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Step Out of the Box

Updated: Feb 14, 2019

A few careers ago when I worked at a children's museum, I attended a conference in Indianapolis. The children's museum there had the most square footage in the nation. Two football fields, one stacked on top of the other. The director at the time, last name Sterling, was retiring. He was cool, silver-haired, even tempered, and to this day, I remember his retirement speech. His advice was simple. Subscribe to a magazine on a topic about which you know nothing and care nothing about. For him, it was pork bellies. When he read Pork Belly Monthly, or whatever it was called, he entered unchartered waters and learned, opened his eyes to another life and connected it to his own.

Over the last few weeks, I have been asking folks what podcasts they listen to. Maybe I have asked you. I have probably asked you for a good book recommendation also. Maybe what TV series you watch -- I have a hard time finding one that sticks for me -- and possibly movies, but I rarely get out to one (although I love it when I do).

Here is what I have found. Everyone listens to the same podcasts. The Daily. Revisionist History. The Daily, again. Oh, whatever. I like those, although Malcolm Gladwell (Revisionist History) and I get along better when I read him. And I wish The Daily would stop wasting precious minutes of the podcast dialing the phone to call someone to talk to. Can't we assume The New York Times is going to know where to find the folks to talk to and we can skip the "Oh, let's try this number" bit? I still like Stay Tuned with Preet. I love Aria Code about opera, not one of my top topics (but not pork bellies either). I have also been listening to book summaries about books I would never read... on wellness or the history of garlic or meditation in seven easy steps or back pain, but they are interesting to hear. Serial is a long time favorite podcast series and I recently found there's a season three, so I am in deep again with Sarah Koenig. I love her. I have gone down a few rabbit holes with farm podcasts -- mostly directed at farmers in the midwest or the UK (and most ramble, searching for a point) -- and another few on 100 objects that reflect world history.

I still have not found my pork bellies. Not exactly. But I think I have found something that is at once my "in the box" and my "out of the box." It's farms. No matter where I go, the farm continues to take center stage. Maybe it's the way I listen. What I choose to hear. Last night I went to Blanca in Bushwick to participate in their tasting menu (an impossible reservation to get and with good reason). Everything I ate was about the farm. The pride from the chefs and the servers was about the farm. The flavor, the humor, the creativity, the craft. The pair to my left -- a father/son duo -- brought up farms without my prompting. Maybe they were feeling the menu like I was. I listened and thought to myself, "Is this our common denominator?" Maybe it is. Maybe the topic of farms is my pork bellies, the one topic that has me thinking fresh in 100 different directions. What's yours?

XOXO Farm Girl

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