Pickles, cheese, beer, yoghurt, ketchup, sausages, sauerkraut, butter, mayonnaise, bread.
How many of these foods have you made yourself? How many did your grandmother (or grandfather) make?
And if you are not making them, why not?
Why have these foods become products?
Here’s one explanation.
Buying the product is easy and safe. When you buy a product made in a factory, you don’t have to ask questions such as “Will I spoil the milk by keeping it at room temperature overnight?” or “Is it really safe to use fresh eggs in my mayonnaise?” or “Is this food still good enough to eat?”
When you buy a product, you delegate the responsibility to the producer: If something goes wrong, you know who to blame. And the date printed to the packaging tells you when the food should be thrown away.
You are off the hook.
All of this is great, except for one thing. When we buy products, we pay a price for this sense of security.
Every time we agree to buy a readymade product instead of making one ourselves, we give more weight to the idea that it’s too hard to learn how to make one. And every time, we give up a piece of our freedom as we lose touch with where food comes from. We rely on the markets to tell us what we should eat, and food becomes something abstract and artificial instead of the natural part of daily life it once was.
It’s sneaky, and most of the time we don’t even realize what’s happening to us.
Until we try making it on our own.
This is why baking your own loaf of bread or fermenting your own sauerkraut feels so good. It’s like cracking a code or being freed from your chains: you realize that there is nothing mysterious to it. Just a lot to learn and understand.
With reclaiming responsibility comes freedom and excitement.
In The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz writes:
“Reclaiming our food and our participation in cultivation is a means of cultural revival, taking action to bread out of the confining and infantilizing dependency of the role of consumer (user), and taking back our dignity and power by becoming producers and creators.”
What do you think?