Aristotle lives among the collards in Matthews, NC

Note: This is an alternative take on a Meet the Farmer write up that I, Laura LaPlante, did a little while back. The farm is legitimately cool. Philosophile Frankenfine, who has written the below, is not. PF is rather stuffy, actually...

If this farm doesn't prove it, I don't know what will. The next one, I suppose. But this community, this participation, this innocently unintentional manifestation of the virtuous pursuit of agricultural democracy! With bees, to boot. In book VI, or is it Book V? Well in some book of the Ethics and in another of the Politics, and then again in the History of Animals, Aristotle veritably predicted this would come to pass. With a little reading between the lines, and a little Instagrammatic retrospective filtering, one can easily see the basic foundation of Renfrow Farms being put in motion. An efficient cause, if you will.

It's debatable, of course, if we're dealing with a Lockean variety of private property ownership or an Aristotelian, supposing you see differences between the two, but nonetheless, Renfrow Farms is a private piece of property with a deeply communal essence. And bees, they also have bees.

Systematically speaking, we should understand the causes of its being.

Material: Poor, neglected soil and inherited land. They reclaimed the soil. Put their flag down, so to speak, and cheered hurrah!, seeing before them a land of opportunity. Democracy in action, you see.

Efficient: See above, though that likely isn't the efficient cause, strictly speaking.

Formal: Looks like a farm, smells like a farm, tastes like a farm. As we know, the formal cause is often inextricably linked with the final, so identifying the latter should shed light on the former.

Final: Here is where, as general biologists, we must make a supposition about the purpose of this endeavor. Our specialist sides can piece together bits of hard evidence to support such a purpose, but first we'll posit that the final cause is manifold and includes "to produce food," "to make a living producing food," "to connect people to the land, ourselves included," all residing under the noble roof of "to take part in and foster our community."

This supposition does not seem so unlikely. Why else, after all, would Pressly and team be producing food, making some sort of living off of it, connecting people to the land, and building the Matthews and Greater Matthews community?

As for that formal cause, they shaped the farm in order for it to be just that, a farm. And in so being, it naturally lends itself to those things mentioned as final causes.

What of democratic involvement though? For Aristotle, this actually looks from the outside to be non-involvement in legislative processes. And that's exactly what we have here. Agrimocracies are nice because the farmers spend most of their time and attention tending to their work, leaving technical details of democracy to the people they've chosen as representatives. When, and only when, the pressing need arises, farmers will leave the fields, head for town, and let 'em have it. So, one ought not to mistake their regular quietude for docility. They're very invested in making sure they can keep doing what they do, as they say. Every day spent on the farm falling in love with flowers and dirt, and bees, engenders another several degrees of attachment to their work. What if someone tried to take away your afternoon macadamia nut cookie treat? You'd RETALIATE. You'd stomp your foot down and say, "not so fast, not on my watch." Or whatever people say in such cases. And so we find stalwarts of democracy at Renfrow Farms, just by the very fact that they speak nothing of it.

If Aristotle could have gotten his tomatoes locally, would he have? If Aristotle were a resident of Matthews and could've gotten his tomatoes from Renfrow Farms, would he have? If he's who he says he is, then surely the answer is yes. And that there is another point in their favor.

Although farmer engineers are not, to my knowledge, explicitly mentioned in any of the parts of any of the books of any of the works, of which there are many and of which I have read few, they undoubtedly embody the spirit of Aristotelian inquiry. How could they not anyway? Indeed, only the true Aristotelian could bring a hardware store back to its roots and resurrect its sister farm that had long ago died. One could not do this if one did not fundamentally see people as fundamentally social animals.

And plus, they have bees.

Now, what's significant here is not so much the particulars of Aristotle's bee theories-- who can fault him for mistaking the Queen Bee for a King? -- but his approach to bees.

One can readily imagine with great delight a young, dapper Aristotle, in the early days of his systematic systematizing, dancing rhythmically up to the blossoms of the white violet and, with a hop here and saunter there, approaching the bees with care. Yet again we are struck by the likeness to Renfrow Farms, where they approach bees with due respect and great enthusiasm. They do it in their own way, that pleasant way that involves opening up their farm store on their front porch in the spring and summer months, growing flowers and arranging them for events, writing endearing newsletters, diversifying their crops, selling them to local restaurants, and many other things that keep them working from the striking southeast sunrise all the way to the hushed and soft sunset in the evening.

Well, if I didn't just wax a little poetic there! It's hard not to, isn't it? Yes, when farming is on the mind we get a bit of the romance bug.

Speaking of bugs, they don't use synthetic pesticides and only occasionally have used one organic one.

Speaking of minds, I have one to talk to the people Ms. Pressly Williams works with. Her customers, her buyers, her readers. Those lucky ones who get to eat juicy, flavorful tomatoes, and cucumbers that make you say, "heavens to Betsy!" and collards that put the lard back into your greens.

