Sunday, December 12, 2010

Food, from Rural to Industrious

A painting about life on the fields. Image Source:
"God gives all birds their food but does not drop it into their nests" - Danish Proverb

The romantic harvest scene painted above exemplifies when hard and utilizable materials were important in food production and how "there used to be an interplay between food and the man/thing relationship" (Scharer 13). The most striking notion of the painting is that of
food production
as labor--"the fact that we must eat is a fact of life situated so primitively and elementarily in the development of our life-values that it is unquestionably shared by each individual with every other one" (Simmel 116 in Food).
This scene is a rural starting point as we enter the unfolding episode of food as pleasure influenced by the activities of industry (product differentiation, the global marketplace, the printing press, photography, marketing, etc.). This depiction of past material culture shows us the cognitive, behavioral, aesthetic, and sensory experience that was pre-industrial food production. There were no million-dollar advertising budgets, factory lines, or television networks--only families with farms, their hands and tools. Food was survival and farming and hunting was the norm. Like many elements of culture, food was influenced by world events such as motorized technology, printing revolutions, and a move unto abundance. Emphasis was moved from rationing and survival to consumer choice, capitalism, and an ever-expanding range of food products.

Food became more pleasurable and gratifying than laborious and handicapping. Food became more of a joy.

Punch Candy depicting an expressive couple. Image Source: Getty Images &
The industrial revolution can be conceived as one of the first steps towards building a more convenient food society. Mass productions melted away difficulties of farming, hunting, and gathering. Cities arose and it was easier to think of food as an everyday object (a thing) rather than a necessity. The same could be said for liquor, water, and other refreshments.
An ad for Perrier sparkling water. Image Source:

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