Friday, September 16, 2011
The Five-Year Plan of My Glorious No. 6 Tractor Factory
The Soviet Politburo and I structure our futures in Five-Year Plans. It's worked out better for me, I'd say. Maybe it's as far as anybody can see without walls collapsing. But we were both right in choosing the scope: five years gives both a long and short view. It's plenty of time and no time at all. Hikers, packing for a long walk, fill fat plastic tubes - like toothpaste tubes - from the bottom with peanut butter and chocolate-hazelnut Nutella paste troweled and stabbed down the tube like feeding spackle to a baby bird, then pinched closed with a clip - the fatty fuel too dangerously power-packed to be licked off thumbs in the pleasant, sedentary kitchen, its stacks of homework and bills in the foyer where bottoms slowly spread like cookie dough on a warm cookie sheet. But stuff the tubes like sausages, like squishy cartridges, into a pack's outside pockets - one buried under rain ponchos for emergencies, the whole thing flung over a shoulder and you're out the back gate, crossing the pasture sending the cows trotting, and down to the treeline. Those five years are going to be salty and sweet, energy-crammed, and gone-too-soon, of course. And like Nutella and peanut butter, five years can be squeezed right into a mouth, head tipped back, sucking the nipple mid-stride stomping down woodsy paths. Hold them clamped between teeth with both hands full of crumbling Welsh slate in the wind. Spread them out with you in the grass and admire them, arriving finally on the whittled edge of a purple cliff and tarn below, moos rising up. No matter how you eat them, it's really the view you've come for.
Just back in the United States from a year writing about apple orchards in northern England, I've started counting from the beginning. Now writing about small-scale suburban food production in Northern Virginia - Fringe Food. I am allotting these five years to peer-review, and the next five to establishing a vanilla-marketing cooperative in the Uluguru Mountains.