Gulliver’s Travels in Food, Farming & Cuisine: Chronicle Three
Over the years I’ve remarked that what Americans do to food is not just growing, cooking and eating it but what I call “weaponizing” it.
This is done not in the service of feeding an increasing multitude but in the service of an array of reasons I list as if they sprang from Pandora’s Box:
We seek to provide the consumer endless choices to satisfy the American ontological need to exercise “free choice” and therefore confirm individual uniqueness. “I express myself with a striped eggplant purchase”;
We look to the laboratory to create endless hybridized Frankensteins (tomatoes crossed with watermelon and a rubber plant, or is that a strawberry?) in accordance with the rule of designed obsolescence: eating an “old school” Cortland apple is like using a flip top phone;
We package our food not to oblige what may be its needs (you cannot wrap real cheese in plastic and put it the frig) but to oblige our own need to control (dominate) and technologize (advance) beyond the organicism of Nature which we have also removed ourselves from;
We “technologize” cuisine by reducing “time consuming”/”labor intensive” primitive food preparation to instantaneous “nuking” and we do this as a sign of Millennial hi-tech advance;
We dissociate ourselves from a moral review of our treatment of the “lower orders” that serve as our food supply by disassociating “meat” from “bodies,” by plastic wrapping what can never be identified as “carcass,” by cutting filets and putting out of sight heads, necks, eyes, snouts, beaks, feet, and even bones:
We have been subjecting food and cuisine to the changing politics of an equal sharing of kitchen duties, from shopping to cooking to serving and clean up so that both men and women seek to escape these enterprises altogether. Everything dealing with food is used by women working out of the home as long and as hard as men as a weapon to achieve their freedom from an historically unequal share of domestic duties. Whether men seek the easiest way out or contribute their equal share, there yet remains a mutual desire by both men and women to escape the kitchen in every way possible. Family dinners become restaurant or fast food trips or pizza delivery as well as a 24/7 individual food foraging for snacks by each family member;
We have found it easy to “weaponize” food through adopting the branding philosophy that ties personality type to product. Regardless of the taste, nutritional quality or overall healthfulness of any product, it can be marketed successfully (launched like a missile) to its target audience because an indelible psychic connection has been made.
What we get after a generation or so of such weaponizing of food is what a weapon barrage normally gives us: toxic ground, destroyed homes, ruined lives. I mean we wind up with an unhealthy and mostly toxic way of growing, cooking and eating, destroyed palates so that a strawberry that tastes like a potato seems to taste like a strawberry to us, and quality in food, cuisine and taste lie in ruins.
“Weaponizing” implies risks but just as in war, we are apparently ready to accept such risks. For example, in a search for a plant’s genetic resistance to pests and diseases we are willing to ignore what the future consequences of such may be. Profit takes many risks and food, like illness and ignorance, is a frontier to be exploited for profit. After all, this is a reality is what we choose it to be society so we can choose not to worry.
(The top 20% on the wealth divide handle all this differently — “gentrification” of food — which Gulliver will consider soon.)