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21 Aug 2022

Waters // We Are What We Eat

Alice Waters’ We Are What We Eat is (as the subtitle suggests) a bit of a manifesto.

I loved it.

Waters bandies the term “fast food culture” to mean far more than a culture concerned with fast food restaurants – it’s really her term for modern, global, consumer capitalist / industrial civilization.

Probably unsurprisingly, Waters sees many problems as rooted in food, and her solutions involve food. I think you could easily write off her prescription for healing our country – which hinges upon an “edible schoolyard” program where children learn gardening and cooking in school and all school lunches are sourced from local farmers as overly drawn through her particular lens on the world, but I think that would be a mistake.

There are a ton of merits to her ideas and I would totally support trying out her program all over the country.

Some of my favorite bits…

When speed runs our lives, we become so impatient. We can’t take the time to plant a seed in the ground, so we buy the plant that’s already grown. We want a kind of instant fulfillment that’s not happening, and that pushes us to go faster and cut corners. Speed is not about the journey; it’s goal oriented. When I get in my car, for instance, I enter the address of my destination into my phone and my phone tells me it’s twenty-eight minutes to get to the city by the fastest route. But what if I don’t want to get on the freeway? What if I want to go down the pretty, quiet street through Berkeley that isn’t so crowded? That route may take longer, but choosing the alternate path might present me with different opportunities or give me more pleasure. If all we’re thinking about is the goal, it’s as if we’re already there in our minds, and the intervening time becomes meaningless. With speed, all other qualities drop out. The pleasure doesn’t matter, the beauty doesn’t matter, the taste doesn’t matter, the resulting waste doesn’t matter. We think the gratification is in the end prod- uct, and so we race to the finish line as quickly as possible. And the finish line is illusory—because as soon as we get to the finish line, there’s another race to start, another finish line to reach.

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