An exceptional series by MPG member Sion Fullana. Feel free to click through to the MPG site to see what the collective is up to.
“A DAY AT THE FARM” by Sion Fullana
As a New York resident for the last five years, I live in a fast-paced world, ruled by speed, technology, urban environment and modern life everywhere. A place where most of the time, for the sake of being in a cosmopolitan city, we put up with eating factory processed, fast-grown, not-so-healthy food, or with paying an exaggerated amount of money for some overrated organic food that sounds more like a “hipster” thing to do than what should be the norm. Meats that shed lots of water when being cooked, tasteless fruits and vegetables, etc. The farming industry is a machine for producing mass amounts of food fast, and selling it even faster.
That’s why I was especially surprised when, during a recent trip to my homeland in Majorca (Spain), I heard the stories that my mom was telling about a recent discovery of hers. Very close to the town where I was born, she was visiting once a week to this country side house, where Mr. Rafael and Mrs. Catalina Sureda, 85 and 80 years old respectively, work every day with their own hands to produce the most amazing home-grown natural food that my mom buys. So I decided to go with her on a Saturday afternoon, and this is how it goes:
When we exit the car, I observe an old house, with several units, in an idyllic landscape, with pets running free everywhere (a few dogs, some cats who had just given birth to tiny ones). Mrs. Catalina is running around, and apologizes that she is so delayed that afternoon and asking us to excuse her appearance and the mess in her kitchen. They have just killed a few chickens that my mom will later take home and they are prepping them: First making some fire to scorch any remaining feathers, then washing the animals in water, hanging them head down and proceeding to cutting them in chunks to save them in bags to go. At first sight, I am a bit shocked that the scene resembles somewhat a horror movie, and I am glad we haven’t got there before the animals were sacrificed.
As the couple work, I walk to the area where the flock of chicken lives, a large outdoor space. They are scared of me and run away, but when Mrs. Catalina brings them food, they all come and gather around her, totally fearless. She treats them with respect and love. All this makes it an even stronger statement when I hear her say about the chicken she is cutting “Just half an hour ago, this one was running around happy and crazy with the others.” And then it strikes me. Life in the countryside runs a natural circle where everything and everyone has a purpose. It becomes even punchier when all of a sudden I realize the dogs and the cats are “stealing” whatever pieces of unusable raw meat were thrown to the ground, and running away to eat them. I laugh silently at the posh food we, city dwellers, buy to our own pets and realize these may be even happier animals after all, without all that overprotection we give to ours.
The best part of the afternoon, comes with the sheep and the goats. With Mrs. Catalina shouting them to come, they all approach and run into the shack. She feeds them grain, and while they are eating, she crouches right behind them, and starts milking the goats. Seeing an 80 year-old woman move around and work with such strength, stamina and a joyful smile is definitely inspirational. She clearly enjoys the life she has. With that goat milk, she does several things: some gets bottled for consumption, some gets macerated to make a syrupy drink, and the remaining one is turned into two kinds of cheese: one cottage-style and a delicious cured, saltier one.
When we return to the couple’s kitchen, my mom is buying three bottles of goat milk, one cheese, two dozen fresh eggs and three bags of chicken. Mrs Catalina pulls this old fashioned scale, with a selection of weight that go from a big one that is a few pounds to a tiny one, smaller than a finger nail. She weighs everything and writes down numbers on a notebook. And no need for a calculator, she adds everything up, counting out loud in her mind and with her fingers and gives my mom the price of all. I show them a few of the pictures I’ve taken of them and as they smile at me, I regret I don’t have the chance of spending a few days with them to learn much more. And as we leave the house, I check my iPhone and laugh at the fact of how proud we are of our modern world, while I’ve learned a wonderful lesson in this “old school” farm this summer afternoon.