand how globalization and international shipping could hurt food quality. The average American has zero experience with agriculture or even growing anything basic food-related. I think people forget how basic and essential the concept of farming is to life, especially farming to be produced for the masses. It’s very interesting how someone can have all these different skills, abilities and accomplished a great many things life through money and careers — but they have no idea how to grow their own food…. I don’t mean everyone should be self-sufficient farmers (but wouldn’t that be awesome??); I just think it’s funny that someone can feel accomplished, knowledgeable, and smart, but know very little about the process of food. The best cook obsesses over ingredients, as we should obsess over the quality of our food.

  2. Rachel Altmaier

    If this comment were an accurate representation of the breakdown of my feelings about this posting, I would spent 90% of in appreciation of the insights that you’ve shared. However, my objections to parts of your last few paragraphs were so strong (wild generalizations! after devoutly promising at the beginning to not generalize!) that I really don’t want them to get buried in pages of praise.

    I heard people tell you that your decision to work on a farm was crazy. A terrible career move. Perhaps with the subtext that it was beneath you. I also heard people tell you that farm work was tedious. Demanding. That you’d wind up bored and starved for intellectual pursuits. But these people? They weren’t the same people. The only people i heard say that were the ones who had intimate familiarity with the life of a farmer. Who spent their first two decades living that life. Now I have to admit that picking olives amidst the snow-capped mountains of Italy sounds a tad more glamorous than baling hay in the cornfields of Iowa. But I think even baling hay would feel rewarding.. for two weeks. And I think a little more sensitivity and understanding is in order for those who did not have the luxury of picking up farming as a temporary vocation and who therefore may not recall the many involuntary years of their hard physical labor with quite the same fondness as I hope you’ll remember the voluntary nine months of yours.

    • Darius Liddell

      …. I did not intend to equate what I am doing as a purely voluntary effort with organic farms with working as a farmer for a living. I know I can always opt out of doing this, as I’m not confined to it for making a living and earning a livelihood.

      Yes, they’re not the same people. I didn’t say they were, but I can see how that would be implied. And I don’t doubt that baling hay or what-have-you can be fulfilling with the right mindset.

      Some people were criticizing or lamenting the vocation of farming (even as a voluntary, experimental, and [often] transient ecotourism such as WWOOFing) from the point of view that it is harder than the average person thinks, and that if you have a chance to do a better (i.e. safer, better compensated, more intellectually varied and stimulating) job, then why the hell would you choose to farm? Some people think it’s ok to do as an experimental thing (“O wow, that’s cool”), but as a career choice — then that is crazy!

      Other people lament because they have no respect for, or knowledge of, what the job really entails, so they think it’s boring, difficult, and someone well-educated and from a poor background would be, at the very least, a bit delusional to not to go for a career that is more well-respected, prestigious, and well-paid.

      “Farming” is in danger of being romanticized (and I don’t mean to romanticize, I just want my post to let people know that I’m having a good experience), but that is far from the norm. By and large, no one wants to be a farmer, or even to be self-sufficient and grow their own food. Organic and sustainable may seem fashionable, but it is still very much the minority opinion.

      But I do think people, in general, in civilized society think less of any job that involves physical labor, unless it’s an athlete who gets paid excessively. Essentially, any job that is paid poorly and associated with physical, “unskilled” labor is looked at with contempt and pity (Everyone thinks, “Oh, you must be working toward something better. You know this is a shitty job, right?”…) and farming unjustly get lumped in this category. I would love to hear a counterexample of this.

      Some respect the people who work as janitors and low-paid nurses and caretakers out of politeness, compassion and pity — in order to feel morally good,( but at the end of the day, society looks at them as worth more because they work in a higher-status job — and we rarely override the majority opinion, even as we profess otherwise.) But do they respect the profession of caretaker? That of a sanitation worker? That of someone who cleans bathrooms all day? That of a construction worker?

      Also, I said I wasn’t going to generalize about Italians, not about anyone else 😉

  3. Kelley L.

    What were your reasons for doing farm volunteer work as opposed to other types of volunteer work (teaching, health, etc.), and why Italy? Also, how long?

    “I don’t know what I want to do as a career, but it’s telling how many people seem repulsed and startled by the idea that farming would even be considered as a worthwhile career choice.” – I had a discussion about careers with a friend, and how they differed in the U.S. and other nations. In the U.S., you can pretty much learn anything online or in school (trade schools, to be exact). However, in other countries, farming, cooking and the likes are trades that are taken on through apprenticeship, and usually takes years of loyalty and dedication to master. I have to say that people who have those traditional values are often more proud of what they do than those in the States.