As social animals, all of us, I can't think of a better way to access the essential essence of their farm. Their theirness, if you will. For what's Renfrow without the fans?

As for me, I'm just sorry we can't all live in Matthews. But, every action is aimed at some good, and let this one be aimed at finding our own Renfrow Farms, wherever we may be.

Oh and also...

they do have bees.

The Daily Bagel: Relativity and Relatedness

We hit up Two Guns Espresso on a Friday morning. It's an itty bitty spot, which has little to do with the day of the week we went. The line was long and most of the seats taken, which has a little bitty more to do with the day of the week we went. Many people seemed to be ordering the pretzel stanwich, which Stan said was delicious and Amy agreed. 

Who are Stan and Amy? They represent middle America, the working man, the working woman who chooses to do so to fund a $30,000 tuition for her kid's private elementary school education in none other than the South Bay of LA. This is what the woman behind me in line was talking about as we waited to place our order. 

To place, in place, out of place. Safe place, safe space, one face. But many,  
many faces were in the espresso shop that day. I am careful not to say coffee shop, so you are careful not to go there for the coffee. Nick got a cup of it, and then Nick was filled with regret because it tasted like coffee he could've gotten at Sacks on the Beach in Redondo, where, by the way, we spent an inordinate amount on breakfast on Saturday morning. But let us return to Friday morning, to Two Guns Espresso, where I ordered an espresso. This was good, as it was an overall tasty experience. Do you know, however, who my favorite espresso artist in the whole world is? David at Red Rock. And so, unfortunately for everywhere else, their shots often pale in comparison. 

BUT, on its own, away from comparison, the TGE shot was tan and sun kissed, just like the ladies sitting at a table on the front porch, drinking their beautiful mochas and talking about the fitness training program one was doing. 

Who remembers that I said I was going to get my LA bagel experience here, at this very spot? I remember. I don't forget. Not these things. I would've remembered for years and years if I needed to. Though I didn't need to, because we went

on Friday.

And I got a bagel, which has close to nothing to do with the day of the week we went, since TGE always has them and I will often want one. 

For three dollars, I got an everything bagel. For three dollars, anyone can get an everything, plain, or pumpernickel bagel. For an extra $1.50, one can get cream cheese on it. For an extra billion or so (relatively speaking), one can get lox on it. 

For an extra $1.00, one can get an egg on the side, which is just what I did. The bagel came out toasted, and dry. No butter on the side. I hadn't seen butter on the menu either, so I asked for some. I don't know if they're supposed to charge for it, but they didn't. And I was left wondering about the Mystery of the Missing Butta, for why would someone deliver a dry bagel after making the effort to slice and toast it? Did they mean to put butter on the side? 

I would've asked, were they not so busy. 

What do you want out of a review, really? Would you like to know if the bagel was good? 

Yes, it was. It was covered in seeds on both sides, and it tasted very good, and it was somewhere between 4-6 ounces of dough I'd say, and it had a crust clearly distinct from its interior. If you ask me if it's "worth $3," I'll throw my hands up in the air and fall to the floor ever so dramatically, for how am I  supposed to know if what's worth $3 to me is the same as what's worth it to you?

I didn't take any pictures of the food. I just ate it. I also didn't take pictures of the building, the people, the swag, the La Marzocco espresso machine, the creamer, the trash can, the flower bed, "Ed working hard at the bar!," etc. Sometimes I'd be inclined to do this, but not then, not on that day. 

And that, I suppose, could very well have everything to do with...

the day of the week we went.

This is what the sun shining looks like in Redondo Beach, CA.

The Daily Bagel: Bird's eye view

What we're dealing with here is a swift undercurrent of emotional and psychological reliance on bagels that manifests as passionate vociferation on soapbox platforms ranging from Yelp to your favorite armchair in addition to dedicated pursuit of good bagels in addition to dogged commitment to producing said bagels in addition to a proliferation of bagel shops around the country. 

We also see that people have, for years, depended on "New York style bagels" as a supposedly savvy marketing tool, convenient in that it tapped into something customers would know, would associate with excellence, and would be drawn toward, even if only subconsciously. We could postulate that this hints at a tendency in people to see perfection in something "other," something not-them/ not-theirs, something exotic. The US bagel started in New York, and so it became the de facto king of the bagel. Someone started a rumor that it was because of the mineral composition of the water, and though this has been entirely unproven by the beloved, cherished, glorified, vague "Science," we the people have, on the whole, tended to believe it. Furthermore, we feel comfortable with a logic that says proximity to New York City makes one an expert on bagels, as evidenced by the not-uncommon statement along the lines of "I've lived in New York for twenty years, and I'm telling you, these are good bagels!" The statement says nothing of the person's tastebuds, or preferences, or neuron activity, or childhood circumstances, and yet, if we don't catch ourselves, we let ourselves be convinced. 

