Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

I met a wonderful woman today, her name is Julie. She wanted to buy a basket for her sister in law, and fell in love with the Moroccan baskets used in the Newport Beach Anthropologie store {love} to gather purchases prior to checkout. I don't remember if they use the leather trimmed ones or not; I know they are not lined. But they are in a stack similar to this and they are very attractive: In the space of 20 minutes Julie and I covered the waterfront in rapid-fire, our backgrounds and projects; our loves and lives and our men, as we pored over all the Moroccan baskets which tumbled from the Prius; "isn't it great," she said, "it's part of our return to basics."

Basics Indeed. A few years ago I don't think the U.S. would have been "ready" for a return to reusable bags and baskets, but now, believe me, the U.S. is ready:
Why is it that we have seen such a flocking to our farmers markets, and organic foods? People are paying attention to what they eat and where it comes from, more than ever before; it's become positively mainstream:
It's across the demographic; even the high-end Louis Vuitton-toting shoppers are out at the farmers markets:
There are various "movements," I will call them, and they have very dedicated followings: Slow Food. Sustainable living. Composting. Homestead groups; there are so many people who are growing their own food and truly getting "back to basics." Canning and jarring are now very hip, Cultivating bees is a lot of work but it is being taken up by people like Amy from Homestead Revival; just browse Amy's Comments and Blog Roll to see how deep the movement is; it's fascinating.
Amy and many others on her network raise chickens and sell eggs. Don at our Saturday market has 450 chickens and sells 350 dozen eggs each week; that's bigger, but buying organic eggs from your friend down the road is a heck of a lot better than buying from the supermarket.
And what about knitting? I have many many basket shoppers looking for knitting baskets. Talk about a return to the basics! I knitted many years ago, and but great-aunties can put me to quick shame.

I also point to our choices in cloth when talking about a return to basics: why would we want to upholster our chairs in heavy scratchy 19C grain sack cloth? Return to rustic, return to the basics? Well, in the case of this chair, the allure is also the love of French words, even on grain sacks; I don't think this works much in Europe, is it the American's drive for something trendy (sorry to be blunt) or a return to basics....?
To be sure, there are some groups that never left the basics. The Surf Culture. Always, thankfully, on the basics; photo Shawn Stussy blog.

American Gothic by Grant Wood is one of our iconic U.S. paintings, from 1930. Originally it was thought of as a parody of the Midwest small-town life. He used his sister to pose as "the wife" and his dentist to pose as the gent; no one posed together, it was all assembled by Grant:
As the Depression set in, it came to symbolize the pioneer spirit and the American work ethic in hard times. Grant said later (I paraphrase) that "all my good ideas came to me while milking a cow." Does this not resonate in today's times???

I think the whole "movement" if it can be called that, started with Martha:

In the 80's we were into her weddings and other projects, then she started everyone down the whole do-it, sew-it, produce it yourself road; she brought home economics to the mainstream. I know I learned about things like Aracauna chickens from Martha. This pic always looks like a rooster to me:
The concepts are not new to a lot of the world. In France, many restaurants have potagers (kitchen gardens) attached; here is one that is upscale but still authentic (be sure to see the pic of the chef and his black French Bulldog). This seems to be a new concept that has rapidly expanded, at least in California: restaurants with herb gardens or potagers.
This is one way that these movements have also come to the big city; there are also concepts like apartment dwellers in NYC composting in their kitchens, and community gardens. What do we call this whole concept of a return to basics, is it a movement or a shift in consciousness, or something else? Is it due in part to the difficult economic times? I don't know what it is, I just know it's good...


  1. I loved this post... so thought provoking! I think the simple things in life still bring the greatest pleasures. Especially if you've worked for it with your own hands or appreciate those who labored for it (ie: the local farmer that you get to know).

    And thanks for mentioning Homestead Revival™.

  2. This type of living is sooo appealing to me! I love basic living with flair and style!! Your blog is delightful! I have spent way to long enjoying it. I just have to follow!

  3. I shifted over to organic, etc for health reasons. Truthfully it also just tastes better. My husband was panicked for a moment about the eggs in our fridge. Then I reminded him that they were local and organic. Having once been hospitalized for salmonella poisoning I never want to venture down that possible road again.
    Keep standing on your soapbox my friend.