As I drove along Route 17 doing errands this afternoon, I came across two very different views of life on the farm. None of those views were visible outside the car window. Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey is mall heaven — Nordstrom's, Macy's, Saks, Century 21, Target, 500 different GAP stores. Sure, the old timers still talk about the celery farms that used to cover Paramus before the highway and the malls, but that was ages ago.
I ran into Barnes and Noble to see if I could unload some old textbooks and stopped to check out a nice display of new cookbooks. Cookbooks have morphed from books with recipes for cooking stuff into lifestyle books. You buy them because you like the person who makes the food, not because you really want to cook any of their food.
Prominent on display was The Pioneer Woman
cookbook. I've been reading about her book tour on her blog, so I was curious to see what the book was like. There were some very serviceable recipes for meatloaf and stuffed potato skins, but the book was mostly awesome pictures of her family and stories about how she met her husband.
Her story is compelling. She rejects city life and builds a life on a farm with a dreamy man who wears chaps and not in an ironic way. After flipping through the pages for a few minutes, I was ready to homeschool and make meatloaf. No, really. I've been antsy to move further North for a while now.
The nerdy clerk Barnes and Noble took one sniff at my outdated textbooks and refused to take them. Later, I did a drive-by at the town library. I left them outside the door in some shopping bags and ran away.
Next on the chore list was some shopping for the Thanksgiving pies. On the way to the supermarket, I listened to Patrick Carr on NPR discuss his new book, Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America. It's a new sociology book about the emptying out of the farms. The young people are leaving in droves and in many towns, Carr said, it's just 70 year olds driving around 90 year olds. The plight of entire states like North Dakota and Montana was a big topic in my State and Local class. NPR doesn't have up the audio yet, but here's a video of him giving a talk elsewhere.
So, these very different stories have me very confused. I'm going to deal with this confusion by doing some intense shoe therapy at Nordstrom's this weekend.