Peter Sellars on Food

It is an unfortunate fact of life that I cannot attend Michael Pollan’s edible education class every week as it conflicts with Break leader training. What is fortunate, is that I took the class last year, and I can crash it every other week this year. That is what I did last night and had the privilege to hear Peter Sellars talk about…food. What did he say?

Simple things, really, but they are things we often forget when eating and going about our daily life. If there is one way to summarize his entire 90 minutes of jabbering, it is that we have to dedicate the things we do and the things we have to those who do not and to those who do not have. It goes a lot deeper than the surface-y wishy washy-ness of the above statement and I was astonished as to how much of what he was saying related to the loads of Marxism I’ve been studying as of late. But anyway, our position is only possible because of the people that toil in the field, and everything that we put into our mouths contains within it the labor of farmworkers. The supermarket and glossy packaging hides it. (Commodity fetishism anyone?) By dedicating our actions we break what is “habit energy”

“Habit Energy” is formed when we do the same thing day after day after day without even thinking. For example brushing our teeth, walking to and from class, and of course, eating our food. If we take a moment to think about these actions, the entire world behind them is revealed and we see beyond our autonomous existence. And we are never alone. Things are no longer just objects but alive with the “karma” of the people who made it. What is its history and where did it come from? Unfortunately, many of the things we eat are produced under conditions of modern slavery. Very little pay, forget about health insurance, housing without running water, exploitive hours, and exposure to deadly pesticides which cause a multitude of negative side effects. As Sellars emphasized,

“your strawberry doesn’t have much taste because it’s the taste of the miscarriage of the woman who picked it”

It was funny to hear Peter Sellars talking about all this stuff in such a passionate way, because the entire time all I could think about was my social theory class.

Commodification in action is the food system and the recent developments in it. People keep freaking out about “feeding the world” and how its to be done. We need to grow more food! More resources need to be exploited! But whats funny is that the areas with huge populations consume way less resources than in the states. If everyone were to be as wasteful as we are that might present a problem; but perhaps its our turn to take a leaf out of someone else’s book and REDUCE. (also, lets not forget how much food is thrown out and wasted every day). Don’t even get me started on meat consumption.

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