We might also postulate that part of the dominance of the "New York bagel" has resulted from the widespread distribution of mass produced bagels that evolved into loopy pieces of dough that resembled a bagel only in shape. People's experience of "bagel" was of a bread not boiled, but baked and filled with whatever preservatives necessary to allow it to sit in its sad little plastic bag on the shelf of some grocery store, all grocery stores. All stores offering groceries. This is what you'd eat at the breakfast table, and this came to be known as Bagel in the social consciousness. The only point of reference strong enough to contrast with a bagel so defined was New York. 

Further, we could postulate that people, broadly, are slow to change, and we like to have our comfortable, known world guiding us through whatever "adventures" we're, say, posting about on Facebook. We also can be exceedingly socially fluent, so that we know people's expectations and feel beholden to existing standards and are users of a common dialect. So, regarding the first, we depend on being able to compare this bagel in Homer, AK to what we "know," that is, to "New York." And as for the second, in a classic oratorical move, we aim to establish our credibility with the audience by showing them that we know the ideal (New York) and we understand how this one compares to it. 

All the while, by the way, we've begun to talk about "New York bagels" as if they're a single, uniform outfit, all with the same chewiness, same crumb, same denseness, same seed-to-surface ratio, same boil time, same bake time, same proof time, same shaping method, same temperature, same oven, same baker, same size. Some still use "New York bagel" in its archetypal meaning, saying mostly that it's a thing boiled and baked, dense and chewy, with a shiny crust and a small size. But many talk about it in a more literal way, as if by experiencing any bagel made in New York one becomes a bagel expert, a bagel insider. 

And then there's the classification of  "non traditional" toppings and flavors, those that some see as an adulteration of the classic bagel and that stand in contrast to the poppyseed or the onion. But if certain historians are right, the bagel, from its European birth all the way through to its immigration to New York, was a plain brick of a thing, with no toppings whatsoever. Does that make plain the true traditional? And what if we really push ourselves and think of pre-bagelstoric times, when the ringed dough might have been a novelty in itself. In that possibly absurd vein of thought, we're consuming non-tradition regardless of the toppings. But suppose we go ahead and say that, at this point, there's an established topping tradition. And we ignore that it was established out of some arbitrarily bounded range of time. Why is there the implicit, and sometimes explicit, supposition that traditional is good and non traditional is bad? Why do some purveyors tout their bagel offerings as traditional, and why can they count on the fact that people will want to hear this, will be inclined to spend their money for it? 

TDB could readily outline sub postulates for the above questions, if we wanted to. 

But we don't. Always know when to walk away, I always say.

Also, a note on definitions. We are using Merriam Webster's definition of postulate (V): to suggest (something, such as an idea or theory) especially in order to start a discussion. Which is to say that we don't necessarily hold these as truths, and we're not giving a definitive opinion, and we're not supposing we know much of anything at all. We're just...postulating. Just...taking a broad sweeping view of the landscape. Just...twiddling our thumbs. 

The /ˈyo͞oZH/, as some might say. 

A hop,
a skip,
a jump...

The bird lands on the stump! 

The long and narrow, straightened arrow,
Bird's eye view of hawk unharrowed

The Daily Bagel: It's not easy

..."to get a great bagel in Southern California."
-Stephanie ChaLos Angeles Times

"What we were not looking for was the best imitation of a bagel from another city."
-Rachael NarinsLA Weekly

"In a glorious move of self-discovery and existential enlightenment, the city of Los Angeles, as represented by two individuals each writing for a different LA publication, has embraced its not-New Yorkness w/r/t bagels, dancing in this freedom from an antiquated point of reference (i.e. New York City bagels)* and reveling in the satisfaction that is a bona fide Western bagel."

*Technically, it's still a point of reference, but it's not a golden calf.

Did I say antiquated? Oops.

In addition to being excited to eat LA bagels, TDB is excited to eat LA pastrami, and, furthermore, TDB is keen on traveling to a place that doesn't mind being itself. We acknowledge the very probable likelihood that "itself" is made up of influences from other "selves," like New York City's self, for example, just as New York City's self has grown out of influences from other selves, like Poland, for example. But the particular combination is different from any other, and that's precisely the combination we'd like to experience.

From the above it can be inferred that TDB is going to LA, in body and spirit. And this inference would be correct.

I might as well address the question that everyone's wondering: will we be going to Sqirl? It's tempting, I'll admit. If we're comfortable enough with ourselves to go to a "cool," "in," "single handedly has changed breakfast as we know it (c/o Bon Appetit et al)" sort of place, and we won't feel silly standing in line, then perhaps we will. 

There are, however, many other places to visit. One of these ought to be a bagel shop, and thanks to the collected works of Rachael and Stephanie, we have a list to get us started. 

But I have to go right now because Ron McLarty's narration of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is on, and Betty Sluts the waitress has just entered the scene. 

I wonder if these snails are headed to LA, too. 

I wonder if these snails are headed to LA, too.