It caught my eye because it was beautiful (and free). And because I was momentarily bored standing in the checkout line as I scanned the pulp headlines about how Demi is self destructing over Ashton’s newest hookup. And because I’m always and relentlessly looking for beautiful things to inspire me.
The object of my attention? A glossy, expertly-designed publication by a major U.S. chicken producer. On the cover, a gorgeous shot of glazed chicken with veggies on a tortilla. Then, essays and tips by chefs, also expertly photographed to look cool and bam! and jaunty. Sophisticated typography, competent editing, excellent content, nice palette, yummy yummy looking food pix. Even some articles on wine pairing. Cool, I’m inspired.
And finally, toward the end of the pub, an article about the producer. Photos of a lovely pond, a closeup of leaves of something, a shot of corn kernels, of some other crop, and then… again, the chicken on the plate.
Holy cow. Where’s the picture of the live chickens? Where are the chickens, scratching around in the pasture? Where are the chickens, just hanging out by the water cooler, clucking and talking and drinking water? And…
Where are the people who tend to the chickens? None. Nada. Zip. Aren’t the chickens beautiful? (Mine are.) Aren’t the people who tend the chickens beautiful? (I am and my husband is, and I know lots of beautiful chicken ranchers.)
Why am I writing this for the “Adventures with Jim” beef blog? Because as much as the beautiful chickens and beautiful people are not present in the chicken publication, the beautiful cattle and beautiful people are present in Jim’s operation.
How do I know this? I know because in the course of trying to blog intelligently for Jim, I have lots and lots of conversations with him. Many are fragmented as cell reception cuts out and in, most are funny, some are seemingly unremarkable, but all share a common thread.
Like this: A tree fell on a fence and the cows got onto the road and the CHP was on scene and Jim drove there ASAP to straighten out the mess and got fined for not wearing his seat belt (he was sorta in a hurry) for $150. Or this: Jim’s cell phone somehow wound up in a tree and who cares; he would like to shoot it repeatedly, anyway, and get on with his work.
Or this: Cow 60 had a baby, and somehow the baby wound up on the other side of the fence but Cow 60 was able to nurse the baby through the fence—an elegant testimonial to her mothering skills. Or this: Cow 7 was bitten by a timber rattler and, over and above the vet’s intervention, Jim saved her life during this recent heatwave by drenching her with water and pushing water down her throat and now she’s doing fine. And this: It’s about to rain so all the baled hay has got to be snatched up onto the flatbed truck and stored in the barn so it won’t burst into flames or go bad, and that means the crew has to scramble like crazy.
And so many more small but telling anecdotes involving human presence, human intervention in the cycle of nature, and the raw and raggedy beauty of the day to day struggle just to grow the grass well, treat the cows well, and produce some honest food for our tables.
And I’m thinking… we have lots of beautiful shots of grass on our website. We have shots of Jim’s weathered hands, of Jim hanging out with the cattle, of Jim feeding the cattle, of customers enjoying the beef, and lots and lots of shots of the cows. What we don’t have is pix of perfect food on perfect plates. Hmm. Maybe someday we will. But for now, I think we’re good.
Your comments? Are we beautiful enough? Maybe I should stop cropping out the holes in Jim’s trademark torn-up shirts, the sweat-soaked hats, and the dirt-streaked trousers. But that’s another story…
What do you think? After all, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.