Friday, May 29, 2009

June Bugs Bunny Cash

I'm nearing the end of my vacation/escape/academic sojourn. Currently, I'm shacked up in Nowhere, Pennsylvania a.k.a Sate College, where *gasp* Penn State is located. Apparently they have a big football stadium and a big campus to put it in. No wonder, there's no other sign of civilization in this part of the state to outbid the college on real estate. I'm not exaggerating either. Find Pennsylvania on a map (hint: it's close to Washington, DC and below the Great Lakes). Now find Pittsburgh (to the West) and then locate Philadelphia (to the East). OK, now if you look carefully for State College you'll find it's approximately smack dab in between the two metropolises of this particular state. Now you might think I'm complaining, but I'm not. I'm simply in awe of the sprawling open green spaces that surround this small college town. It's about as picture perfect a rural setting as one could find.

As for why I'm here in the hinterland of America, well that's quite easy - I'm attending a conference. It's an academic conference hosted by two associations whose main focus is agriculture and food. The name of the conference is Informing the Possibilities for the Future of Food. The three day event is jam packed with 'sessions', where academics (both faculty members and graduate students) make presentations with regard to research they've conducted or are currently working on. It's actually been really interesting. Each session is 1.5 hours and within that session, four academics present their research findings...which translates to about 15 - 20 minutes per presentation. A bunch of sessions run concurrently, but they are organized around themes so I've been able to attend sessions related specifically to local food. It's amazing the diversity of subjects and academic backgrounds that are represented here though - there are English scholars who study food in literature, lots of rural studies people looking at tonnes of different aspects of agriculture, farming, etc. and just as many sociologists researching just as many different things.

As interesting as the sessions have been, truth be told I've enjoyed the field trips and meeting people even more. Yesterday, I joined a 'Local Foods and Winery' tour. We ate lunch at a cafe that sourced its food locally, visited a 10-acre CSA that had an on-site farm shop with deliciousness for sale, and ended at a local winery where we sampled some extremely sweet wines. I am not going to lie - I came back to the hotel with preserves, chocolates and wine.

Tonight I enjoyed dinner at an Amish farm. There are plenty of Amish farms in this area of Pennsylvania and I've learned a lot about their way of life in a very short time. The dinner was spectacular - somehow they managed to fit 45 of us into their farmhouse and serve us up a most delectable dinner including the most delicious mashed potatoes ever (sorry Mom), roast beef that melted in your mouth, supersoft bread with homemade apricot preserves, all sorts of other savoury delights and then scrumptious rhubarb pie, chocolate cake and some sort of fruity compote that I managed to find a second stomach for. Again, I left with food (bread and apricot preserve).


Oh, but I digress. Enough talk of food. I've had so much wonderful food and wine in the last three weeks, but I can't wait to get back to Kingston so I can make a simple meal of spinach salad and an omelette. I am going cold turkey when I return to Kingston - with only 4.5 months until my half marathon I can't be messing around with alcohol or sweets any more. It shall be a dry and sugarless summer for me, and I'm completely OK with that. I will just switch from a sugar addiction to a sneaker addiction. I already have visions of buying Asics from Hashim's corner store in Charlottetown.

I have much more to write about, but I'm close to passing out and still have to figure out what sessions I am going to tomorrow.



It's been almost three weeks since I left Kingston and I reckon this conference is a great way to wrap up what's been a spectacular trip!

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