Thursday, May 6, 2010

Container Gardening, Anthropology of Food, and Upcoming Adventures in Belize

Look at my tomato plants! Aren't they just divine? Don't they look happy? With their fuzzy leaves that smell like a ripe tomato leaping towards the Indiana sun? The frustrated farmer in me is ecstatic. While I did alright with my plastic lined wine crates in the window-sill back in DC, I have to admit, an ample balcony has been the agricultural equivalent of upgrading from a New York City studio to a Hollywood mansion.

Feast your eyes on cilantro, flat leaf parsley, lemon basil and baby lettuce-leaf basil that I keep willing to grow faster as I drool in anticipation of vats of pesto, radishes that are getting fat in their little pots, 2 different kinds of tomatoes (San Marzanos for sauce, Giant Goliaths for eating fresh off the vine), Italian heirloom grilling peppers, nasturtiums, butterhead lettuce. For aesthetic appeal, dahlias and two kinds of calla lilies. And this is just the first year. Next summer I want cucumbers. I want more kinds of peppers. I want oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary. I want it all!

Did I mention there's room for my new weber grill and post run exercises on my yoga mat as well? With a balcony this big, I could grow pretty much everything but corn and pumpkins. And who knows, with a big enough container...

I have PLANS for this balcony. Aside from gardening, I'm thinking a kiddie pool would be perfect for lounging in while reading on hot summer days. And perhaps I'll reach over and pick a ripe tomato, without even having to get out of the water!

But these fantasies will have to wait until next summer. Because, as the title of this post indicates, I am anticipating Upcoming Adventures in Belize. Thanks to several small grant-making institutions on campus, I am the proud recipient of enough money to go do some pre-dissertation fieldwork in my home country. So instead of lounging in a kiddie pool in Indiana, taking summer classes and picking tomatoes, I'll be living in a small beach town in southern Belize, talking to people about their experiences and attitudes towards food and its role in the construction, maintenance and refutation of sex and gender roles.

That's right, I'm researching three of my absolute favorite topics. And I'm nervous as hell about it. You try marching up to someone and asking them what they think about food-for-sex metaphors (for those not familiar with the concept: when a banana isn't just a banana, that's a food-for-sex metaphor) and the gendered nature of power struggles over appropriate sex and gender roles as they are played out through food. It can't be done. Food and sex are two of our most intimate and fundamental drives/acts/desires and most of us do not respond kindly to strangers inquiring about them. Plus, check out this sign that I ran across last time I was there:

Apparently I have an uphill job ahead of me. So instead of marching, I shall be sidling (in a friendly manner) up to folks on the street, at the local eateries and corner stores, and hoping to find people who are interested in talking to me about their life experiences with food. With any luck, I'll be able to learn about gender roles in the different aspects of food procurement, preparation and consumption. People like to tell stories and it shouldn't be hard to find out if little Linda learned to cook from her mom while Jose was never taught, or if there is any particular food that is associated with men or women (see my earlier post on gendered food).

I expect to be working hard. Yep. Its gonna be a tough life living here for two months:

Did I fail to mention that Placencia puts on a three day long annual Lobsterfest the last weekend in June? Complete with dance competitions, grilled spiny lobster fresh from the Caribbean, and a full on Belizean Beach Bashment? (otherwise known as a party on the beach). I shall be forced to attend, I'm afraid, as a three day beach party celebrating a local food is the perfect spot to investigate food, sex and gender in action. What's a researcher to do!

What are your summer plans and what kind of great foods are you looking forward to eating? Me, I can't wait for fish panades, garnaches, rice and beans, fry fish with Marie Sharps hot sauce and a nice cold glass of lime juice on a hot Belizean day.


Chantel said...

Hmmmm....wandering through blogland this rainy afternoon and stumbled into your lovely potted garden! :) Reading the rest of your post--I think we just might get along like peas in a pod.

Here are two of my favorite foodie/earthy pieces I wrote this year...

Lyra said...

Thanks Chantel!