It has come to my attention that some of the best voices on the internet – writers I admire and read and am dedicated to – would rather chew their own arms off than see another damned blog post about homemade yogurt.
Okay, I get it. It’s yogurt. Homemade yogurt is so done. Jams and pickles are passe. Even the charcuterie stuff is starting to make us twitchy. Some of us really have been doing the homemade yogurt and the homemade jam stuff for so long that it’s not exactly radical anymore. We’re not making a statement with our self-soured milk. It’s just our normal. We’re on to the bigger and more important issues like normalizing expectations and throwing light into the dark places and saving the world one stay-at-home mom at a time.
Within this context, another DIY yogurt blog has all the appeal of a Martha Stewart spread on how to host a rustic Thanksgiving in your custom built horse stables.
But consider: when we are beginners, we are all as small children who first run and, having learned, say, “Look what I can do, mommy! Look how fast I can go!”
What child has not felt in their beginner’s enthusiasm that their next leap might carry them off the ground altogether and into the realm of flight? And what adult, having long mastered running and having been nagged, “look at me!” a million times, hasn’t shaken their head in exasperation and brushed that beginner enthusiasm aside?
Both responses are normal, both understandable. But children learn they cannot fly and that others have run before them soon enough, and so I think killing the dream for flight too early serves no real purpose.
So today I write to defend the beginner. When an individual first scratches at the birthright of agrarian culture and begins to reclaim those individual skills that have made civilization possible, can we not allow her that “look at me!” moment? Can we pause before denigrating the beginner’s enthusiasm and allow that we all started somewhere, often far from where we are now? Can we perhaps shift our irritation to a sort of motherly pride that another kitchen is attempting its first fermentation? (“Awe, isn’t that cute? Maybe one day she’ll grow up to be a radical yogurt maker.”)
See, it’s not just yogurt, not really. The person who makes their first batch of homemade yogurt or jam, or ferments their first crock of pickles is overcoming the inertia of the normal, for doing these things ourselves is no longer normal in our society and our culture.
The beginner is pushing back on the expectation that every single fucking thing should be sold in a cute plastic single-serve container and be bought in a store that sells apples in May and blueberries in January and consistent milk all year long. They are resisting, and they are doing so at the very beginning, when resisting is uncomfortable and still takes effort.
The beginner is beginning. This is the point. They have before them a host of possibilities, an opportunity to make or remake themselves on a new journey. They stand on the trailhead of the possible, as children do. They may opt to turn right around, get back in their car and drive to the nearest Walmart for a bag of Cheetos. But then they may begin with yogurt, or pickles, or jam and move on to social critique.
Allow the beginner their enthusiasm for their yogurt or their jam, however tedious it may seem to the long eye of a thousand batches on. We cannot know where their trail will lead. After all that arm flapping and that “look at me, Ma, I can run!” business, can you be sure that, just for a moment, they might not fly?