A Wandering Mountain Goat
One Cook’s Recipe for Success
As those of the Interdisciplinary Field Program know, food provides a harmonious catalyst that unites all. So for the former student of IFP, Benjamin Austin, to come on the trip as head cook means that we eat, and we eat well. This return also represents the magnitude of IFP to its students, and faculty as a whole.
The day and life of Ben Austin on IFP begins as he wakes up early in his hammock strapped somewhere on the moving truck that hauls all of our luggage to three corners of the country. He and Kevin Soto, our secondary cook, then set about making our breakfast food, as well as the putting out the materials needed to make our lunches. So as the students grumble their way over to the truck with their luggage, Ben continues to run around, providing the nutrients we need to continue throughout the trip. Although that job could be filled by another cook, he still embodies an incredibly unique and jubilant character vital to this program.
When I first met Ben Austin, I read him as a carefree, joyful cook. A simple representation of a person upon first glance, but it remains a solid foundation for the depth that Ben Austin truly possesses. This perspective shifted when I first engaged Ben in a legitimate conversation. The outcome was of intelligence and wisdom. Being originally from Manitou Springs, Colorado, then moving to Macon, Georgia, when he was three years old, this young man found himself in the prime location to attend the University of Georgia. When he was accepted to the University, he found himself feeling utterly confused, not knowing which direction to go in, especially as the thought of adult life loomed mere years away. After finishing his schooling with a degree in Economics, he again found himself bewildered by life. So at the age of 22, the process of soul searching began, and Ben Austin emerged a man set on making his own way, or as he put it, “blaze your own trail.”
This point in Ben’s life leads him on the road to his crucial role as a cook for IFP. Now that he has let go of what society plans for him, he manages to find miscellaneous jobs, such as working petty cabs, helping a church, moving a friend across the country, joining a circus in Athens, Georgia, and most interestingly, nude modeling at Savannah College of Art and Design. Among these miscellaneous job is the IFP. As he looked for a summer job, he used his connections with Julie Cox, the IFP director, to secure a role as cook. Although all of these jobs have shaped Ben in some way, he recognizes his passion for music above all else, and is further demonstrated when he played his guitar with our teachers assistant, Jack Cherry, and Kevin Soto.
His drive to find something in the world worth experiencing is commendable, as many of us go down paths purely based upon on inability to diverge from the normal way of life. With this in mind, his return to IFP directly demonstrates how powerful the people, and more importantly, the relationships are here. Not only do we get to see some of the most wondrous places in the United States, but we also get to experience each other’s amazement and excitement as we trek to places most people fail to see their entire lives. So when I asked Ben how it felt to travel with all of the students, he responded with excitement as he describes how unique every group is, and how he can vicariously live it again through us. I then imagined his claimed spirt animal, the “scrappy” mountain goat, fondly watching over us as we continue to meander our way across the country.