    Also, regarding language: it is reprehensible that the U.S. is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world (given the demographic make-up of the population) and, yet, most people cannot speak more than one language fluently, whereas other nations require 3 languages to be spoken fluently by students before they are adults! Speaking of which, how has the experience been for you, as far as language barrier is concerned? I had the same issue when I was living in Germany (both times), though the schooling part was easier because the faculty did speak English. However, living-wise, it was a bit difficult because I was learning the German language while living in areas where, literally, no one knew English and I barely knew how to speak German. All-in-all, as long as I tried, they were very nice to me (though they did most of the talking, while I pieced together what I wanted to say).

    “The only sights I want to experience are people, for the most interesting thing I have ever done is get to know another person — and I suppose that will always be the case.” – Tourism can be extremely annoying and superficial, but some sights are worth seeing, especially ones that have significant meaning in a culture and its history. I do agree that meeting people is the best experience of traveling. How have the people you met in your farming experience differed from your expectations (if any), and your upcoming experience in Rome?

    • Darius Liddell

      kelley, thanks for commenting. I’m sure you had other thoughts; there is only so much stuff you can put on facebook.

      “What were your reasons for doing farm volunteer work as opposed to other types of volunteer work (teaching, health, etc.), and why Italy? Also, how long?” My reason for trying volunteering through farming is that I’m becoming more and more interested in organic food and environmental concerns out of respect for nature. Since leaving Stanford, I’ve done a lot of hiking, cycling, and now I can finally afford farmer’s market and actually make conscious choices about where to buy my food and why, without worrying about going broke all the time. Organic food is expensive, which is really sad. The sad part is that we all have to vote with our dollars, even/especially the poorest, because most people can’t/won’t/don’t-know-how to grow their own food or raise their own meat (so we have to rely on companies to produce for us.) And I think it’s honorable to at least make an attempt to learn those things. I mean, I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks so far, and I’m not going to pretend I’m a “farmer” (and I can always opt-out and go back to being an engineer), but it is a useful experience nevertheless to learn about what is arguably the oldest human tradition, agriculture. Well, after we stopped foraging in the wild.

      So I chose farming for three reasons: cheaper way to travel, learn actual skill in organic farming techniques, live with people and form (hopefully) lifelong relationships with them. WWOOF is the organization, you should check it out. Just google “WWOOF [country you’re interested in]” and it’ll come up with that country’s website.

      Why Italy? I like the sound and rhythm of the language, and I figured it’d be doable from a knowledge base in Spanish — and it has been. Plus, living with a family would only help improve my Italian. And, the olive oil has turned out to be really, really amazing.

      For how long? Until August. But I may have to worry about Schengen. So I may have to move to another country after 3 months. We’ll see.

      “However, in other countries, farming, cooking and the likes are trades that are taken on through apprenticeship, and usually takes years of loyalty and dedication to master. I have to say that people who have those traditional values are often more proud of what they do than those in the States.” Yes, I can see this. Like, if I really wanted to grow olives and produce oil, that would take quite a lot of dedication. And yeah, I’m treating this kind of as an apprenticeship. I’m thinking about working with one of the many organic farms (that are slowly but surely getting started) when I get back to California. But yeah, in the U.S., farming, as a profession and not as self-sufficiency, is not a respected occupation — it’s like some relic of the past, unless you grow something “sophisticated”, like wine, olive oil, or whatever. Why are wine farmers more prestigious and respected than apple or fig farmers?

      Ah, the language. Yes, in smaller towns it’s more difficult, because some people don’t even know basic English, or either just refuse to speak it with you. And yes, I’ve had many conversations already about how bad American’s reputations are as tourists: many make no attempt to even say basic stuff, because they know most countries (at least in Europe) people will speak basic English. I was guilty of this when I went to Vienna for 2.5 weeks in July, but I hated not even knowing basic stuff, so I vowed to do better in Italia. And it has helped immensely. But yeah I’ve met a girl from Norway, a guy from Germany, a guy from Mauritius, all who speak more than 3 languages and are my age. And we americans do take other languages in school (spanish, french, etc), we just treat them like jokes or as school requirements mostly. It’s so common to hear an American say, “Yeah I took 4 years of Spanish, but can only say basic stuff.”

      So, I practiced on my pronunciation a lot before I left, so people were surprised that I enunciated Italian phrases so well. Some said Americans they met in the past were terrible with the accents, and rarely made attempts at it. In Italian, how you sound is really important, and where you put the emphasis on certain words, and rolling your R’s. And hand gestures are actually really important… 🙂 I’m having fun with the language so far.

      Yes, I agree that some sights are worth seeing. Tourism itself is not the problem. I just despise the feeling of being a tourist: of not engaging with the local people, of being priced exorbitantly for museums and such, and always eating out at restaurants. I can get rid of all those things when I’m on the farm. Even though volunteering through farming is called “ecoturismo” here, it’s not really tourism at all. at its best, it’s a cultural exchange where you actually form friendships and learn useful skills at the same time.

