This proj ect began quite differently from most of my ethnographic work.
I was on vacation. It was the summer of 2007, and I was in the midst of
fine- tuning the final draft of my last book, a work that looked at popu-
lar culture in the tourist town of Arusha, in Tanzania. My wife and I had
driven up to Sonoma County from my parents’ home in Southern Califor-
nia, and we stayed on the Rus sian River, which I liked to think of as my
regular getaway, or as much of one as it could be for someone who lives
2,900 miles away. I was also enthusiastically anticipating becoming the
chair of my department in about a month. All of these circumstances con-
duced to my pondering what kind of research I might do next. I know—
just the kind of guy you want to take on your next vacation. In any case, as
I was pretty sure I would not have the opportunity to pop over to Tanzania
in the near future, and as my work in Arusha was all but finished, I took a
look around in Sonoma. Gravenstein apples in Sebastopol caught my eye.
Yeah, I had eaten those as a kid. Now these sweet crisp apples with origins
in Denmark were touted as part of Sebastopol’s local heritage. Every little
town— Forestville, Occidental, Monte Rio, Guerneville— had a string of
artisanal food products for sale. Amid the wineries I saw an array of goat
farms, some offering pygmy goats for sale as pets and livestock, others
raising dairy goats for California chèvres.
My interest was piqued, but I was not sure quite what I was looking at.
I recall idling about in a bookstore (I believe it was in Calistoga) that had
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