About

buttery   n. A place for storing liquor; but the name was also, from an early period, extended to ‘the room where provisions are laid up’ (Johnson). [OED]

buttery-hatch   n. The half-door over which the buttery provisions are served. [OED]

Hi, I’m Matt Shockey. My blog turns a spotlight on the food, farms, farmers and other food people of Southwest Michigan (where I live) and Northern Indiana (where I work). This is one of the most agriculturally diverse regions in the country, with a strong and growing community of sustainable agriculture practitioners and advocates; it’s also an area with a great deal of industrial agriculture. So there’s a lot to look at, learn about, and think about. I’ll do this in large part by writing about what my family is making and eating, who we get it from, cookbooks that help us, and what’s going on in the food and farm scene in the region as I see it. But I’m a philosophy professor (at IU-South Bend), and I’m wrestling a lot these days with the question of what it is to be a citizen of a political community, so not only will I write about food and farms, I’m also going to delve into questions of politics and political philosophy on the one hand and education on the other – questions that, as Wendell Berry so brilliantly showed in The Unsettling of America, are ultimately inseparable from those of how and what we eat. My aim is thus both personal – I’m trying to think concretely about how to live a good life – but also communal – our lives are of necessity shared with others, and writing is, as it’s always been, a way of both stepping back from and participating in community. So I welcome all (civil) feedback, whether in comments or via email. And I’m open to occasional guest bloggers – contact me and we can discuss!

As for the name of the blog, it’s inspired by a scene in Tolkien’s The Return of the King, which I was reading with my family recently, where a hungry Pippin, recently arrived in Gondor, is promised that they will check on Gandalf’s horse Shadowfax and go “thence to the butteries.” Until I looked it up I assumed a buttery was where butter was churned and stored, but it turns out the word comes from old Latin and French words for casks (“butts”) or bottles  of wine or other liquor (from which also comes the word butler). According to the OED, “the transition from the sense of ‘store-room for liquor’ to that of ‘store-room for provisions generally’ is in accordance with analogy, but may have been helped by association with butter.” So think of this blog as the portal from my pantry to you.

And the Latin subtitle of the blog? It’s a play on the philosopher Rene Descartes’ cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), and means “I eat, therefore I am” or, if the “e” is short, “I publicize, therefore I am.” (My wife is a classicist, so she’s helped me with my rudimentary Latin here.)