Tuesday, April 30, 2013


"Of all the roles the economist ascribes to us, 'consumer' is surely the least ennobling. It suggests a taking rather than a giving. It assumes dependence and, in a global economy, a measure of ignorance about the origins of everything that we consume. Who makes this stuff? Where in the world does it come from? What's in it and how was it made? The economic and ecological lines that connect us to the distant others we now rely on for our sustenance have grown so long and attenuated as to render both the products and their connections to us and the world utterly opaque. You would be forgiven for thinking - indeed, you are encouraged to think! - there is nothing more behind a bottle of beer than a corporation and a factory, somewhere. It is simply a 'product.'

To brew beer, to make cheese, to bake a loaf of bread, to braise a pork shoulder, is to be forcibly reminded that all these things are not just products, in fact are not even really things. Most of what presents itself to us in the marketplace as a product is in truth a web of relationships, between people, yes, but also between ourselves and all the other species on which we still depend. Eating and drinking especially implicate us in the natural world in ways that the industrial economy, with its long and illegible supply chains, would have us forget. The beer in that bottle, I'm reminded as soon as I brew it myself, ultimately comes not from a factory but from nature - from a field of barley snapping in the wind, from a hops vine clambering over a trellis, from a host of invisible microbes feasting on sugars. It took the carefully orchestrated collaboration of three far-flung taxonomic kingdoms - plants, animals, and fungi - to produce that ale. To make it yourself once in a while, to handle the barley and inhale the aroma of hops and yeast, becomes, among other things, a form of observance, a weekend ritual of remembrance.

Michael Pollan

Food for thought, no?