The first thing I thought when I finished Brad Kessler’s Goat Song? I should buy a goat…
Then I realized I live in a three bedroom apartment in Blacksburg, with no barn, no pastures, no milking station, no hay bales, and most importantly, no idea where to begin if I somehow came across a goat. (I’d probably try to feed it my clementine peels or something)
My second thought? I should buy some goat cheese…
Here at least was a goal I figured I could accomplish easily enough. The Gucci Kroger has a pretty good cheese selection (at least compared to the other major grocery stores in Blacksburg), and if anyone would have it they would. Then I remembered that the last time I had goat cheese (a long time ago) I hated it. In fact, I thought I was being punished by my parents for some vile deed little eight year old me had committed by being hoodwinked into spreading it onto my favorite type of bread.
Yet with age comes wisdom (I hope), and certainly a change in palate. So next time I go grocery shopping I think I will buy some goat cheese and give another shot. Who knows? Maybe it was the particular brand or type I had tried, or the fact that I was only eight when I had it, or even the suspicion I had at being offered an “adult” food.
When I came back from spring break and realized we had to read an entire book for this post, I was annoyed that I hadn’t started reading over the previous week. When I rummaged around for the book and discovered I didn’t even have it yet, I was frustrated with myself. Luckily two things saved me from a possible migraine and subsequent ice cream relaxation techniques: Amazon Prime free Student Membership (probably the closest thing a college student has come to achieving a type of holy nirvana with textbook shipping), and the fact that the book is written so clearly and beautifully that each page practically begs to be read. I ordered Goat Song on Monday, received it on Wednesday, started it on Thursday, and finished it this morning (Friday). Hurrah for the convenience of the modern world!
Kessler’s story is simple and yet profound. On the surface it seems little more than a tale of a first time shepherd and his goats. But the more you read the more you realize that the goats and their products (both milk and cheese) fulfill a deep seated need in the author’s psyche. He suggests that everyone has such a need, and I think I agree with that. For me the solution is not to all of a sudden start raising goats, but instead to go on hikes in areas I’ve never been before, to walk so far into nature I practically feel lost. There’s something primeval about being deep into a forest or mountain range, knowing you’re at least four hours from the nearest form of civilization, and that in that particular moment your entire world consists of leaf and twig, rock and stone.
Kessler mentions the unique feeling that comes with creating your own food from scratch, seeing it go from grass to hay to goat to milk to cheese. While I can’t say that I’ve ever had that exact experience, I have done something somewhat similar. Each year my father, brother, and I spend about a week canoeing and camping down a river (usually the New or the James), and of course we bring enough food to survive the whole trip. Yet along the way we catch fish as a method of providing dinner, and fresh caught bass tastes completely different from those bought in a store. It’s not just the fact that the fish is fresh (never frozen or stored), but that just hours before all you had was a rod and reel, and using that you were able to find enough food to sustain yourself. It’s not convenient, it’s not easy, and it’s not even cooked particularly well (usually overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside; it’s really hard to make restaurant quality fish over an open fire), but it tastes better than a five star restaurant bass ever would.
While Goat Song does seem a bit sparse in terms of the history of domestication (at least compared to our other readings), its shortcomings should be forgiven when considering the fact that it is not a history book, or really a scholarly text of any kind. It’s simply a story of a man and his goats, and with that simple premise it excels beyond all my preconceptions.