Monday, February 11, 2013

Affairs of Plain Living

While perusing the treasures at Myopic Books in Chicago one afternoon, a certain title jumped out at me like a wild animal- “The Foxfire Book; Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining and other affairs of plain living.” My inner Ron Swanson could not pass a book like this by. 

As I opened the hardback, my interest was peaked even further. This collection of tales and how-to’s was initiated in the 60’s by high school teacher Eliot Wigginton in an attempt to engage his students in experiential learning as well as preserve the local mountain culture in Georgia through journalism. Students armed with cameras and tape recorders were sent to the Appalachian Mountains by their instructor to record these American traditions and write about them as an English assignment.

However, the Foxfire project developed into much more than an English assignment as today it is viewed as a method of teaching. In fact, Wigginton was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 1989 for the project. There is even a Foxfire museum and you can purchase a version of the 2012 Foxfire magazine produced by today’s students.

But beyond the magnificence of how this book came to fruition, I am amazed by the quality of recipes and instructions included. It is such a comprehensive manual for living off of the land. The beauty of the photographs is also quite striking. It is incredible to experience life without modern conveniences portrayed in this book.

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