      “How have the people you met in your farming experience differed from your expectations (if any), and your upcoming experience in Rome?”
      It’s hard to say what exactly I expected them to be like, but they exceeded everything. They were super nice and hospitable, great cooks, helpful in where to go in Italy/Rome, patient with my Italian, and they also took me to dinner parties with them and I always met some cool people there — and we hosted lunch/dinner parties of our own.

      I like the farming work, but it’s not inherently romantic. It is rough and gritty, but it can also be peaceful and fulfilling — like the best of jobs I guess. But I know it’s work that’s important, and work that matters, because it’s food.

      My experience in Rome is another story. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have much in common with the hostel people: I made some great friends there that I’ll probably keep in touch with, but most people were only in Rome for 1-2 days, and were big-city-europe hopping on the grand tour — you know the type, see planned-out sights during the day and party-it-up at night.. (I think that model is very superficial, and I’m annoyed that it’s popular, but what can you do? I say, let the people have the tourism they prefer, no point in me getting annoyed by it) I had luck explaining WWOOFing to ~7 people (3 of which had heard of it before) everyone else was like “oh, that’s….. different”… It’s just funny because honestly, I was only in Rome in between farms, I wasn’t hell bent on going. I figured I’d get there EVENTUALLY, but I’m more interested in the farming and the local people…. call me weird. As soon as I flew into Rome, I got out, taking a train 60km east, into the hills of Monteleone Sabino…

      • Kelley L.

        That’s honorable, Darius. I have to agree that organic food is difficult to afford for most people, and the sad part is: it shouldn’t be! I saw your pictures on Facebook: absolutely beautiful (although I’m sure you’ll agree that the pictures didn’t do the reality any justice).

        I was reminiscing back to the times I lived in Berlin: I actually shopped more at groceries than eating out. Eating out costs more, so I often just bought my own food and made whatever. It’s the opposite in the States, isn’t it? You know, a funny thing is: American fast-food tastes better in Europe (also, costs more) than in America! So, their perception of “Wow, you guys eat out a lot” is totally true, but also skewed in another sense. I’m currently struggling between making food at home because food is expensive, and it’s always tempting to get fast food because it’s: 1) quick; 2) less work; and 3) cheap.

        Glad to hear that your experience has been fulfilling. I wasn’t sure what to expect from your answers, but I appreciate you taking the time to respond! Looking forward to the next post!

  4. Lamees

    For how long will you be in Italy, Darius? and i’m interested in reading your response to Kelley’s q, ‘why farming,’ as opposed to another labor? although on a short time-scale, during 2008 summer I had a similar immersion to what you described (in Thethi, Albania). My perspective of the world and my perspective of my place in the world permanently transformed after that summer. I’d share details, but reading your reflections, I think that’s not necessary.

    • Darius Liddell

      Lamees, thanks for reading, and sorry for my tardiness in responding. I’ll be in Italy for only 3 months, if I want to remain legal and not break the law. But I think after April 8, when my 3 months is officially over, I will head to Bulgaria, Croatia, and/or Ukraine to work with some farms there. It should be very interesting, but I will definitely miss Italy, but one can always come back (one hopes). I answered the why farming question in kelley’s response, don’t know if you’ve read it yet, but basically I wanted to learn more about organic production of food, and I wanted to be in more natural (countryside) settings as opposed to being in urban or suburban areas. The work is nice, but I really like meeting and getting to know the people, These type of experiences can change your worldview — whether you want them to or not — And I think learning the language is a key part of the immersive experience.

      At any rate, please share your details, if you think you can tell me something I don’t know (which you most definitely can) or something that you think should be reified with me — or the world, in general. ciao ciao

  5. Lamees

    ps- yesterday, I ate fresh peppercorn for the first time in my life. aint that a shame?

    • Darius Liddell

      yes that is a shame. I’ve been discovering many types of pepper here: pink, green, red, black, white… all peppercorns that you can grind up and each peppercorn has its own distinct taste. It’s quite interesting. It’s like the first time I discovered other (and so many more) types of apples exist and are cultivated other than the ones I see in the grocery store.

  6. Not much to say. Just letting you know I finally read this. Keeping up Balu and those cats seems like a job in and of itself man. Glad you had fun there, seems like really genuine folk that you’re with. Happy for you

    • Darius Liddell

      yo thanks for reading. keeping up with balu was a task, the cats mostly kept to themselves besides occasionally attacking us. It’s weird because this seems like so long ago, although it was only 5 weeks, I’ve been at 3 farms since then, and every place and family is very different, and not at all like I expected. My preconceptions usually get totally trashed and smattered.

      At any rate, I’ll post about my next farm, where I was from feb 8-17, before the weekend is out. Thanks again for reading. My blog posts are getting longer and longer, probably because I’m reading montaigne’s 1300 page book right now. He goes on and on and on…..

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