by Sharon Stevens

 “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given objects subjective value can actually be measured objectively.”

Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker

Several years ago Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker came up with a brilliant idea. They would purchase an object then pair it with a writer to create a story linking the two. This became a social media experiment connecting people on the internet. Their hypothesis was: “Narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones…to acquire not merely subjective but objective value.”

I was reminded of this endeavor when I opened my Facebook page and clicked on Bonnie Derby’s store “Needful Things” next door to the Blue Bird Restaurant in Centerville Iowa. A beautiful glass swan was being displayed alongside the iridescent jewels following behind. Who could possibly need a swan when there are so many needs in the world? For that matter, who would need the aprons, or the ironing boards or the sewing machines? Or, to go even farther, what worth is there in biscuits and gravy you could order next door.

What about biscuits and gravy you ask. What about them? Seeing them on the computer screen on Dann’s blog at the Blue Bird brings up the most wonderful thoughts of family time, Christmas mornings, Sunday brunch, late suppers after a hard day of chasing fundraisers and child hood passions. Of course there is cholesterol and fats and salt, and…and…and…this is a given. But on the other side of the coin there is the sizzle that comes with bacon or sausage dancing in the cast iron skillet, eggs over easy, potatoes fried in leftover drippings. But the most powerful image has to be with everyone sitting down at the table together sharing a simple meal without drama or pain. Isn’t that worth something to someone today, tomorrow or yesterday?

None of these are needful things. Life cannot be sustained by treasuring inanimate objects. Nay, coveting is an offense decried in the Bible. But then again, what if someone wanted to live their story instead of writing it down. Couldn’t the tangible objects they- purchase fuel the passion, or sooth their tender heart? Whose law demands everything they spend their hard earned dollar on to be worthy and justifiable on the expense account. This is not prideful or Biblical, but merely a reminder of all that is good and wonderful in all that surrounds us.

So don’t feel silly about writing a story on an insignificant object. Make it a significant treasure. Celebrate and be joyful that as writers we can we take such tiny moments of human interaction and set it to words, even if it is about pink swans and how it connects to biscuits and gravy.

On another note, Jason Boyett sent a Facebook note about his friend and author Shawn Smucker and his family coming to town. He will be in Amarillo next week and at the Palace Coffee Company on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas on April 26, 2012 from 6:45 to 9pm. A free event (it would be nice to make a purchase), this will be an evening for conversation about books, writing, blogging or anything else. Smucker writes a blog, “Writng Across America.”

I wonder what “needful things” he and his family will find while they are here.

Monday Musings: For the Love of PIG!

Monday Musings: For the Love of PIG!

By Natalie Bright

My middle grade novel is set in 1887 Texas and I’ve been researching provisions of the time period. My main character needed something that could be carried in a saddle bag for several days or even weeks. I hesitated to use pork. It wasn’t that long ago my 4th grader was told by a concerned classmate that he wasn’t going to Heaven because he ate bacon for breakfast.

It’s a PC World

The more I researched, the more I realized my main character would have in all probability had a slab of pork on hand. In this PC world, why has the traditional Southern diet become so offensive? Or as one blogger noted, “you spout religion while stuffing pork down your gullet“.

Understanding the culture in the South and our longstanding reliance on this animal may shed some light on this controversial meat.

From Where Pig Came

It was the Spanish explorers who introduced hogs to Florida in the early 1500’s. As colonists spread west, domestic and feral hogs soon became a staple of southern cooking. Various cuts of meat could be salt-cured and smoked, lard was saved in jars, cracklings used to flavor Johnnycakes, and the leftover meat was ground and mixed with spices to make sausage. Nothing was wasted, and it preserved well in the root cellars or smokehouses all across  frontier America.

Feeding Pioneer Families

Steeped in a rich tradition that all blessings for the table are gifts from God, pioneer mothers prepared huge country breakfasts of fresh eggs, milk, bisquits and hearty slabs of fried ham to fill empty bellies after early morning chores and to sustain everyone during a day of hard labor until sundown. My grandfather recalled he got tired of sliced onion in a biscuit for his school lunch, until the family slaughtered in late fall. My husband remembers two fatted pigs fed his family of five for the entire winter. The children’s classic Little House on the Prairie devotes an entire chapter to the hog and how they utilized every part of him.

The fear created around pork may be rooted in a parasitic disease called trichinosis, caused by eating raw or undercooked pork or wild game. We understand now that pork must be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. U.S. pig farms are ultra clean and heavily regulated.

Symbol of Luck

The Pig symbolizes good luck in many cultures around the world. People in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria eat pork on New Year’s, based on the animal’s habit of rooting and pushing forward, making progress with every step. In Italy, the rich fatty content signifies wealth and prosperity, and tasty German sausage is legendary.

Life in the South

If you live in the South, the reality is that majority of us eat pork. Our love affair over a hickory smoked pork rib is not based on anything evil or satanic.  The family barbeque is a long held tradition from when we were little kids. Grease dripping down our chins and faces smeared with sauce is never considered rude.

For the love of pig; it’s a southern thing, ya’ll.

Natalie Bright